AAUP@FHSU


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


New data on full-time women faculty and faculty of color

Today we’re releasing an in-depth look at the makeup and salaries of full-time faculty members in US higher education. Using data collected by the US Department of Education, this snapshot provides an updated demographic profile of full-time faculty by academic rank and institution type, highlighting disparities among women and people of color.

Graphic of data from snapshot

Click here or on the image above to share the graphic on Facebook.

Key findings are:

  • Women make up 46.7 percent of full-time faculty members, 53.8 percent of part-time faculty members, and 50.0 percent of faculty members overall.
  • Among women faculty members, 49.6 percent are employed part time, whereas only 42.5 percent of men faculty members are employed part time.
  • Women make up 42.5 percent of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 53.9 percent of full-time contingent (non-tenure-track) faculty members.
  • Salaries for full-time women faculty members are approximately 81.2 percent of men’s. Among tenured or tenure-track faculty members, women earn 82.4 percent of what men earn.
  • Among tenure-line faculty members, women make up 50.0 percent of assistant professors but only 45.0 percent of associate professors and 32.5 percent of full professors.
  • Among full professors, women’s salaries are approximately 85.1 percent of men’s. Among associate professors and assistant professors, women earn approximately 92.7 percent and 90.7 percent, respectively, of what men earn.
  • The percentage of full-time women faculty members varies by institutional category, ranging from 54.7 percent among associate’s (two-year) institutions to 42.3 percent among doctoral institutions. For full-time tenure-line faculty members, the percentage ranges from 54.4 percent among associate’s institutions to 36.3 percent among doctoral institutions.
  • Underrepresented minority faculty members make up only 12.9 percent of full-time faculty members across the country, despite making up 32.6 percent of the US population.
  • Only 5.2 percent of full-time faculty members self-identify as Hispanic or Latino, whereas 17.5 percent of the US population self-identifies as Hispanic or Latino.
  • Only 6.0 percent of full-time faculty members self-identify as Black or African American, whereas 12.7 percent of the US population self-identifies as Black or African American.

The AAUP’s analysis confirms that women faculty members continue to face unique challenges in academia with respect to employment, advancement, salary, and job security, and that higher education is by no means immune from systemic racism. The pay and opportunity gaps identified in this data snapshot are the result of many factors beyond gender, race, and ethnicity, and closing them will require innovative and sustained efforts.

This data snapshot draws upon data from the provisional release of the Fall 2018 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Human Resources survey component. Throughout the report, we have followed the terminology used by IPEDS for ease of data comparison.

Visit the AAUP website to download the complete data snapshot.

Glenn Colby, AAUP Senior Researcher
Chelsea Fowler, AAUP Research Assistant


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


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

Getty Images


July 9 COVID-19 Update

This week marked the kickoff of our Summer Institute Online, with webinars focusing on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you join! Read on for more on SI Online, our new statement on shared governance during times of crisis, and how you can take action now to urge Congress to fund aid to states and higher education.

Summer Institute Online

The AAUP Summer Institute Online is now underway. Join hundreds of AAUP members from around the country in our special series of training webinars focused specifically on the challenges facing higher education today. Running through August 4, the virtual summer institute features two webinars each week. Our 90-minute sessions will cover a wide range of topics, from campus decisions about reopening to supporting student protests to pushing back against austerity budgets. In addition, hour-long breakout sessions after the governance and organizing webinars will provide a special opportunity for smaller groups of attendees to brainstorm about how to apply the guidance to their chapter’s circumstances. There is also a special plenary panel that will highlight the experiences of frontline health-care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can view the complete schedule and register for these webinars today.

Principles of Academic Governance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The AAUP Committee on College and University Governance has released a new statement affirming the principles of academic governance in the face of growing concern over unilateral actions taken by governing boards and administrations during the pandemic. “During this challenging time,” the statement reads, “the committee calls upon administrations and governing boards, in demonstrated commitment to principles of shared governance, to maintain transparency, engage in ‘joint effort,’ and honor the faculty’s decision-making responsibility for academic and faculty personnel matters as the most effective means of weathering the current crisis.”

You can read the full statement here.

Send a Letter to Your Member of Congress

Many of our states and communities continue to face mounting and very serious financial shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 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. If you haven’t already, you can to 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. Here’s the link to send a letter now.

We’ll be in touch with another COVID-19 update in August. Stay strong, stay safe.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP