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


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


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