AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Concludes Indiana University Northwest Has Unwelcome Racial Climate… Violated Academic Freedom

The AAUP has published an investigative report on the summary suspension and dismissal of Dr. Mark McPhail, a tenured professor of communication at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, who had previously served as the institution’s chief academic officer.  The investigating committee, for which I served as chair, found that, in acting against McPhail, the administration disregarded AAUP-supported standards of academic due process. The committee further concluded that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound and its racial climate is unwelcoming to faculty members of color.

Join us on February 16 at 2 p.m. ET for a webinar discussing the investigation and the AAUP’s process for investigations–what prompts an investigation, how they are conducted, and what the end goal is.

Register here.

In September 2021, the administration dispatched campus police officers to McPhail’s home to inform him that he had been dismissed and banned from campus, supposedly for making racially charged threats of physical violence, No accuser was identified, and no criminal charges were filed.

The AAUP investigating committee deemed “implausible” the charge that McPhail had made violent threats, and it found “highly credible” McPhail’s allegation that the administration’s actions were prompted by his criticism of the administration’s handling of racial equity issues and therefore violated his academic freedom. With respect to that climate, the committee noted that McPhail had regularly highlighted racial inequity on the IUN campus and that the criticisms and charges against him employed racial stereotypes of Black men as incompetent, angry, and violent.

Having been denied a hearing before a faculty body in which the burden of proof lay with the administration, as required under AAUP-recommended standards, McPhail was compelled to appeal the administration’s actions to a faculty grievance committee. In his appeal, he argued that institutional authorities had retaliated against him for his criticisms of the administration and for filing equal opportunity complaints against the administrators responsible for suspending and dismissing him. The grievance committee found both his suspension and his termination unwarranted. The administration rejected the committee’s findings.

Based on the report’s findings, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will now consider whether to recommend to the AAUP’s governing Council that it place Indiana University Northwest on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Placement on that list informs the academic community and the public at large that conditions for academic freedom and tenure at the institution are unsound.

Register for the webinar to learn more about the investigation.

Afshan Jafar, chair of the investigative committee,
Professor of Sociology, Connecticut College


2022 AAUP Highlights

To roll us into the new year on a high note, we’ve created a video with some highlights of the AAUP’s work in 2022—from the special report Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System to major research projects like the annual Faculty Compensation Survey—and of the AAUP’s affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers.  

Watch the recap on YouTube here or click photo watch.

Screenshot from the AAUP highlights video

Thank you for being a member of the AAUP! You can find links to all of our reports and other materials on our website at aaup.org.

In solidarity in 2023 and beyond.

The AAUP

P.S. A reminder that you can continue to follow our work in 2023 in many ways. We have new episodes of our podcast AAUP Presents out, so catch up on all episodes and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform now. We’re also on the major social media platforms: we’re @AAUP on Twitter, and here’s the link to our Facebook account. Our Instagram account is @AAUPNational.


AAUP Condemns UNC System, Addresses Censure at Two Other Institutions

The governing Council of the American Association of University Professors voted unanimously today to pass a joint resolution resoundingly condemning the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and System Office for multiple violations of widely accepted standards of shared governance and academic freedom and for a sustained climate of institutional racism.

The vote comes less than two months after the AAUP’s publication of a special committee report calling attention to the alarming trends in the UNC system perpetuated by increased political pressure and interference within the system. The resolution is a step forward in acknowledging and beginning to address systemic and institutional racism in the academy.

The AAUP’s Council also voted to add Linfield University to the Association’s list of censured administrations over the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor who spoke up about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the university’s board of trustees. The Council vote follows a recommendation from the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which published a report in April that found that the administration retaliated against Pollack-Pelzner for speech and conduct he exercised as part of his responsibilities as a faculty trustee and that the institution violated its own regulations as well as the AAUP’s widely adopted principles of academic freedom and tenure by not demonstrating adequate cause for the dismissal.

