AAUP@FHSU


Investigations into Dismissals at Linfield University and Collin College

The AAUP is launching investigations into the dismissals of one faculty member at Linfield University and two faculty members at Collin College. In all cases, the faculty members were dismissed without due process and for reasons that appear to have violated their academic freedom.

At Linfield University, investigators will look into the case of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a professor with ten years of service, who told the AAUP that his tenured appointment was terminated after he publicly criticized the governing board for its handling of alleged sexual misconduct among its members and accused the university president of having made anti-Semitic remarks. An action to dismiss a tenured professor without the administration’s having first demonstrated adequacy of cause is in violation of principles and procedures established by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and endorsed by more than two hundred other groups in higher education. AAUP principles and procedures are in fact incorporated into the Linfield University faculty handbook, so the administration’s action against Professor Pollack-Pelzner was evidently taken in flagrant violation, not only of AAUP-recommended standards, but of the institution’s own regulations.

At Collin College, investigators will look into the summary dismissal of Professor Suzanne Jones and the nonrenewal of Professor Lora Burnett. The stated basis for the dismissals of Professor Jones was her critique of the administration’s COVID-19 policies, in evident violation of her academic freedom to address any institutional policy or action while exercising her governance responsibilities. The stated reasons for the nonrenewal of Professor Lora Burnett were that she made “private personnel issues public that impair the college’s function” and engaged in “personal criticisms of coworkers, supervisors, and/or those who merely disagree” with her, which suggests that the nonrenewal may have been in response to activity which should be protected by academic freedom—speaking freely as a citizen and as an educational officer of her institution. Taken together, actions by the Collin College administration suggest a pattern of indifference toward academic freedom and norms of shared governance. The actions to terminate the services of both faculty members appear to have been taken in disregard of the AAUP–AAC&U 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.  Since Professor Jones had served the institution beyond what the AAUP regards as the maximum period of probation, she had de facto tenure, but the administration failed to afford her a faculty hearing, as the AAUP requires when an institution dismisses a tenured faculty member.

As is our practice, the AAUP reached out to the administrations repeatedly in order to determine whether they wished to make additions or corrections to the information we received from the faculty members and to urge them to afford the affected faculty members appropriate due process. Since they were not responsive, the AAUP’s executive director authorized the investigations. Investigations are carried out by ad hoc committees composed of professors from other institutions who have had no previous involvement in the case so that they can conduct their inquiry without prejudgment. The AAUP’s staff will provide each ad hoc committee with relevant available information for its examination, and the committee will arrange to interview the administration, the faculty members, and any other involved individuals to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to present their positions. The committee will submit its report to the Association’s standing Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which authorizes publication. Prior to publication, the staff will circulate a draft text of the report to the principal parties with an invitation for comment and factual corrections.

American Association of University Professors


COVID-19 and AAUP principles

Like the rest of society, higher education continues to be shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have already been required to move courses online, often abruptly and without adequate institutional support. Labs are being shuttered and research projects curtailed, and what we had initially hoped would be only a brief disruption is now likely to continue through the remainder of this academic year. Many members of our campus communities—including graduate student workers, support staff, students, and all categories of faculty—are faced with uncertainty around employment status, health benefits, and paid leave.

The AAUP has put together a coronavirus information web page for AAUP members and the higher education community. We have been collecting resources from the government, other higher education organizations, and our chapters to help all of us respond to this challenge. We will continue to add to the page as new resources become available.

As many of you know, some administrations have been leaving the faculty out of decisions pertaining to curriculum and program, online teaching and intellectual property, and the faculty role in navigating the financial impact of COVID-19 on our campuses. Faculty governance bodies and academic unions must insist on involvement in decision-making about the effects that this crisis is having on our campuses, and we will be sharing guidance from the national AAUP, as well as strategies some of our chapters have developed as they grapple with the crisis.

Finally, the AAUP is setting up a Facebook page for members to connect, share information and strategies, and support one another during this unprecedented situation. We will be posting information about this resource in the next few days.

These are trying times for our students, our profession, and our nation. But even as we respond to the immediate needs of our students and families, we must also be diligent in defending the AAUP’s core principles of academic freedom, due process, and the faculty voice in decision-making on our campuses. If we do not defend those principles, we run the real risk that college and university administrations will use this emergency to reshape higher education, serving an agenda that is too often influenced by corporate interests rather than by a commitment to the common good. Please check out our coronavirus information page for a statement on COVID-19 and the faculty role in decision-makingAFT and AAUP principles for higher education’s response to COVID-19, and other resources already available for responding to any administration overreach you may be experiencing.

We ask that you continue to share information with us about what is being done on your campus to support faculty and students during this crisis and, especially, what your chapter or faculty senate’s role has been during this process.

