AAUP@FHSU


AAUP/AFT solidarity

In September 2021, we announced that the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers were exploring ways to expand and enhance our very successful ten-plus-year organizing partnership.

We are incredibly proud of the work that AAUP and AFT have done together to organize faculty and graduate employees around the US and to strengthen higher education and the profession. As a result of our partnership, more than twenty thousand faculty and other academic workers are in unions that are jointly represented by the AAUP and the AFT. In addition, we have worked together on important legislative efforts at the federal and state level to expand access to higher education, ensure adequate funding for public institutions, increase Pell grants, and expand academic workers’ right to unionize. AAUP members are already being included in planned student loan debt clinics run by AFT higher ed staff, and AFT members have had the opportunity to attend our Summer Institutes. Since last fall, we’ve been discussing how to best build on our successful organizing work, support our shared commitment to education and the common good, and build a stronger and more inclusive higher education movement.

We don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that democracy is hanging on by a thread right now, and a strong higher education movement is part of what’s needed to salvage and strengthen our democracy. In the few months since we started exploring possibilities for affiliation, the attacks on higher education and the common good have increased. Educational gag order legislation aimed at curtailing academic freedom has been introduced in thirty-eight states. We see administrations acquiescing to pressure from governing boards and state legislatures on fundamental issues such as academic freedom, faculty shared governance, and due process. We see state systems launching full assaults on tenure.

At the same time, we see a renewed interest in organizing to confront these challenges among faculty and other academic workers. On campuses where unionization is possible, we see faculty forming organizing committees and starting union campaigns. We also see a renewed interest in building and strengthening advocacy chapters as a vehicle for campus change. The ongoing challenges facing higher education and this renewed interest in organizing underscore the need for solidarity—with our colleagues and within our own organization, to be sure, but also with other organizations and with the academic labor movement as a whole. This affiliation will help all of us—AAUP and AFT Higher Education members together—achieve this.

Sincerely,

Irene Mulvey, President
Paul Davis, Vice President
Chris Sinclair, Secretary-Treasurer

Coming to a classroom near you? GETTY


Educational Gag Orders – January Update

We’re a month into state legislative sessions, and there’s a lot happening around educational gag orders. Here are some of the highlights.

Seventy-one educational gag orders have now been introduced in twenty-three states. Thirty of those bills specifically target higher education, with nearly half including punitive measures of some kind—allowing faculty members to be fired, reducing or eliminating funding either for “prohibited” programs or for the entire institution, or allowing monetary damages to be awarded to claimants who file successful lawsuits against an institution or faculty member. AAUP’s EGO Dashboard provides an overview of state legislation, including a list of upcoming hearings. The dashboard updates in real-time, so bookmark it in your browser and check it often!

Some AAUP state conferences and chapters are already taking action against these censorship bills. The Kentucky conference has joined a broader coalition that held a rally on January 12 to protest the bills that have been introduced there. The event received significant press coverage. And in Missouri and Alabama, we’re exploring opportunities to work with coalitions that are very active in fighting back.

At the national level, the AAUP is part of a working group that aims to develop state-level coalitions so that our organizations can fight back together. Other members of the working group include the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Civil Liberties Union, African American Policy Forum, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Center for Youth Law.

In addition to our defensive efforts, we’re going on offense where possible. We’ve drafted a legislative resolution in support of academic freedom and accurate teaching on race and racism, and are talking with conference leaders in several states where there’s a strong possibility of getting it introduced.

We’ll send another update at the end of February, so be sure to check your inboxes!

If you have questions about anything, would like more information, or would like help in your state, please contact me at slamore@aaup.org.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations


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