AAUP@FHSU


AAUP Condemns UNC System, Addresses Censure at Two Other Institutions

The governing Council of the American Association of University Professors voted unanimously today to pass a joint resolution resoundingly condemning the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and System Office for multiple violations of widely accepted standards of shared governance and academic freedom and for a sustained climate of institutional racism.

The vote comes less than two months after the AAUP’s publication of a special committee report calling attention to the alarming trends in the UNC system perpetuated by increased political pressure and interference within the system. The resolution is a step forward in acknowledging and beginning to address systemic and institutional racism in the academy.

The AAUP’s Council also voted to add Linfield University to the Association’s list of censured administrations over the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor who spoke up about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the university’s board of trustees. The Council vote follows a recommendation from the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which published a report in April that found that the administration retaliated against Pollack-Pelzner for speech and conduct he exercised as part of his responsibilities as a faculty trustee and that the institution violated its own regulations as well as the AAUP’s widely adopted principles of academic freedom and tenure by not demonstrating adequate cause for the dismissal.

In more positive news, the AAUP’s Council voted to accept the  recommendation of Committee A and remove St. Edward’s University from the Association’s list of censured administrations. St. Edward’s University was added to the list in 2019 as the result of the termination of a tenure-track and two tenured faculty members who were not afforded a dismissal procedure that comported with AAUP-supported standards. In July 2021 the institution’s newly installed president wrote that she had made removal of censure a priority that she hoped to achieve through shared governance. The administration began working with the faculty senate to address institutional policies implicated in the actions that led to censure. In May 2022, the governing board adopted several sets of revisions to the faculty manual that, among other issues, established tenure protections where they had previously existed only nominally. Last month the two tenured faculty members reported having reached an out-of-court settlement with the university. The case of the tenure-track faculty member is scheduled for jury trial in August. In late May, an AAUP representative made a virtual visit to campus on behalf of the AAUP’s national office, to confirm that current conditions for academic freedom and tenure at St. Edward’s are sound. Her report states that the university had taken “all the actions that the AAUP suggested” and that the faculty leaders with whom she spoke attested to “an improved climate for academic freedom and tenure.”

Find more information here.

Charles Toombs, Professor, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


New Report on Institutional Racism in the UNC System

Today the AAUP released a report of the Special Committee on Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System. The report considers the influence of the North Carolina state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees. It discusses how political pressure and top-down leadership have obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system, jeopardized academic freedom, and reinforced institutional racism.

Read the full report here.

The special committee, for which we served as co-chairs, focused in-depth on UNC‒Chapel Hill as the flagship campus, but also examined events across the entire system. Through interviews with more than fifty individuals across the UNC system, the report details the pattern of political interference from the legislature and unilateral decision-making from university leadership that has increasingly come to affect the entire UNC system, with clear violations of AAUP-supported principles of academic governance set forth in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

You can also listen to a podcast discussion of the report here.

The report surveys the environment for governance and academic freedom in the UNC system against this backdrop of overtly partisan political control. It details how the intersection of broken governance, threats to academic freedom, and institutional racism affected campus-level matters, such as the closure of multiple academic centers run by faculty members who had been vocal critics of state leadership; the barring of centers from conducting litigation, which particularly affected the UNC‒Chapel Hill School of Law Center for Civil Rights; the controversial deal regarding “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument; and the 2021 failed appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Media.

The report also details long-standing patterns of institutional racism that make the UNC system a particularly hostile environment for faculty, staff, and students of color. In examining the structural and cultural elements of racism within the UNC system, the report points to the racial climate; institutional inequities as manifested in the racial composition of the administration and faculty; the distribution of power, authority, and resources within the system; and retention of faculty and staff of color.

The special committee concluded that UNC needs strong and independent leadership that respects faculty expertise and observes widely accepted principles of academic governance, that defends academic inquiry from political pressures and constraints, and that is willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of equity. The report emphasizes that the system- and campus-level governing boards not only need to fulfill their “special obligation to ensure that the history of the college or university shall serve as a prelude and inspiration to the future,” as described in the Statement on Government, but also “must ensure that the history of UNC inspires and serves as a prelude to a future that looks very different from its past and its present.”

To read the full report, visit the AAUP website.

Nicholas Fleisher, professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Afshan Jafar, professor of Sociology at Connecticut College
Co-chairs of the special committee


Dismissal at Linfield – Academic Freedom Violated

Today, the AAUP published the report of an investigating committee on the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor and endowed chair in Shakespeare studies at Linfield University in Oregon. The report finds that Linfield’s administration violated the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the institution’s own regulations, which incorporate AAUP dismissal standards, when it dismissed Pollack-Pelzner without demonstrating adequate cause for its action before an elected faculty hearing body.

The investigating committee also found that the administration violated Pollack-Pelzner’s academic freedom to participate in institutional governance without retaliation. General conditions for academic freedom and shared governance at Linfield University, the report states, are “deplorable.”

Pollack-Pelzner’s difficulties began after the faculty elected him faculty representative on the board of trustees. Following his first board meeting in the role of “faculty trustee,” female colleagues and former students reported that they had been the objects of sexual misconduct by board members at social events following board meetings. Pollack-Pelzner shared these allegations with the board and requested remedial action. When the board and administration refused to address the problem, he made the sexual misconduct charges public on Twitter, along with the charge of antisemitism (Pollack-Pelzner is Jewish) on the part of administrators and board members. Less than a month after he posted his Tweets, the Linfield administration terminated his tenured appointment without affording him any process, much less the academic due process required by the AAUP.

Professor Pollack-Pelzner’s dismissal occurred in a context of eroding shared governance, which has jeopardized the faculty’s exercise of academic freedom and contributed to a culture of abuse. At its June meeting, AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure will vote on whether to recommend adding Linfield University to the Association’s list of censured administrations. For more about AAUP censure, click here.

You can read the full report here.

Charles Toombs, Professor, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


Educational Gag Orders – March Update

Ten states have already adjourned their regular legislative sessions for the year. As a result, thirty-one educational gag order bills (EGOs) we had been tracking are now inactive. Though special sessions are possible in all adjourned states, they have only been convened in New Mexico and Virginia, where they will focus solely on economic and budget issues.

An additional thirteen bills have died or been tabled in legislatures that are still in session. We’ve gone from tracking 125 bills to tracking fewer than eighty—still a lot, but considerably fewer.

The assault against academic freedom and teaching about racism remains extraordinarily strong, but in addition to the bills that have fallen off our list for this year, we continue to see good news and member success in fighting back.

Last month, I mentioned that HB 1134, a bill in Indiana, had stalled following an extraordinary show of opposition from AAUP members, K–12 teachers, staff, students, and parents. I am glad to tell you that the bill is now effectively dead. AAUP members and chapters in Indiana joined with other organizations and coalitions to make their voices heard, and it worked. The Purdue-West Lafayette AAUP chapter passed a statement in opposition to the bill, which was sent to every legislator who represents the university’s district. Faculty, including AAUP members, at Indiana University Bloomington worked through the group University Faculty for Racial Justice (UFRJ), which was formed specifically to defeat HB 1134. UFRJ gathered over 200 faculty signatures on an open letter that pressured IU to take a stand against the bill. The group organized numerous actions, including phone calls, emails, and faculty testimony at legislative committee hearings. This is the exponential power of collective action. Every person, chapter, and organization that spoke up and showed up combined into one powerful voice that succeeded in stopping HB 1134 in its tracks.

In Georgia, the situation has improved for higher education, which has been removed from all active EGOs. But the legislature there continues to pursue educational gag orders targeting K–12, while simultaneously refusing to hear testimony from students who have expressed opposition to one of the bills (HB 1034).

In Mississippi, SB 2113 was passed by the legislature and approved by governor Tate Reeves. The silver lining is that, out of the eleven bills that had been active in Mississippi, SB 2113 is the least egregious. It prohibits schools (including higher ed institutions) from compelling students to “affirm, adopt, or adhere” to the ideas that 1) one race is superior or inferior to another, or 2) that a person should be “adversely treated” based on their gender, race, etc. There is no enforcement mechanism.

If you or your chapter are looking for ways to make a strong statement regarding academic freedom, consider participating in the April 30 March for Education. Organized by the Missouri Equity Education Partnership, the March for Education is an opportunity to connect and organize with other education professionals, teachers, parents, and concerned community members in a show of strength and support. Legislators determined to attack free speech, free and open inquiry, and academic freedom need to know that we’re not only watching what they do, but that we will not sit quietly on the sidelines while they attempt to censor history and silence faculty. The March for Education website includes step-by-step guidance for hosting a march in your city.

Thank you for everything you’ve done these last few months to fight back against educational gag orders. We’ve experienced some success, and I have no doubt that there’s more success to come with your help!

In solidarity,

Stephanie Lamore, AAUP Government Relations


podcast@aaup (2022 ep1): Student Debt and the Fight for Florida

In our first new episode of 2022, I talk to Kaitlyn Vitez, federal government relations specialist in AAUP’s national office, and Jessica Sponsler, art historian and adjunct professor and AAUP’s Pennsylvania state conference president, about student debt and its impact on faculty and higher education. With more than 45 million borrowers saddled with $1.7 trillion dollars in debt, a movement to cancel debt and expand opportunities for debt forgiveness is underway as the return to repayment of federal loans, paused during the pandemic, looms in May. Listen here.

In episode five of our inaugural season, I sit down with Paul Ortiz, professor of history at the University of Florida and president of the United Faculty of Florida-UF to talk about ongoing attacks on academic freedom in Florida and how the faculty from the University of Florida has fought back against what Paul calls “anticipatory obedience,” awakening a growing movement of faculty who are ready to, as he puts it “get their hands dirty” and fight political and legislative attempts to diminish faculty right and chill academic freedom. Here’s the episode.

We stay in Florida for the sixth episode. The AAUP’s Kelly Benjamin talks to Michele Rayner, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, about attacks on academic freedom, the motivation for anti-critical race theory bills, and the state of the broader political situation in Florida. Play that episode here.

The episodes are on the AAUP website at aaup.org/aaup-presents, where you’ll find links to listen to them on major platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We plan to release more episodes this spring. Have an idea for an episode? Email me at mquinn@aaup.org with your suggestions.

Happy listening.

Mariah Quinn
Digital Organizer, AAUP

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