AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Joins Brief Supporting University of Michigan’s Prohibition on Firearms

Yesterday, the AAUP joined an amicus brief with Brady United Against Gun Violence (formerly the Brady Center) and TEAM ENOUGH affirming that the University of Michigan’s prohibition on firearms does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. In it, we support the university’s ability to impose gun control measures that protect faculty and students from the negative impact on academic freedom resulting from firearms in classrooms and other campus locations.

The brief, filed in an appeal in the State of Michigan Supreme Court, argues that the university’s prohibition serves the “critical interest of academic freedom by protecting faculty speech and furthering the University’s core educational goals.” The freedom to teach includes “the right of the faculty to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance. . . . There is widespread concern among university faculty that allowing guns on campus would threaten this freedom and force them to alter their curriculum and important classroom discussions.” The brief also cites a 2015 statement opposing campus carry laws that was issued by the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. The statement argues that “students and faculty members will not feel comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.”

If you want to share this news, a summary and a link to the full brief can be found on our website.

In solidarity,
The AAUP


Vote… Volunteer… Organize

I write to you today, as voter registration deadlines fast approach, with an urgent call to action. These are extraordinary times and much is at stake. Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has never endorsed a candidate for office or engaged in partisan political activity. What the AAUP has done in its one hundred- and five-year history is defend and protect academic freedom, promote shared governance, and advocate for the economic security of individuals who teach and research in higher education. These are interconnected necessities to ensure that higher education serves the common good. Most of the time, the AAUP has responded to attacks on higher education exceptionally well, and sometimes we have not lived up to our mission and our founding principles. Now, we find ourselves in a moment to which we must respond with clarity and strength.

There is no downtime in the 24/7 news cycle. There is a constant and yet depressingly unpredictable stream of fresh outrages to process. Our national leadership’s response to the global pandemic is incompetent, at best, and borders on malevolent. We have the highest number of deaths by far of any country. As I write, our death toll is over two hundred thousand, a number which, based on modeling of the pace of spread in March 2020, was suggested as the total number of deaths we would have from the virus, and there is no end in sight. The resulting hit to the economy and the real-world implications for people who are unemployed or underemployed and for small businesses is no less than devastating. As a nation, we may—at long last—be willing to begin to reckon with systemic and institutional racism, but this is likely only due to the fact that instances of brutality and racism, long hidden, are now being captured on video and broadcast. It’s not possible to look away anymore.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would have the Senate vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court before some people had heard that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. At least he saved us the effort of having to speculate if he would respect the precedent he put into place during the Merrick Garland confirmation fiasco. “Of course he wouldn’t. What did you expect?” is a very common response I hear from my cynical friends and colleagues. I view that kind of cynicism as cognitive protection, a form of self-care that is completely understandable. It’s a lot more painful to acknowledge that Mitch McConnell views you and all of your fellow citizens as chumps, but that acknowledgement may help us to see this moment with clarity, and respond with the needed action and strength.

Just days after Donald Trump’s election took many of us by surprise in 2016, the AAUP’s national leadership issued a statement in which they suggested that a Donald Trump presidency might be “the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.” They supported this suggestion with concrete examples from Trump’s campaign and predicted that a Trump presidency could bring a chilling effect on the rights of students and faculty members to speak out, make it difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from other countries and to engage in the international exchange of ideas, and attempt to cripple public employee unions by overturning their established right to collect fees from the nonmembers they must serve.

Despite the fact that every one of their predictions came true, I would argue that my colleagues got things wrong in that they seriously underestimated how bad things could get. Anti-intellectualism, long a thriving subculture in the US, is now the currency of our leaders. Temperatures will get cooler and the coronavirus will just disappear, according to the president. Reasoned arguments, logic, science, evidence-based conclusions, data-driven strategies, the currency of the academy, are all for chumps. In this bizarro world, it’s hard to know what’s real, and that’s the administration’s goal.

The attacks on education by the government are particularly egregious. Certainly, partisan controversy regarding the teaching of US history is nothing new, but the level of government pushback directly aimed at the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, complete with the announcement by President Trump of a competing “1776 Commission” to “promote patriotic education” and a grant supporting “the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history” is an outrageous government intrusion into curricular matters. Trump’s recent attack on critical race theory is a fresh attack on expert knowledge and an inappropriate intrusion of politics into scholarship which puts a bulls-eye on the backs of researchers in this field. When, in a good faith effort to begin to address systemic racism at Princeton, university president Christopher Eisgruber acknowledged that racism is embedded in the university structures and history, Trump’s Department of Education initiated an investigation to determine if Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims since 2013 may have been false as a result of its “admitted racism.” These are only the outrages that involve education, and all happened this month.

Let’s be clear that our problems did not begin with the current occupant of the White House. Our problems are the result of decades of the neoliberal agenda, privatizing what should be public systems and worsening income inequality. But they have been exacerbated by the Trump administration. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum called it spot on when he wrote in early 2017:

The Trump presidency will be neoliberalism on steroids. The transformation of higher education into a highly stratified, for-profit business aimed at serving the interests of the wealthy and America’s corporations will accelerate under the new administration. The goal of creating an educated citizenry will be subordinated to the demands of wealthy and corporate interests, and academic freedom for faculty, students, and researchers will consequently be under attack.

All this was certainly evident in how universities have responded to the pandemic. Faculty had little or no say on how our institutions responded or on re-opening decisions, and administrations more often than not made decisions driven by finances and external political pressure over public health and the common good.

In this election, democracy as a concept is on the ballot. A well-functioning democracy requires respect for rules and standards, and respect for the rule of law. A vibrant democracy demands an educated citizenry and a free press. We need to vote for norms and standards, the rule of law, racial justice, social justice, and decision making with integrity based on reasoned arguments and expert knowledge. We need to vote for a living wage, for access to health care, for access to affordable high quality public higher education as a common good. To be silent now is to be complicit.

Vote, volunteer, organize. Find allies and build a movement for change. Join the AAUP, if you’re not already a member. Honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by following the advice she gave to her audience when she received the Radcliffe Medal at Harvard University in 2015, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey
AAUP President


Prevalence of AAUP Policies in Higher Ed

The AAUP released today a new research report, Policies on Academic Freedom, Dismissal for Cause, Financial Exigency, and Program Discontinuance, that examines the prevalence of AAUP-supported policies in faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements at four-year institutions that have a tenure system. The analysis replicates a study conducted in 2000 and tracks changes that have occurred since that time. It finds that many AAUP-supported procedural standards are widely prevalent, but it also finds reason for concern, especially with respect to policies on financial exigency, which have recently received renewed attention at many institutions of higher education because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Academic Freedom
The report finds that the AAUP language on academic freedom is widely adopted. The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, formulated jointly by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 250 disciplinary societies and educational associations, serves as the primary source for academic freedom language in institutional regulations. Seventy-three percent of four-year institutions with a tenure system base their academic freedom policy directly on the 1940 Statement, and more than half cite the AAUP specifically as the source. Only 3 percent of institutions have no academic freedom statement, and 24 percent of institutions have an academic freedom statement not based on AAUP language.

Financial Exigency
Overall, the study found that 95 percent of four-year institutions with a tenure system have financial exigency policies that allow for the termination of appointments. A central question is if and how the conditions that allow such terminations to occur are defined. The study found that 55 percent of institutions do not define those conditions and simply state that appointments can be terminated for “financial exigency,” “fiscal emergency,” or similar conditions. That percentage has decreased since 2000, when it was 69 percent. The AAUP provides a definition of “financial exigency” in its Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. That definition can be found in 13 percent of handbooks and contracts, up from 8 percent in 2000. Other definitions that often provide less protection than the definition provided by the AAUP can be found at 33 percent of institutions, which represents an increase of 10 percentage points since 2000.

