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.