AAUP@FHSU


Pushing for COVID-19 safety

As the fall term gets under way, protecting the health and safety of faculty, students, staff, and all members of our communities is a top priority for AAUP chapters and state conferences around the country. I couldn’t be prouder of the strong work being done by our members around this issue.

Under the leadership of the Georgia AAUP Conference, faculty at at least sixteen colleges spanning nineteen campuses in that state are taking part in week-long demonstrations and calling on administrators to follow the science and institute mask and/or vaccine mandates. The actions of Georgia’s faculty have garnered nationwide coverage and have inspired several other state conferences in the South to begin planning similar events to ensure health and safety on their campuses. Read more.

Here are a few other recent news clips highlighting how chapters are pushing administrations to provide a safe environment for teaching and learning:

  • At Northern Illinois University, the faculty union negotiated a mask mandate, a student vaccination requirement, regular testing, and a specific COVID-19 positivity rate that will trigger a switch to remote teaching.
  • After the University of Minnesota AAUP chapter created nationwide publicity for its call for a vaccine mandate, the university instituted one.
  • Chapters at Penn StateOklahoma University, and Wright State, along with the South Carolina state AAUP, have been speaking out about inadequate pandemic response and unsafe working conditions.

AAUP president Irene Mulvey continues to highlight this issue, most recently in a statement urging administrations to prioritize health and safety as campuses reopen and in an Academe magazine column on leadership during a crisis. As she points out, “We are here as a result of an extraordinary failure of leadership. We know how to keep people safe and end the pandemic: by vaccinating as many people as possible and following science-based community guidelines on masking and physical distancing. Leaders at all levels of elected government and leaders of our institutions should be amplifying and sending this unequivocal message to all.”

Finally, I want to remind you that the AAUP has a COVID-19 Response Fund to help support our chapters as they respond to the impact of the pandemic on their campuses.

Our complete list of COVID-19 resources is here.

In solidarity,

Julie Schmid, AAUP Executive Director


Tell your representative: help higher ed build back better

I want to offer a bit of hope for what the next few months might bring, and to ask for your help in our national campaign for a New Deal for Higher Education.

In early August, the US Senate passed a bipartisan infrastructure package, and they just introduced the bill that will make President Biden’s American Families Plan a reality. What’s in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act? For higher ed, free community college would be the biggest investment in our colleges in decades—and give us a framework to build up to free college for all and our larger vision for a real New Deal. Beyond that federal-state partnership (which requires states to invest in all public institutions), there is dedicated funding for minority-serving institutions, an annual bump to the maximum Pell award, and grants to support student success at public institutions. All told, there’s $111 billion in funding for higher ed.

The House has finalized its edits to the bill, and we’re hearing that a vote may happen by the end of the month. Can you tell your Representative and Senator to support the Build Back Better Act?

Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen COVID-19 rip holes in institutional budgets. Despite some welcome assistance from Congress in the CARES Act and other coronavirus response bills, it hasn’t been enough to prevent widespread layoffs, reduced student services, and even the closure of academic programs. The Build Back Better Act’s federal-state partnership will help fix long standing funding issues—especially in the trend of state and federal disinvestment that has starved our colleges of resources.

Because this bill needs to pass the Senate on a simple majority through the budget reconciliation process, there are limitations to what we can get in it. Increasing grant funding to states, students, and institutions is doable, but creating new policies (especially unfunded mandates) like a shift towards more tenure-track instruction are not through budget reconciliation. The Build Back Better Act gives us a down payment toward a New Deal level of investment, while we continue to fight to reform higher ed labor and expand free tuition to more types of colleges.

As Congress moves towards a vote on this historic bill, we need to urge it to pass the $3.5 trillion proposal, and not to cut higher ed funding to appease moderate senators, who want to see a much smaller price tag on this bill. We must tell our members of Congress to vote yes—and to support our calls for further action to protect faculty. A first step towards that in this bill is to allow funds to be used to “invest in and diversify the academic workforce.”

Email your Representative and Senator today in support of the Build Back Better Actand beyond that, ask them to make sure that federal funds can be used to improve faculty job security and to invest in the academic workforce. Click through to submit a letter (which you can customize).

Thanks for taking action on this critical campaign!

In solidarity,
Kaitlyn Vitez, AAUP Government Relations


Solidarity on Labor Day in Uncertain and Perilous Times

Labor Day 2021 feels very different from Labor Days past. Even more, Labor Day 2021 feels very different from what many of us started looking forward to last spring, when we were rolling up our sleeves to get vaccinated. COVID-19 still represents a global public health crisis, the Delta variant is more contagious and more virulent, hospitals in many locations are full and turning patients away, more children are at risk of very serious illness or death, and there is no end in sight. It didn’t have to be this way.