We have survived and grown stronger in times of crisis before, and, working together, we will do so now.

In solidarity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President


AAUP Releases Investigation of Campus Protest Case

I’m writing to you today about a case that crystallizes the current right-wing assault on higher education. It involves issues that the AAUP has been working on intensively this year: faculty harassment and exaggerated controversies over free speech on campus.

The case concerns Courtney Lawton, a graduate student, and part-time lecturer at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. At the beginning of the fall semester, Lawton protested an on-campus recruitment table of Turning Point USA, a conservative organization that maintains the Professor Watchlist. Her protest was recorded by the undergraduate student staffing the table, and the resulting video was widely disseminated online—one of the primary strategies of right-wing groups in their attacks on higher education—leading to threats against her and the university.

While Lawton was under vicious attack for her protest speech, state legislators launched a campaign of political pressure on the university, suggesting that Lawton’s conduct toward the student staffing the recruitment table was representative of a campus climate hostile to conservative views and calling for her dismissal. The Nebraska Republican Party filed open-records requests for email correspondence related to the case, and “campus free-speech” legislation was introduced in a clear example of legislative overreach.

Under pressure, the university administration suspended Lawton from her teaching responsibilities and subsequently refused to reinstate her to the classroom, thus extending her suspension to the end of her term of appointment. This action was tantamount to summary dismissal, as the administration did not afford her any academic due process. An AAUP investigation found that “the conclusion seems inescapable that the basis for Ms. Lawton’s dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and thus may have violated her academic freedom, a conclusion that stands unrebutted absent the affordance of a dismissal hearing.”

We’ll be discussing the case during a Facebook Live tomorrow, May 11, at 1:30 EST. Click here to RSVP.

Campaigns of targeted harassment against individual faculty members and legislative attempts to impose misguided rules on institutions of higher education are on the rise. The AAUP believes that democracy thrives on dissent, critical inquiry, free speech, and free research. That’s why we investigated the case at the University of Nebraska and why we’ve developed resources for you to use in fighting harassment of faculty and misleading “free-speech” legislation on your own campus.

Read our investigative report here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance


Fighting Targeted Harassment: Join Us January 22-26

Threats of violence. Vicious attacks from right-wing propaganda sites. Firings and forced leaves. The silencing of faculty.

In addition to harming individual faculty members, campaigns of targeted harassment pose a profound and ominous challenge to higher education’s most fundamental values. The right of faculty members to speak or write as citizens, free from institutional censorship or disciplinary action, is a core principle of academic freedom.

The AAUP is at the forefront of fighting targeted harassment. We work directly with affected faculty, campus administrations, and our chapters and state conferences to ensure that faculty members’ academic freedom and due process rights are protected. And our sister organization, the AAUP Foundation, provides direct support to faculty members whose careers are impacted by targeted harassment.

This month, we’re doubling down: starting January 22 we’ll devote a week to the topic of the insidious problem of targeted harassment.

We’ll kick off with an overview of the work we’re doing and let you know how you can raise your voice in the fight. We’ll share some guidelines about targeted harassment and social media and get you the most up-to-date resources on the subject.

You’ll hear from a faculty member who was the target of an attack that led to his suspension, and learn how the work of his AAUP chapter led the administration to step back and acknowledge the fundamental importance of academic freedom for the common good and the advancement of truth.

On Friday, January 26, we’ll hold a Facebook Live chat with Joan Wallach Scott and Henry Reichman, members of AAUP’s Committee A and two leading voices in the fight for academic freedom. You can RSVP here; we’ll send a reminder in advance.

We want to hear your voices! Tweet or post using the hashtag #FacultyUnderAttack and we’ll share your stories on our social media feeds.

The fight against the targeted harassment of faculty comes at a time when harassment has been increasing significantly. In these uncertain times, the more we stand together, the more we can accomplish.

Stay tuned.

Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


Take Action: Protect the University of Wisconsin

A series of actions taken by Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin state legislature, and the University of Wisconsin system board of regents over the past few years represent a concerted attack on the university as a public good.

Will you tell the Wisconsin system board of regents to protect the university system?

Taken together, the actions constitute a brazen partisan assault on the Wisconsin Idea, the century-old notion that public higher education is a common good. In 2011, legislation curtailed the system faculty’s rights to negotiate collectively. In 2015, the legislature severely weakened tenure, shared governance, and due process—and, by extension, academic freedom.

This fall, another series of attacks is underway. Without meaningful faculty input, the board recently approved an anti-free-speech proposal allowing for the expulsion of students for “disrupting the free speech of others.” It announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions. And it changed the procedures governing searches for chancellors and presidents.  Right now, there is a bill before the state legislature that would abolish a partnership that allowed university employees to work and train students at Planned Parenthood.

Please add your name to protect higher education for the common good.

The AAUP