Policies on terminations of appointments because of financial exigency also need to include procedural safeguards, such as requirements that the administration seek another suitable position for affected faculty members and, failing that, that affected faculty members receive timely notice of the termination or severance pay. Other safeguards include the requirement that the faculty, through an appropriate faculty body, such as a senate or union, participate in the decision to declare a financial exigency and identify faculty appointments to terminate. The prevalence of such procedural safeguards has increased since 2000, with specific provisions concerning the role of the faculty increasing the most, from 50 percent to 66 percent. The prevalence of each of these procedural elements at institutions at which the faculty engage in collective bargaining is higher than at institutions without faculty unions.

Read the full report here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer and Researcher


Join Our AAUP Member Facebook Group for Discussions of COVID-19

We hope you are staying well. In these challenging times, we are working to ensure that our COVID-19 graphicmembers are informed about how the AAUP and AAUP chapters are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Together, we can continue to defend academic freedom, shared decision-making, and the important role our institutions and these principles play in our society.

To facilitate wider discussion of the rapidly changing landscape of higher education during the current crisis, we’ve created a Facebook group where members can discuss questions, plans, and tactics with a group of their peers.

Click here to join the group.

A few notes. The group will be largely unmoderated; if you have specific questions for national AAUP staff, please contact the appropriate department by email. We ask that you keep the discussion civil and productive.

We chose Facebook because it has the widest reach–70 percent of adults in the United States use it, and we wanted a space where people are likely to visit and interact. We do recognize that some of you may have privacy concerns about using Facebook. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can create one specifically to access the group.

For up-to-date resources, please keep an eye on our COVID-19 resource page for higher education.

Another good resource is the AAUP and AFT Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19. That’s here.

In solidarity,

The AAUP

P.S. If you don’t want to join the group or aren’t on Facebook, you’ll still get all AAUP updates related to COVID-19 via email.


COVID-19 and AAUP principles

Like the rest of society, higher education continues to be shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have already been required to move courses online, often abruptly and without adequate institutional support. Labs are being shuttered and research projects curtailed, and what we had initially hoped would be only a brief disruption is now likely to continue through the remainder of this academic year. Many members of our campus communities—including graduate student workers, support staff, students, and all categories of faculty—are faced with uncertainty around employment status, health benefits, and paid leave.

The AAUP has put together a coronavirus information web page for AAUP members and the higher education community. We have been collecting resources from the government, other higher education organizations, and our chapters to help all of us respond to this challenge. We will continue to add to the page as new resources become available.

As many of you know, some administrations have been leaving the faculty out of decisions pertaining to curriculum and program, online teaching and intellectual property, and the faculty role in navigating the financial impact of COVID-19 on our campuses. Faculty governance bodies and academic unions must insist on involvement in decision-making about the effects that this crisis is having on our campuses, and we will be sharing guidance from the national AAUP, as well as strategies some of our chapters have developed as they grapple with the crisis.

Finally, the AAUP is setting up a Facebook page for members to connect, share information and strategies, and support one another during this unprecedented situation. We will be posting information about this resource in the next few days.

These are trying times for our students, our profession, and our nation. But even as we respond to the immediate needs of our students and families, we must also be diligent in defending the AAUP’s core principles of academic freedom, due process, and the faculty voice in decision-making on our campuses. If we do not defend those principles, we run the real risk that college and university administrations will use this emergency to reshape higher education, serving an agenda that is too often influenced by corporate interests rather than by a commitment to the common good. Please check out our coronavirus information page for a statement on COVID-19 and the faculty role in decision-makingAFT and AAUP principles for higher education’s response to COVID-19, and other resources already available for responding to any administration overreach you may be experiencing.

We ask that you continue to share information with us about what is being done on your campus to support faculty and students during this crisis and, especially, what your chapter or faculty senate’s role has been during this process.

We have survived and grown stronger in times of crisis before, and, working together, we will do so now.

In solidarity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President