In more positive news, the AAUP’s Council voted to accept the  recommendation of Committee A and remove St. Edward’s University from the Association’s list of censured administrations. St. Edward’s University was added to the list in 2019 as the result of the termination of a tenure-track and two tenured faculty members who were not afforded a dismissal procedure that comported with AAUP-supported standards. In July 2021 the institution’s newly installed president wrote that she had made removal of censure a priority that she hoped to achieve through shared governance. The administration began working with the faculty senate to address institutional policies implicated in the actions that led to censure. In May 2022, the governing board adopted several sets of revisions to the faculty manual that, among other issues, established tenure protections where they had previously existed only nominally. Last month the two tenured faculty members reported having reached an out-of-court settlement with the university. The case of the tenure-track faculty member is scheduled for jury trial in August. In late May, an AAUP representative made a virtual visit to campus on behalf of the AAUP’s national office, to confirm that current conditions for academic freedom and tenure at St. Edward’s are sound. Her report states that the university had taken “all the actions that the AAUP suggested” and that the faculty leaders with whom she spoke attested to “an improved climate for academic freedom and tenure.”

Find more information here.

Charles Toombs, Professor, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


Update on Educational Gag Orders

The academic year is winding down and so are many state legislatures. Activity has decreased significantly around educational gag orders as state legislatures adjourn and/or bills die in committee. We’ve gone from tracking more than 150 bills to just sixty. To date, nearly sixty of the bills we were tracking have died in committee or otherwise failed.

On April 15, Wisconsin governor Tony Evers vetoed another educational gag order that had been passed by the state legislature. And two bills in Iowa failed when that legislature adjourned the week of April 18.

Unfortunately, a handful of EGOs have been signed into law. In Tennessee, the Governor recently signed H.B. 2670, which doesn’t ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” but says neither students nor staff can be required to “endorse” a divisive concept, nor can they be penalized for not doing so. As with many of these bills, the language is troublingly vague, as it does not define or give examples of what it means to “endorse.” Does it include answering questions on a test or completing homework assignments? The bill doesn’t say. A bill in South Dakota was also signed into law at the end of March.

In states like Tennessee, where bills have been enacted, the next important step is to address these ambiguous terms. It will be vital for the state attorney general or similar office to weigh in on or outright define these words. It’s important to pressure state AGs for clarity, and equally important for faculty to make strong arguments as to why classwork should not be included in definitions related to H.B. 2670 or similar bills in other states.

With about twenty states still in session, and dozens of active educational gag orders, threats to academic freedom remain, and we expect to see another wave of activity in the fall seeking to suppress teaching about race and racism.

You can find more information and resources here.

The good news is that faculty, including AAUP members, have been instrumental this year in fighting against and defeating some of the worst legislation.


New Report on Institutional Racism in the UNC System

Today the AAUP released a report of the Special Committee on Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System. The report considers the influence of the North Carolina state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees. It discusses how political pressure and top-down leadership have obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system, jeopardized academic freedom, and reinforced institutional racism.

Read the full report here.

The special committee, for which we served as co-chairs, focused in-depth on UNC‒Chapel Hill as the flagship campus, but also examined events across the entire system. Through interviews with more than fifty individuals across the UNC system, the report details the pattern of political interference from the legislature and unilateral decision-making from university leadership that has increasingly come to affect the entire UNC system, with clear violations of AAUP-supported principles of academic governance set forth in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

You can also listen to a podcast discussion of the report here.

The report surveys the environment for governance and academic freedom in the UNC system against this backdrop of overtly partisan political control. It details how the intersection of broken governance, threats to academic freedom, and institutional racism affected campus-level matters, such as the closure of multiple academic centers run by faculty members who had been vocal critics of state leadership; the barring of centers from conducting litigation, which particularly affected the UNC‒Chapel Hill School of Law Center for Civil Rights; the controversial deal regarding “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument; and the 2021 failed appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Media.

The report also details long-standing patterns of institutional racism that make the UNC system a particularly hostile environment for faculty, staff, and students of color. In examining the structural and cultural elements of racism within the UNC system, the report points to the racial climate; institutional inequities as manifested in the racial composition of the administration and faculty; the distribution of power, authority, and resources within the system; and retention of faculty and staff of color.

The special committee concluded that UNC needs strong and independent leadership that respects faculty expertise and observes widely accepted principles of academic governance, that defends academic inquiry from political pressures and constraints, and that is willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of equity. The report emphasizes that the system- and campus-level governing boards not only need to fulfill their “special obligation to ensure that the history of the college or university shall serve as a prelude and inspiration to the future,” as described in the Statement on Government, but also “must ensure that the history of UNC inspires and serves as a prelude to a future that looks very different from its past and its present.”

To read the full report, visit the AAUP website.

Nicholas Fleisher, professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Afshan Jafar, professor of Sociology at Connecticut College
Co-chairs of the special committee