AAUP@FHSU


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


AAUP Opposes Proposed NLRB Rule That Would Bar Grad Unionizing

The AAUP has submitted comments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opposing a proposed rule that would bar many graduate assistants from forming unions. The rule put forward by the NLRB holds that students who are also teaching or research assistants at private colleges or universities are not employees and are therefore not entitled to unionize or bargain collectively under the National Labor Relations Act.

The AAUP’s comments reject this claim and strongly refute the board’s assertion that “academic freedom” supports the proposed rule.

The AAUP has long supported the union rights of faculty and graduate assistants. In addition to the other benefits it provides, collective bargaining is an effective tool to promote and protect academic freedom. AAUP chapters have established explicit guarantees of academic freedom in their collective bargaining contracts, sometimes incorporating language from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. These contracts make promises of academic freedom legally enforceable.

Graduate assistants perform specific work in return for compensation. The work they do is often indistinguishable from that performed by faculty members, and universities generally treat graduate assistant stipends as payment for teaching or research work, not as general financial support. As such, and as the AAUP’s comments make clear, graduate assistants are employees who should have the same rights as other private-sector employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The comments also refute the NLRB’s assertion that potential harm to an institution’s academic freedom is a basis for excluding graduate assistants from collective bargaining, arguing that “collective bargaining by faculty and graduate assistants is one of several ways to promote academic freedom on campus, as it allows faculty, students, and administrators to discuss collectively how best to do their shared work of teaching and research.”

The comments were drafted by Risa Lieberwitz, AAUP general counsel and professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations, and Rana M. Jaleel, assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at the University of California, Davis.

You can read the comments and a summary of them here.

The AAUP

P.S. Looking for a primer on academic freedom? Check out our one page overview here.


AAUP Files Brief in Gender-Based Pay Disparity Case

The AAUP has filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Professor Jennifer Freyd, who sued the University of Oregon (UO) for pay discrimination based on significant pay disparities with male faculty members. A district court had dismissed her suit based, in part, on the court’s conclusions that she and her male colleagues did not perform equal work, and that the reasons for the pay differentials did not have a disparate impact on women.

The district court, in ruling against Professor Freyd, also claimed that the pay differential was justified by the “academic freedom” of faculty to “remake their job.” The AAUP’s brief refutes this argument, writing, “academic freedom is a condition of employment that all faculty hold in common to enhance their ability to engage in teaching, research, and service. It is not a weapon to be wielded as a justification for gender-based inequalities”

The amicus brief notes that “the wage disparity in Freyd’s case is an example of the ongoing gender-based salary inequalities in the academic profession, generally, and for women full professors in doctoral institutions, in particular.”

Professor Freyd is paid substantially less than her male colleagues in the psychology department who hold the same positions as full professors. A 2016 department study found a “significant equity problem with respect to salaries at the full professor level.” The UO psychology department also underwent an external review, which found gender disparity in faculty salaries at the full professor level. It recommended that the department “continue pressing for gender equity in terms of pay at the senior levels of the faculty.” Both reviews traced the disparity back to retention raises given to male professors who pursued outside offers of employment.

While UO policy provides for gender equity adjustments, administrators failed to adjust Professor Freyd’s salary. The AAUP’s brief argues that the UO retention raise practice was not a valid defense to the discrimination claims, since UO policy provides for gender-equity adjustments but didn’t make any after boosting the pay of male faculty.

You can find a link to the full brief here. We will keep you posted as the case develops.

Risa Lieberwitz
AAUP General Counsel

P.S.–Breaking news update: in a win for affirmative action, a federal judge has upheld Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions standards. The AAUP had previously joined an amicus brief supporting Harvard’s right to exercise its academic judgment in setting admissions standards. More on that here.