The way to end the pandemic is with collective action. In some states, however, we see governors and legislatures doing exactly the opposite of what needs to be done: banning mask mandates indoors—effectively guaranteeing that the virus will continue to spread, will continue to sicken and kill people, and will have ample opportunity to mutate into another more deadly and more contagious variant against which our current vaccines may be less effective.

In far too many of our colleges and universities, instead of dealing with the reality of a more contagious variant and how that will spread through a population that is not fully vaccinated, we see magical thinking and plans being put into place as if the pandemic is effectively over. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to be places where the best science and the most effective requirements and guidelines—based on the expertise of public health faculty—should be put into place. Our institutions of higher education should be leading the way out of the pandemic. I am dismayed at the lack of leadership in many of our institutions and in mid-August called for administrations to do everything possible to ensure the highest level of health and safety, and to follow the guidance of public health experts to use every available tool to protect students, faculty, staff, and neighboring communities from further spread of COVID.

In today’s message, I want to go further and encourage AAUP members everywhere to use all legal and appropriate levers of accountability in order to make the workplaces safe. I am heartened by the spirit of solidarity I see nearly every day when faculty refuse to passively accept unsafe working conditions being imposed on a campus, but use their collective voice to object and to demand better. In addition to our call to administrators, we have many resources for faculty to consider as they organize to demand that public health be prioritized over the bottom line and the magical thinking behind a premature “return to the on-campus learning experience.” I hope these resources, which include AAUP’s special report on COVID-19 and Academic Governance, are useful to you as we organize, advocate and work together for a safe present and a strong future for higher education.

Let’s be clear: the fight for a safe working environment as we begin the new academic year is our fight since it is inextricably linked to genuine shared governance and collaborative decision making, and to academic freedom in the classroom and on campus. Faculty are the ones taking all the risks in our classrooms. It is outrageous for a faculty member to find herself in a position where she needs to consider the probability of bringing the virus home where it might be responsible for the death of a vulnerable family member. When the administration isn’t making the best decisions for the institution, it’s the faculty’s responsibility to stand up, speak out and do all they can to ensure that the core academic mission is carried out in the most effective way for the circumstances. As AAUP president, I thank you for your work in this regard. I am privileged to represent members of the AAUP as we work together during these very trying times.

Aside from the resources AAUP has put together to help faculty during the pandemic, our work continues on a number of other fronts:

Race and Higher Education: Under my leadership the AAUP is engaged in a multi-faceted long-term initiative to better understand the role of racism in higher education and within the AAUP. We will continue to update you as this work progresses. In particular, the AAUP staff has developed a series of resources to address legislative interference, typically at the state level, in the teaching of the role of racism in US history and society.

The New Deal for Higher Education: As part of our focus on racial justice and social justice we remain committed to fighting for a New Deal for Higher Education. The AAUP continues to press for reform of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. With the impending passage of the American Families Plan, we are now embarking on a campaign to double Pell Grants, secure tuition-free community college, and give grants to four-year institutions to quickly and effectively bring an affordable, high-quality education within reach of all students. Stay tuned for more coming this fall.

For those seeking useful data to organize and advocate for faculty, I urge you to look at two recent major reports by the AAUP. This year’s edition of the always highly anticipated Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession does not disappoint. The report examines long-standing economic crises in higher education, declining fiscal support, overreliance on contingent faculty, growth of administrations, and spiraling institutional debt, while also delving into some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAUP Research Department also published a second report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first national survey on shared governance since 2001.

I encourage you to make the most of the AAUP as a resource in these trying and perilous times, and let us know how we can help you. We stand united.

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President


Special report: crisis in academic government

Higher education in the United States is experiencing a crisis in academic governance. Many institutions faced dire challenges in the 2020–21 academic year; for some, the pandemic exacerbated long-festering conditions. At other institutions, governing boards and administrations opportunistically exploited the pandemic. They used it as an excuse to put aside established academic governance processes and unilaterally close programs and lay off faculty members.

That’s the conclusion of a report we are releasing today: Special Report: COVID-19 and Academic Governance.

Read an executive summary or download the complete report.

Visit the AAUP Facebook Page today at 12 ET to watch a brief Facebook Live presentation on the report.

It’s the report of an investigation, which we chaired, focusing on eight institutions: Canisius College (NY), Illinois Wesleyan University, Keuka College (NY), Marian University (WI), Medaille College (NY), National University (CA), University of Akron, and Wittenberg University (OH). But as soon as news of this investigation was released, faculty members from a wide range of institutions contacted the AAUP’s staff with accounts of similar developments on their campuses, and news reports continued to pour in about the financial effects of the pandemic on other institutions. The crisis is widespread, and our report should be understood as illustrative rather than exhaustive.

What We Found

  • Faculty members faced the dilemma of either participating in flawed ad hoc governance processes or refusing on principle to participate at all.
  • Governing boards or administrations made sudden, unilateral decisions to set aside institutional regulations.
  • Sudden decisions to revise faculty handbooks unilaterally may be even more corrosive, since these revisions will become permanent aspects of governance.
  • Force majeure-type clauses in collective bargaining agreements, faculty handbooks, and faculty contracts or letters of appointment provide administrations with a nuclear option that nullifies all the other financial exigency‒related provisions of those documents.
  • At most of the institutions under investigation, restoring or maintaining financial health was the board and administration’s rationale—yet financial exigency was not declared at any of the eight.
  • Tenure—and, thus, academic freedom—has faced a frontal assault at these institutions and many others in the wake of the pandemic.
  • The policies and procedures at the investigated institutions were generally adequate, yet boards and administrations chose to ignore, revise, or circumvent them.
  • AAUP policies and regulations regarding institutional governance, financial exigency, academic freedom and tenure, and academic due process remain broad and flexible enough to accommodate even the inconceivable disaster.
  • This has been a watershed moment. There is no question that many colleges and universities are in financial distress, and many more will face daunting challenges in the next decade. The question is whether robust shared governance will survive those challenges.

What We Must Do

The best way to protect and preserve shared governance is through concerted efforts by your chapter on your campus. This work is not quick or easy, but it can be effective, and the consequences of not doing it are dire.

  • Governing boards, administrations, and faculties must make a conscious, concerted, and sustained effort to ensure that all parties are conversant with, and cultivate respect for, the norms of shared governance as articulated in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities that was jointly formulated in 1966 by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
  • Faculty members should be vigilant about changes to handbooks that may change the character of academic employment at their institutions irrevocably.
  • Faculty should steadfastly oppose the inclusion of force majeure clauses in collective bargaining agreements, faculty contracts and letters of appointment, and faculty handbooks.
  • Faculty should be centrally involved in deliberations about exigency; they should also object to any attempt to introduce new categories of financial crisis that would circumvent AAUP-supported standards on financial exigency.

That’s the conclusion of the special report we are releasing today: COVID-19 and Academic Governance.

Best wishes,

Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University

Michael DeCesare, Merrimack College; chair of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance


A Reckoning and A New Deal for Higher Education

It’s time for a reckoning. So said Representative Ayanna Pressley at the campaign launch of the New Deal for Higher Education yesterday.Zoom call graphic

In a rousing kickoff, Pressley, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and other panelists talked about dreams achieved through higher education, but also the darker side of dreams deferred and a system of entrenched inequality. Jennifer Mittlestadt from Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Education described how the COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged existing inequities, deepening the austerity model that has gutted public higher education and hurt so many faculty and students through cutbacks, underfunding, and crushing student debt.

But with challenge comes opportunity. The answer proposed by all the speakers at the launch was clear: create a just, bold New Deal that returns colleges and universities to a gold standard of serving the common good.

Check out the resources on our New Deal for Higher Education site. While you’re there, take action. Add your name to a letter calling on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan.

Higher education can and should be an engine of social mobility and a profession worth joining, as AAUP president Irene Mulvey said at the launch event. As part of this campaign, the AAUP is partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, the Roosevelt Institute, and Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Education to call on Congress to act now.

Here’s what we believe a New Deal for Higher Education can do: it can reauthorize the Higher Education Act and create other federal policies that establish dedicated public funding streams and hold administrations accountable for how those monies are spent. This campaign will advocate for:

  • prioritizing teaching, research, and supporting student success;
  • allowing all students to access higher education regardless of their ability to pay;
  • ensuring job security, equitable pay, professional voice, and sustainable careers for all faculty and staff;
  • creating academic environments free from racism, sexism, and other bigotries that prevent learning, degrade research, and perpetuate inequality; and
  • canceling student debt for borrowers who have unjustly shouldered the burden of financing higher education over the last forty years.

The reckoning is underway. You can access a campus toolkit, read some excellent articles, and join the fight here. Check it out.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP