An AAUP investigation released today finds that the governing board of the Maricopa Community Colleges was motivated by a desire to bust the faculty union when it decided in February 2018 to repeal the entire faculty manual, restrict the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. That process had been used for more than forty years to establish institutional policies related to faculty matters and to make recommendations on salary and budgets.
The board also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body. This also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law. In short, the board’s actions destroyed what had been an effective system of shared governance.
Our investigating committee—Bethany Carson of Santa Fe Community College, Emily M.S. Houh of the University of Cincinnati, and I—found that the governing board acted in disregard of normative standards of academic governance, as laid out in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
We also found evidence, based on correspondence obtained through open records requests, which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by the partisan ideology of two former Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives—one who served as chair of the board and the other as a member.
AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards of academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Governance investigations are an important tool in our work to protect and advance the faculty’s voice in decision making; they shine a light on egregious practices and are intended to motivate institutions to improve these practices.
In this case, improvements came quickly. Not long after the visit of the investigating committee, three new members were elected to the Maricopa governing board and the existing board president announced his resignation. After the AAUP shared our findings with the administration, the board passed a proposal that rescinded the earlier changes and will eventually restore many of the shared governance mechanisms that the old board had terminated.
Welcome to fall! Like many AAUP members who taught classes, pursued research projects, and organized around campus issues, national AAUP leaders and staff have been busy this summer. We aim to make these final months of 2018 as productive as possible as we work with all of our members and chapters to advance academic freedom and the faculty voice in decision making.
One thing we did over the summer was to launch investigations into cases at the Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona and St. Edwards University in Texas. Investigations are conducted a few times a year in cases where extreme violations of academic freedom or shared governance prove irresolvable through other means. When an administration responds by improving its policies and practices, the changes broadly benefit faculty and higher education.
At Maricopa Community Colleges, we’re investigating apparent departures from widely adopted standards of academic governance. The matter stems from a February 2018 resolution of the college’s governing board that terminated a “meet-and-confer” provision of the faculty policy manual and ordered the creation of a new manual that would severely limit the participation of the faculty in institutional governance. Of particular concern is the governing board’s directive that the new manual, to be prepared unilaterally by the administration, may not allow faculty to participate in matters related to “compensation, benefits, accountability, and organizational operations.” Not only would such a change modify the structure and procedure for faculty participation, the resulting changes would themselves be at odds with principles of academic governance, which call for meaningful faculty participation in decisions that affect all of these areas. We’ll notify you when the investigation is completed, likely in late fall or early winter.
At issue in the St. Edwards case is the summary dismissal of two tenured faculty members who were apparently fired for questioning the administration’s efforts to assert control over their department. Before launching an investigation, the AAUP communicated extensively with the administration, expressing our concern about the apparent lack of key elements of academic due process. We also stressed that academic freedom, as widely understood in American higher education, includes the right to express dissenting and critical views regarding one’s institution, its policies, and its administration. When the administration failed to address these concerns or provide the faculty members with due process, an investigation was authorized, and the investigating team visited St. Edwards in August. We’ll share the results when the investigation is completed.
Earlier this week, we wrote to you about another recent case in which our intervention protected academic freedom. At the request of our Rutgers University AAUP/AFT chapter, we provided an analysis of a troubling report by that university’s Office of Employment Equity, which concluded that a faculty member’s Facebook posts on gentrification were not protected by the First Amendment and violated the university’s policy on discrimination and harassment. A day after chapter leaders gave the letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi, he ordered another review.
We’re also working with members like you to protect academic freedom against another line of attack–the growing trend to privatize higher education. In August, together with AAUP activists in Indiana, we broke the news that Purdue Global, an online branch campus of the Purdue University system, is requiring instructional faculty to sign a nondisclosure agreement. (You can sign onto a petition protesting the practice here if you haven’t already. Spread the word!) The resultingpublicity is putting Purdue on the defensive.
Purdue’s actions are part of a larger trend wherein for-profit companies like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, and Pearson are increasingly contracting with public and private not-for-profit universities to perform core academic functions. Simultaneously, wealthy donors like the Koch Foundation and others are establishing secretive, strings-attached gift agreements with public institutions that end up shaping the university without input from faculty, students, or taxpayers. Both of these trends undermine shared governance, academic freedom, student learning conditions, and democracy within a state’s public higher education system. This fall, we’ll be offering a toolkit and trainings on how you can tackle this issue at your institution and more broadly in higher education.
Our work on academic freedom is about to get even more local with the creation of our Academic Freedom and Shared Governance Fellowship program. We’ll work with a cohort of fellows to deepen their knowledge about academic freedom and shared governance. At the end of the program, fellows will work on improving the culture on their campuses through trainings, presentations, and conversations with faculty and students. Stay tuned for the application materials later this fall!
The AAUP has a long history of fighting for faculty and academic freedom, and as readers of history we’re pleased to announce our new fall book club. We’ll be reading Democracy in Chains, an examination by Duke University professor Nancy MacLean of a relentless campaign to eliminate unions, suppress voting, and privatize public education. We’ll host a discussion and a Facebook Live with MacLean. We’ll send more information later this fall when the book club officially launches.
In addition to the recent and upcoming activities described here, we continue to file amicus briefs, conduct research, and develop tools for chapters–all different methods that we use to further the same aims: advancing academic freedom and shared governance, promoting the economic security of faculty and other academic professionals, and ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good.
We couldn’t do it without you! Our work as educators, union members, and advocates has never been more important than it is now. Together, we say loudly and clearly that strong universities and well-educated citizens are essential to our survival as a democracy. One easy way you can stay engaged and up-to-date is to follow and share our social media posts. Here’s the link to our Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Today we wrote to the governing board of the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona to convey our concern over apparent departures from generally accepted principles of academic governance. The matter stems from a February resolution of the governing board that terminated a “meet-and-confer” provision of the faculty policy manual and ordered the creation of a new manual that would severely limit the participation of the faculty in institutional governance. The “meet-and-confer” process is specified in the current faculty policy manual as a process of deliberation “for the purpose of articulating agreement regarding change with respect to responsibilities, wages, governance, benefits, and all other terms and conditions of Residential Faculty employment.”
Significant changes to the structure and procedures for faculty participation in institutional governance should not be made unilaterally. As the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, jointly formulated by the AAUP with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, observes, “The structure and procedures for faculty participation should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution.” The governing board’s action to terminate the “meet-and-confer” provision effectively eliminated the role of its representative faculty body in the process of making changes to the policy manual and thus has unilaterally modified the structure and procedure for faculty participation in institutional governance.
Of particular concern is the governing board’s directive that the new manual, to be prepared unilaterally by the administration, may not allow faculty to participate in matters related to “compensation, benefits, accountability, and organizational operations.” Not only would such a change modify the structure and procedure for faculty participation, the resulting changes would themselves be at odds with principles of academic governance, which call for meaningful faculty participation in decisions that affect all of these areas.
The AAUP’s letter further expresses concern that, following the adoption of the governing board’s resolution, Provost Karla Fisher wrote to college presidents to inform them that “Senate Presidents and Representatives must be dutiful in avoiding any [Faculty Executive Council] or Faculty Association-related work or conversations during business hours.” As the AAUP’s statement On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom observes, “The academic freedom of faculty members includes the freedom to express their views … on matters having to do with their institution and its policies.” The provost’s directive thus appears to interfere with the academic freedom of the identified faculty members.
The letter concludes by urging the governing board to rescind its resolution and restore the “meet-and-confer” provision. It further urges the administration to rescind its proscription against certain “conversations during business hours.”