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


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.


A Victory for Unions at University of Northern Iowa

We had a big win in Iowa this week, with 97% of voting faculty at the University of Northern Iowa voting in favor of recertifying their union, the United Faculty/AAUP. Recertification became necessary after a 2017 bill drastically altered Iowa’s collective bargaining law for state employees.

In addition to limiting the mandatory and permissive subjects of bargaining (for example, health insurance and evaluation procedures are now prohibited subjects of bargaining), the bill also eliminated payroll deduction and requires recertification of the bargaining unit one year prior to the expiration of each collective bargaining agreement.

In order to maintain its certification, United Faculty needed to get majority support from all eligible faculty members, not just a majority of those voting. In effect, there was no way to remain neutral – not voting would be counted as a vote against the union. Of the 643 faculty members who were eligible to vote in the election, 547 faculty members voted in favor of United Faculty and only 17 faculty members voted against the union.

Iowa has long had laws unfriendly to workers, so our UNI colleagues have been operating under a Janus environment for quite some time. These election results, however, show that UNI faculty clearly see the value of their union and support the union’s work. The chapter plans to build on this victory by increasing membership numbers over the rest of the academic year and is set to begin bargaining for a new contract before the year ends.

Congratulations to all the faculty at UNI!

In solidarity,
Kira Schuman
Midwest Lead Organizer
Department of Organizing and Services


Victory at Rutgers

Last week the national AAUP delivered a letter to the leaders of the Rutgers University AAUP-AFT chapter expressing concern about a report by that university’s Office of Employment Equity, which concluded that Facebook posts on gentrification made by history professor James Livingston “were not protected by the First Amendment and furthermore violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment.” We wrote that any discipline stemming from that finding would violate long-standing principles of academic freedom that are embraced in the university’s own policies and collective bargaining agreement. A day after chapter leaders gave the letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi, he ordered another review of the professor’s social media posts, calling for a more rigorous assessment.

Barchi — who said he was not aware of the report before its release — wrote that “few values are as important to the University as the protection of our First Amendment rights.” In light of the “complexities of this matter and the importance of our considering these matters with exceptional diligence,” Barchi announced the formation of a special advisory group, consisting of First Amendment and academic freedom scholars and attorneys, to provide guidance on this and similar alleged violations of Rutgers policies. For more on the case, here’s an article from today’s Inside Higher Ed.

The model provided by Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse University, is worth noting. When one of his faculty members was harassed for a controversial tweet, he said, “We are and will remain a university. Free speech is and will remain one of our key values. I can’t imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech. Our faculty must be able to say and write things — including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable — up to the very limits of the law.”

Barchi’s move, while perhaps not finally laying this case to rest, marks a major win nonetheless. One can only imagine how Professor Livingston might have fared had the Rutgers AAUP-AFT and the national AAUP not been there to defend his academic freedom right to extramural expression.

So I offer you a challenge: if you want to help the cause of academic freedom in other cases like this, please consider making a generous donation to the AAUP Foundation.

Henry Reichman,
Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure