AAUP@FHSU


The scary stats on contingency in higher education

Earlier this month, we sent you a data snapshot breaking out the numbers on faculty and graduate employee appointments at US colleges and universities. The composition of the academic workforce varies between institution types–at community colleges, a whopping 66 percent of positions are classified as part-time, while at research institutions much of that work is done by graduate employees. At all US institutions combined, the percentage of instructional positions that is off the tenure track amounted to 73 percent in 2016, the latest year for which data are available.

Two recent AAUP investigative reports illustrate what these numbers mean on the ground. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last year, the administration dismissed Courtney Lawton, a doctoral student who also held a part-time lecturer appointment, following her protest of an on-campus recruitment table for Turning Point USA. Lawton’s protest was recorded and widely disseminated online, which led to threats against her and the university. Political pressure on the university was at the very heart of the case, and the investigating committee concluded that the basis for Lawton’s dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and that the due process afforded to her was inadequate.

At Colorado’s Community College of Aurora,  part-time faculty member Nathanial Bork, an advocate for adjunct rights, was fired because he allegedly had failed to adequately implement a curriculum redesign mandated by the administration. Bork, who had taught philosophy and related courses at the college for six years with positive reviews, had written to the institution’s regional accrediting agency, criticizing CCA’s efforts to raise course completion rates by lowering standards.  Investigators noted that at CCA the academic freedom of part-time faculty members “is not universally guaranteed as a matter of institutional policy but selectively bestowed as a function of administrative benevolence. That is to say, it does not exist.”

Exposing such conditions is one tool that the national AAUP has to improve protections for academic freedom.  When institutions are censured by the AAUP, as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Community College of Aurora both have been, they often respond by making restitution to affected faculty members and working to improve their practices and bring their policies into accordance with the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations. These regulations spell out, in language suitable for use in faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements, policies that protect academic freedom.

The AAUP this year released a revised version of the Recommended Institutional Regulations that clarifies the AAUP’s long-standing position on due process protections for part-time faculty members.  As a newly added note in the regulations explains, “There should be no invidious distinctions between those who teach and/or conduct research in higher education, regardless of whether they hold full-time or part-time appointments or whether their appointments are tenured, tenure-track, or contingent. All faculty members should have access to the same due-process protections and procedures.”

AAUP chapters and members are vital in the fight for academic freedom. Member support enables the national AAUP to produce research on the state of the profession, conduct investigations of particularly egregious academic freedom cases, and provide tools such as the recommended institutional regulations. And working at the campus level to improve institutional policies is a key function of AAUP members and chapters. Joining together in solidarity across ranks and roles is the only way we can protect academic freedom and shared governance for all.

Here’s a simple step you can take right now: share the graphic below to help raise public awareness of contingency in higher education.

Sincerely,
Gwendolyn Bradley
AAUP Senior Program Officer

Graphic to share on Facebook of stats


A New Age of Activism

From teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona to faculty walkouts in the UK, we’re reminded of how activism can breathe life into movements. Thanks to these amazing demonstrations of solidarity and a renewed focus on education and educators in the media, we have an opportunity to remind the public why faculty and higher education matter.

Summer is a great time to get more involved with this work.

Our Summer Institute will be held July 19 to 22 in Durham, New Hampshire. We bring in organizers, data analysts, seasoned campaigners, and issue experts to build your skills as an advocate for AAUP principles, collective bargaining, and higher education. Learn more here.

You can also take the summer to dive into two of our recently released toolkits, one focused on the targeted harassment of faculty and the other on “campus free-speech” legislation.

  • Campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. Our toolkit pulls together resources for addressing it, focusing specifically on Turning Point USA, the right-wing organization behind the Professor Watchlist. Find out more here.
  • “Campus free-speech” legislation, increasingly prevalent in state legislatures, is a solution in search of a problem. Bills purporting to protect free speech on campus have become a popular method for chilling campus dissent and undermining the institutional autonomy of public colleges and universities. Read more and access the toolkit here.

With a potentially damaging decision in the Janus case expected by the end of June, a strong and organized academic workforce has never been more important. Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards, protect and create better workplaces in our country and in higher education. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity. To learn more about this case, check out our resources on preparing for the challenges ahead.

National AAUP staff and leaders will be busy this summer as well. We’re working to protect your rights to organize and bargain collectively. When opportunities arise, we file amicus briefs in court cases that impact union rights, academic freedom, and other key issues. We respond to incidents of faculty harassment and violations of academic freedom. And we help chapters organize and grow stronger to face the challenges ahead.

Make sure to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to get regular updates.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP