AAUP@FHSU


Vote… Volunteer… Organize

I write to you today, as voter registration deadlines fast approach, with an urgent call to action. These are extraordinary times and much is at stake. Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has never endorsed a candidate for office or engaged in partisan political activity. What the AAUP has done in its one hundred- and five-year history is defend and protect academic freedom, promote shared governance, and advocate for the economic security of individuals who teach and research in higher education. These are interconnected necessities to ensure that higher education serves the common good. Most of the time, the AAUP has responded to attacks on higher education exceptionally well, and sometimes we have not lived up to our mission and our founding principles. Now, we find ourselves in a moment to which we must respond with clarity and strength.

There is no downtime in the 24/7 news cycle. There is a constant and yet depressingly unpredictable stream of fresh outrages to process. Our national leadership’s response to the global pandemic is incompetent, at best, and borders on malevolent. We have the highest number of deaths by far of any country. As I write, our death toll is over two hundred thousand, a number which, based on modeling of the pace of spread in March 2020, was suggested as the total number of deaths we would have from the virus, and there is no end in sight. The resulting hit to the economy and the real-world implications for people who are unemployed or underemployed and for small businesses is no less than devastating. As a nation, we may—at long last—be willing to begin to reckon with systemic and institutional racism, but this is likely only due to the fact that instances of brutality and racism, long hidden, are now being captured on video and broadcast. It’s not possible to look away anymore.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would have the Senate vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court before some people had heard that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. At least he saved us the effort of having to speculate if he would respect the precedent he put into place during the Merrick Garland confirmation fiasco. “Of course he wouldn’t. What did you expect?” is a very common response I hear from my cynical friends and colleagues. I view that kind of cynicism as cognitive protection, a form of self-care that is completely understandable. It’s a lot more painful to acknowledge that Mitch McConnell views you and all of your fellow citizens as chumps, but that acknowledgement may help us to see this moment with clarity, and respond with the needed action and strength.

Just days after Donald Trump’s election took many of us by surprise in 2016, the AAUP’s national leadership issued a statement in which they suggested that a Donald Trump presidency might be “the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.” They supported this suggestion with concrete examples from Trump’s campaign and predicted that a Trump presidency could bring a chilling effect on the rights of students and faculty members to speak out, make it difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from other countries and to engage in the international exchange of ideas, and attempt to cripple public employee unions by overturning their established right to collect fees from the nonmembers they must serve.

Despite the fact that every one of their predictions came true, I would argue that my colleagues got things wrong in that they seriously underestimated how bad things could get. Anti-intellectualism, long a thriving subculture in the US, is now the currency of our leaders. Temperatures will get cooler and the coronavirus will just disappear, according to the president. Reasoned arguments, logic, science, evidence-based conclusions, data-driven strategies, the currency of the academy, are all for chumps. In this bizarro world, it’s hard to know what’s real, and that’s the administration’s goal.

The attacks on education by the government are particularly egregious. Certainly, partisan controversy regarding the teaching of US history is nothing new, but the level of government pushback directly aimed at the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, complete with the announcement by President Trump of a competing “1776 Commission” to “promote patriotic education” and a grant supporting “the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history” is an outrageous government intrusion into curricular matters. Trump’s recent attack on critical race theory is a fresh attack on expert knowledge and an inappropriate intrusion of politics into scholarship which puts a bulls-eye on the backs of researchers in this field. When, in a good faith effort to begin to address systemic racism at Princeton, university president Christopher Eisgruber acknowledged that racism is embedded in the university structures and history, Trump’s Department of Education initiated an investigation to determine if Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims since 2013 may have been false as a result of its “admitted racism.” These are only the outrages that involve education, and all happened this month.

Let’s be clear that our problems did not begin with the current occupant of the White House. Our problems are the result of decades of the neoliberal agenda, privatizing what should be public systems and worsening income inequality. But they have been exacerbated by the Trump administration. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum called it spot on when he wrote in early 2017:

The Trump presidency will be neoliberalism on steroids. The transformation of higher education into a highly stratified, for-profit business aimed at serving the interests of the wealthy and America’s corporations will accelerate under the new administration. The goal of creating an educated citizenry will be subordinated to the demands of wealthy and corporate interests, and academic freedom for faculty, students, and researchers will consequently be under attack.

All this was certainly evident in how universities have responded to the pandemic. Faculty had little or no say on how our institutions responded or on re-opening decisions, and administrations more often than not made decisions driven by finances and external political pressure over public health and the common good.

