AAUP@FHSU


Faculty at Miami University File to Form AAUP Union

With support from a strong majority of Miami University faculty, on Friday the Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM) filed a petition for certification at the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB) to form a union with the AAUP. Ohio statute allows the Miami administration to avoid a drawn-out and costly election by voluntarily recognizing the union.

This is a significant moment for faculty at Miami and for collective bargaining in Ohio. The Miami University union drive builds on a national wave of higher education organizing in recent years. Miami would join the ten out of fourteen other four-year Ohio public universities with collective bargaining agreements and would be the largest bargaining unit to file since Bowling Green State University in 2010.

FAM has built a strong organization rooted in member activism and centered on strengthening the role of faculty at their institution. “Through FAM, teaching and learning will be reinvigorated at Miami University,” says Theresa Kulbaga, professor of English and a lead FAM organizer. “Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. When faculty are valued and supported, the quality of our programs and our teaching are strengthened.”

The move was prompted by long-standing issues with working conditions, shared governance, compensation, and academic freedom.

“Miami’s faculty and administration can work together to support high quality teaching and learning,” notes Todd Edwards, FAM press secretary. “As institutions of higher education face unprecedented challenges, faculty have an important role to play in the search for solutions. A stronger voice for faculty means a stronger Miami.”

embers of the Faculty Alliance of Miami filing for union certification on Friday, June 3.

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the campaign!

The AAUP


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


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


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.


Report Finds Partisan Ideology and Political Ambition Motivated Changes at Maricopa

An AAUP investigation released today finds that the governing board of the Maricopa Community Colleges was motivated by a desire to bust the faculty union when it decided in February 2018 to repeal the entire faculty manual, restrict the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. That process had been used for more than forty years to establish institutional policies related to faculty matters and to make recommendations on salary and budgets.

The board also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body. This also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law. In short, the board’s actions destroyed what had been an effective system of shared governance.

Our investigating committee—Bethany Carson of Santa Fe Community College, Emily M.S. Houh of the University of Cincinnati, and I—found that the governing board acted in disregard of normative standards of academic governance, as laid out in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

We also found evidence, based on correspondence obtained through open records requests, which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by the partisan ideology of two former Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives—one who served as chair of the board and the other as a member.

Join me for a Facebook Live discussion of the report tomorrow at 12 ET. RSVP here.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards of academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Governance investigations are an important tool in our work to protect and advance the faculty’s voice in decision making; they shine a light on egregious practices and are intended to motivate institutions to improve these practices.

In this case, improvements came quickly. Not long after the visit of the investigating committee, three new members were elected to the Maricopa governing board and the existing board president announced his resignation. After the AAUP shared our findings with the administration, the board passed a proposal that rescinded the earlier changes and will eventually restore many of the shared governance mechanisms that the old board had terminated.

You can read the full report here.

Best,
Irene Mulvey,
Chair of the Investigating Committee,
Professor of Mathematics, Fairfield University

P.S.–You can support governance and academic freedom investigations by donating to the AAUP Foundation today.