In September, the AAUP announced an investigation of the crisis in academic governance that has occurred in the wake of the pandemic. We’re writing to update you on the investigation.
The investigation’s initial focus was on seven institutions; the following month, an eighth was added to the list. Never before in the Association’s 106-year history has a governance investigation involving multiple institutions been undertaken.
The investigating committee, of which we are co-chairs, is charged with reaching findings on whether and to what extent there were departures at the eight institutions from AAUP-supported principles and standards of academic governance, as set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities and derivative AAUP policy documents. The institutions included in the investigation are Canisius College (NY), Illinois Wesleyan University, Keuka College (NY), Marian University (WI), Medaille College (NY), National University (CA), the University of Akron (OH), and Wittenberg University (OH).
The committee has now concluded interviews with the principal parties at each institution and completed our analysis of the voluminous documentation associated with each of the eight cases. Taken together, the interviews and documents constitute the evidentiary basis of the committee’s findings, the first of which is that we are in the midst of the worst crisis in academic governance in decades.
The committee is drafting a report that details additional findings regarding governing boards’ and administrations’ actions to dismiss tenured faculty, abrogate faculty contracts, abolish faculty governance bodies, suspend faculty handbook provisions, and invoke force majeure clauses in collective bargaining agreements, among others. The report will conclude with general observations regarding the current and future conditions for shared governance, academic freedom, tenure, and due process across the country’s institutions of higher education.
We anticipate that the investigating committee report will be distributed in the weeks ahead to the relevant parties at each of the eight institutions for comment and corrections of fact. These comments will be taken into account in the preparation of the final report before it is published.
Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University
Michael DeCesare, Merrimack College; chair of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance