AAUP@FHSU


Join our push to save Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Today, hundreds of thousands of faculty members face financial uncertainty. They were promised student loan forgiveness in exchange for years of public service. But after rising to the moment and transforming their teaching methods during a global pandemic, faculty have been left behind.

That is why the AAUP is partnering with the Student Borrower Protection Center and the American Federation of Teachers to host a webinar highlighting what faculty need to know about managing student loans, how to access the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and how to get involved in a campaign to restore the promise of PSLF. Register here.

The webinar will feature first-hand testimony from faculty about their struggles with student debt, and the opportunity for participants to ask questions about their student loans. Join us on Tuesday, September 21, from 4:00-5:00pm EST, and please amplify in your networks!

Even if you cannot attend the webinar, you can share your story as a public comment. Now, for the first time ever, the US Department of Education is asking faculty, especially those who work part-time or on a contingent contract, to share their stories about public service and debt forgiveness. Working part-time on short-term contracts, often at multiple institutions, compounds the pervasive issues in student loan servicing.

This is our chance to make the case directly to President Biden that the PSLF program is broken and that only sweeping action to deliver debt relief can right a decade of wrongs by the student loan industry—wrongs that have particularly hurt contingent faculty. We need more of our colleagues to speak up about the issues faced by contingent faculty, so that the Department of Education can prioritize fixing them.

Thanks for sharing your story—and I hope to see you on Tuesday!

In solidarity,

Kaitlyn Vitez, AAUP Government Relations


AAUP Legal Work: Victories and New Briefs

We have a number of updates to share with you about legal cases addressing discrimination and AAUP policies in which we’ve filed amicus briefs or been otherwise involved.

In March the AAUP joined with Brady: United Against Gun Violence and its youth-led initiative, Team Enough, in submitting an amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme Court. The brief supports the defendant in the appeal of Joshua Wade v. University of Michigan, affirming a lower-court ruling that the university’s prohibition on firearms does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. It argues in favor of the right to impose gun-control measures on campuses to protect faculty members and students and explains how the presence of firearms could have a negative impact on academic freedom. Citing a 2015 statement opposing “campus-carry” laws that the AAUP issued jointly with the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the brief notes that “students and faculty members will not feel comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room” and summarizes research that supports this claim.

The AAUP also submitted a brief in the Oregon Court of Appeals in March in a case that involves the distribution of antiunion FAQs by Oregon State University. The appeal arose from an Oregon Employment Relations Board decision—based on the filing of an unfair labor practices complaint by United Academics of Oregon State University—finding that the university had violated a state law requiring neutrality in union organizing drives by circulating the FAQs. According to the board, after soliciting faculty questions, OSU wrote or edited many of the questions in the FAQs, presented them as having been asked by members of the faculty, and failed to disclose substantive changes to some questions. Oregon State University and six other public universities submitted an amicus brief that argued that the FAQs were protected by shared governance. The AAUP amicus brief challenged that claim, explaining the importance of shared governance as a framework for faculty participation in decision-making and asserting that the unilaterally created FAQs neither constituted nor contributed to meaningful shared governance.

This spring also brought positive developments in two legal cases in which the AAUP previously filed amicus briefs.

The first case involves Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, a professor of social work who alleges that she was denied a promotion by Gordon College because of her outspoken criticism regarding LGBTQ issues at the Christian college. As reported in the winter issue of Academe, the AAUP authored and filed an amicus brief in support of DeWeese-Boyd, arguing that she is not a “minister” and that the college had inappropriately invoked the “ministerial exception” to First Amendment law in an attempt to avoid application of Massachusetts employment laws. In March, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that DeWeese-Boyd is not a ministerial employee and returned the case to the trial court to determine whether the university had violated Massachusetts antidiscrimination laws.

More good news came in a ruling that allows Jennifer Freyd to proceed with a discrimination suit against the University of Oregon alleging she was underpaid due largely to retention raises given to comparable male faculty. After a lower court dismissed her suit, Freyd filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the AAUP submitted an amicus brief in September 2019 supporting her case. The brief provided information about gender-based wage discrimination in academia and about faculty work, explaining that the pay differentials Freyd documented were not justified and arguing that her department’s retention-raise practice had a discriminatory impact that the university could have corrected. The appeals court found in March that the faculty jobs of women and men were “comparable” for legal purposes and that the university could have avoided the discriminatory impact of retention raises by revisiting the pay of comparable faculty when retention raises were given.

Finally, as we let you know in an email earlier this month, in a major victory for graduate employees at private universities, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it was withdrawing a rule proposed in late 2019 that would have barred graduate assistants from engaging in union organizing and collective bargaining under the protection of federal law. With the withdrawal of the proposed rule, the governing standard remains the one established in a 2016 NLRB decision that allowed graduate employees at Columbia University to unionize. The AAUP has long supported the bargaining rights of graduate employees and submitted an amicus brief in the Columbia University case, which was cited and relied upon by the board in its decision.

Amicus briefs in which the AAUP participates appear, along with summaries of the cases they support, on the AAUP website at https://www.aaup.org/our-work/legal-program/amicus-briefs. The summaries are updated after courts issue decisions in the cases.

The AAUP


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


May 14 COVID-19 Update

As summer approaches, we continue to develop guidance and plan webinars to help us organize and respond to the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guidance on Reopening Campuses

The decision to reopen a campus raises not only logistical and health and safety concerns but also concerns about how best to achieve the academic mission both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in its aftermath. The AAUP has developed guidance on reopening campuses for our chapters, faculty governing bodies, and administrations. As with all the AAUP’s resources related to COVID-19, we will continue to update this guidance as new information becomes available.

Financial Crisis FAQs

Colleges and universities are facing challenging financial situations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. In some cases, particularly those in which ongoing financial problems have threatened institutions’ survival, the challenges are extraordinary. To assist members of the academy in addressing the challenges faced in times of financial stress, the AAUP has updated our web page with FAQs on financial crisis in order to help our chapters, our members, and the profession as a whole navigate this crisis.

International Student Visas

The AAUP has signed on to a letter sent by the American Council of Education and sixty-two other associations to the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of State in regard to international students. The letter from the associations outlines the role international students play in the US economy and their contributions to education and research, as well as some of the issues these students and colleges and universities will likely be facing in the fall. The groups urged the Secretary of State to prioritize applications for student visas once the consulates reopen. They also requested that the State Department and DHS extend regulatory flexibility for international students to begin their studies online if campuses are unable to open in the fall or student visas are delayed.

Rescind Proposed Rules for Distance Education

The AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers have submitted joint comments urging the Department of Education to rescind proposed rules for distance education. The comments emphasize that the rules would weaken the interaction between students and faculty members—the key relationship in higher education—and would allow increased outsourcing of core educational responsibilities. Read more here.

Support Faculty at Rutgers University Biomedical and Health Sciences

Clinical faculty in the AAUP-BHSNJ chapter need your support for their petition to win a fair contract after two years of bargaining. These members’ work on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, including work on developing a COVID-19 saliva test, is a real-life example of higher education for the common good. While Rutgers University’s president praises them as “heroes,” his negotiators take a hard line in bargaining by looking at layoffs and ways to de-tenure faculty. AAUP-BHSNJ hopes to revamp health and safety measures, clarify the role of family leave, and reduce gender pay inequity. Add your name.

Send a Letter to Your Member of Congress

Many of our states and communities face serious financial shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of states to provide adequate funding for higher education and other public goods will be dependent upon the inclusion of relief for state and local governments in the next federal stimulus package. On Tuesday, we sent a message from AAUP president Rudy FIchtenbaum asking you to write to your US congressional representative and your senators and urge them to include relief for state and local governments in the next stimulus package. Here’s the link to send a letter now.

We’ll be in touch with more updates in two weeks.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


COVID-19 and AAUP Office Operating Status

On Friday, March 13, the federal government declared a national state of emergency in response to increasing concerns about COVID-19. Jurisdictions in the Washington, DC, area also made announcements about states of emergency and closed local schools. COVID19_graphic_310

Because of recommendations about social distancing and the need to “flatten the curve” of virus transmission, AAUP leadership made a decision to have all AAUP staff transition to telework as of the end of the business day on Monday, March 16, 2020, until at least Tuesday, March 31. The best way to reach staff members is to write to the appropriate email address for the staff member or department you need to contact. Please consult the AAUP staff page for a list of individual and departmental email addresses.

We appreciate your patience as we manage this abrupt transition. We will provide updates about the AAUP’s operating status here and will continue to update our web page with COVID-19 resources for higher education. Please note that we are monitoring the situation and will make a decision in the coming weeks about the status of the biennial meeting. In the meantime, we are extending the early-bird registration deadline for the June 18–21 AAUP Conference and Biennial Meeting until May 7.

Please see the AFT and AAUP Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19, which we developed with our organizing partner, the American Federation of Teachers. This is a challenging time for higher education, and we share the concerns of many faculty members about the short- and long-term impact of institutional responses to COVID-19 and of transitions to online education at colleges and universities around the country.

Although we will communicate with members by email about any important developments relating to the AAUP’s operating status, subscribing to our Academe Blog and following us on Facebook and Twitter are good ways to see content related to COVID-19 and higher education that we are sharing on a regular basis.

Julie Schmid
Executive Director