In this election, democracy as a concept is on the ballot. A well-functioning democracy requires respect for rules and standards, and respect for the rule of law. A vibrant democracy demands an educated citizenry and a free press. We need to vote for norms and standards, the rule of law, racial justice, social justice, and decision making with integrity based on reasoned arguments and expert knowledge. We need to vote for a living wage, for access to health care, for access to affordable high quality public higher education as a common good. To be silent now is to be complicit.

Vote, volunteer, organize. Find allies and build a movement for change. Join the AAUP, if you’re not already a member. Honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by following the advice she gave to her audience when she received the Radcliffe Medal at Harvard University in 2015, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey
AAUP President


Solidarity Will See Us Through

We are heading into a new academic year in turbulent times. The coronavirus global pandemic has drastically altered our lives, our jobs, and the lives of our students and our staff colleagues, with no end in sight. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among others, and now Jacob Blake fighting for his life in Wisconsin, have put systemic institutionalized racism in the United States into stark relief.

In the past few weeks, we have seen a number of colleges and universities move ahead with reopening in person for the fall semester. Rather than relying on scientific expertise regarding the pandemic and the likelihood of transmission in a residential campus environment and its surrounding community, administrations and boards of trustees have engaged in magical thinking. Few institutions appear to be doing enough testing, and, somehow, they expect all students to follow strict rules at all times. Reopening decisions are being driven by the bottom line instead of the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and all campus workers.

The outcomes from these decisions and the lack of planning behind these decisions was predictable: a spike in cases on campus; the difficulty in feeding and housing students who must quarantine; the deficiency in mitigating risks for others due to a lack of testing and robust contact tracing; and a hasty retreat to remote learning, sending potentially infected students back to their families and communities. For most administrations and boards, the top priority is the bottom line. They continue to embrace the corporate model and to further a decades-long assault on higher education as a common good.

Disturbing instances of blatant police violence against and harassment of Black people, including on our campuses, continues. Just within the last few weeks, a Black faculty member at Santa Clara University reported that campus police knocked on her door and demanded proof that she lives in her own house, after harassing her brother as he worked on a laptop outside.

The problems we face are serious and will not be easily resolved. Some good news is that faculty are mobilizing across ranks and with other academic workers and students to forward antiracist activism and to ensure that hastily implemented austerity measures do not become the new normal. Here are just a few examples of faculty activism that are making me optimistic this Labor Day week:

  • After a long, intensive campaign by a broad coalition of faculty, students, staff, and alumni at Portland State University, the administration has agreed to disarm campus police.
  • The national AAUP has convened a working group to draft a report on the role of police on campus, including whether it is appropriate for institutions of higher education to have their own police forces; how systemic racism affects campus policing; changes needed to ensure that campuses are safe and welcoming for diverse peoples, especially Black, indigenous and other peoples of color; and how AAUP chapters and members can best work in solidarity with student groups, community social justice organizations, and unions on this issue.
  • Our faculty union at Rutgers University has been working closely with a coalition of other campus unions to center racial justice and to ensure health and safety and to negotiate with the administration on proposed cuts. “This is not something that naturally occurred,” one chapter leader told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “It’s a big investment and big strategic change to decide to build power together.”
  • The George Mason University AAUP chapter brought to light the fact that several Virginia universities entered into no-bid contracts with a company to provide students with COVID-19 tests that are not approved for that use.
  • New memberships in the AAUP are up this summer, signaling a new wave of campus activism. At our August meeting, the AAUP Council authorized charters for twenty-five new or reactivated AAUP chapters.

This Labor Day week, I ask you to join me and other AAUP members in recommitting to doing the hard work of ensuring that higher education is a public good available to all in this country. You can share our Labor Day graphic to help spread the message that solidarity will see us through.

Solidarity will see us through graphic

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey
AAUP President

P.S. And remember to check out the resources and information on our racial justice and coronavirus pages.


AAUP Stands in Solidarity with Medical Faculty

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all—as teachers, as researchers, as workers, and as individuals. But one thing remains constant: the public good that higher education faculty provide.

AAUP clinical, medical research, nursing, and health professions faculty, along with staff and students, have been saving lives under extraordinary circumstances. Their work comes at great personal risk to themselves. Often, clinical faculty must live apart from their families to keep them safe while they treat COVID-19 patients at teaching hospitals. Other medical faculty help the public understand the public health implications of policy decisions and provide advice that informs the reopening plans at our institutions. Medical researchers devise new treatments and tests. Faculty shape the next generation of medical professionals through their teaching and mentoring. Academic medicine is a public good, now more than ever.

The American Association of University Professors Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey union represents about 1,500 faculty doing this essential work. Faculty work with the state as epidemiologists, build personal protective equipment (PPE) with 3D printers, and care for patients. Members of this unit developed the first at-home saliva test for COVID-19, which received an emergency use authorization from the FDA. This test is less invasive, and it reduces exposure to the virus, saves PPE for uses other than testing, and delivers results more quickly than other tests.

Nearly five hundred AAUP members work at the University of Connecticut Health Center. They too treat, teach, and research. Members at UCHC-AAUP and at the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut have formed a joint group of doctors, engineers, scientists, and others to develop PPE together. Their project is producing mask frames, face shields, swabs, and even ventilators by using 3D printers at institutions and in their communities.

We stand in solidarity with those who are saving lives through their expertise, knowledge, and care during this pandemic. To our members who are treating patients and doing vital research—and to those who are educating students, administrators, and the public about COVID-19—please know that we stand with you and that we thank you for your work.

How can you help?

If you are near Farmington, CT, and have use of a 3D printer or ideas for mask donation and acquisition, please contact the team at covid19donations@uchc.edu. Or you can work with your chapter leadership to set up a local mask donation team for an area institution in need of supplies. You can email a simple message of support to leaders and staff at UCHC-AAUPAAUP-Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey, and Wayne State University AAUP-AFT to boost their spirits. And do the same for clinical, medical research, nursing, and health professions faculty and staff at your institution.

Irene Mulvey
President, AAUP


Demand Support for Public Higher Education

Over the past two months, it has become clear that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our states, our communities, and our campuses will be profound. As states grapple with the cost of fighting the pandemic, we are seeing significant cuts in state funding for higher education. In many states, these cuts come on the heels of decades of austerity measures that have already eroded our institutions’ academic missions and our ability to truly serve the common good. We have seen boards and administrations seize upon this crisis to subvert faculty involvement in decision-making and institute sweeping changes, such as academic restructuring, program discontinuance, and layoffs of faculty and staff at campuses in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arkansas, to name a few.

When I wrote you on March 10, when the threat posed by the spread of the coronavirus in the United States was becoming apparent, I stated, “It is hard to know what the ultimate impact of COVID-19 will be on our campuses. The administration should provide the appropriate faculty body—the union or the governance body—with information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on enrollments, revenues, and hiring and renewals.” We must hold our governing boards and administrations to this standard as our campuses face very challenging financial choices. I urge you and your colleagues to work through your AAUP chapter, your governance body, and—where applicable—your faculty union to demand full transparency and full faculty involvement. I also urge you to stand in solidarity with faculty colleagues in contingent positions, graduate employees, and campus staff, many of whom are facing reduced appointments or layoffs.

We must also communicate with our elected representatives in Congress and call on them to support higher education and other vital public services. Many of our states and communities face serious financial shortfalls as a result of the 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. Please 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.

The AAUP will continue to defend our members, our chapters, and the profession and will continue to provide webinars and guidance on all aspects of this crisis. We ask that chapters continue to share information with us about what is being done on their campuses and what the chapter or faculty senate’s role has been in decision-making related to COVID-19.

In solidarity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President


AAUP Stands In Solidarity with Essential Workers of All Kinds

We all have been touched by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Our system of higher education has been upended in the course of only a few weeks. AAUP members in medical school and health center chapters and other faculty members supporting their efforts are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. We and our students, colleagues, and family members have faced the sudden and profound loss of what we knew as “normal” and have experienced or live in fear of sickness and unemployment. We might remember “before” as imperfect but reassuringly familiar or predictable. Amid so much uncertainty, the path to “after” remains unclear and daunting.

But there have been glimmers of hope—signs that what lies ahead could be a great moment of solidarity, of workers fighting together to create a system in which higher wages and health and safety protections are not just emergency provisions for a pandemic but part of a new normal. A time when hazard pay becomes a living wage. A country where free access to coronavirus testing leads to accessible, affordable health care for everyone.

Add your name to this solidarity statement.

All across this country, and in spite of difficult conditions, workers from a diverse group of backgrounds—supermarket employees, gig and delivery workers, Amazon employees, nurses, doctors—are joining together to demand a better, safer, fairer system. We know it takes great courage to organize under even the best conditions. To do it in these uncertain times shows a clarity of purpose and a knowledge: if we fight together, we can win a better system together.

The AAUP will continue to share resources and help the profession prepare for what comes next. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to fight for academic freedom, for the faculty role in decision-making, for economic security for our profession, and for our rights to protect the knowledge we create.

As we do that, we stand in solidarity with those who are at the front lines of this pandemic. To our members who are working in hospitals and in health care, to transit and postal workers, to the Instacart and Amazon workers who are demanding safer working conditions and wages as they risk their health to serve customers, to everyone working in stores and in other essential services, to all those who do not have the luxury to stay at home, know this: you are leading the way, and we are with you.

Send a message of support. Add your name in solidarity.

Rudy Fichtenbaum
President, AAUP