AAUP@FHSU


Cause for Alarm and Hope in Governance Survey Data

Today we are issuing a report on data from the first national survey about shared governance in two decades. It follows and complements our recently released Special Report: COVID-19 and Academic Governance, which is the report of an investigation into a number of instances in which governing boards and administrations opportunistically exploited the pandemic, using it as an excuse to put aside established academic governance processes and unilaterally close programs and lay off faculty members.

The Survey Data on the Impact of the Pandemic on Shared Governance released today analyzes responses to a survey completed by faculty governance leaders at four-year institutions. It provides additional evidence of severe pressure on governance.

However, it also offers a hopeful counterpoint by documenting an increase in faculty influence at some institutions, including those where faculty members benefited from leadership transitions or from being more vigilant and outspoken.

The report, which is the first in a series that will highlight key findings of our survey, focuses on the portion of the survey concerning the impact of the pandemic.

  • Almost a quarter of respondents reported a reduction in faculty influence at their institutions, while almost fifteen percent reported an increase in influence.
  • Respondents at fewer than a third of institutions reported an opportunity for meaningful faculty participation in budgetary decisions. More than two-thirds reported that the administration had made such decisions essentially unilaterally.
  • Over a quarter of respondents from all institutions reported that faculty on contingent appointments had been laid off.
  • Almost a tenth of respondents at institutions with a tenure system reported terminations or nonrenewals of tenured or tenure-track faculty. The number climbed to over forty percent at institutions where programs had been eliminated.
  • At institutions where administrations or governing boards declared institutional regulations no longer in force, over forty percent of respondents reported the elimination of programs.
  • Almost a quarter of respondents indicated that faculty members could not voice dissenting views without fear of administrative reprisal, but the number exceeded forty percent at institutions where regulations were declared no longer in force.

The report’s findings about the impact of the pandemic on shared governance provide cause for alarm, but they also affirm the importance of governance and the difference faculty members can make when they come together and demand a meaningful role in institutional decision-making. The formation of dozens of new AAUP chapters over the past year has been a silver lining of the grave crisis brought on by the pandemic. We urge all AAUP members—including those who do not yet have chapters on their campuses—to organize to amplify the faculty voice and make increased participation in shared governance part of the “new normal” for the coming academic year and beyond.

Read the complete report.

AAUP Department of Research


Investigation Update

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.

Best wishes,

Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University

Michael DeCesare, Merrimack College; chair of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance


A Reckoning and A New Deal for Higher Education

It’s time for a reckoning. So said Representative Ayanna Pressley at the campaign launch of the New Deal for Higher Education yesterday.Zoom call graphic

In a rousing kickoff, Pressley, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and other panelists talked about dreams achieved through higher education, but also the darker side of dreams deferred and a system of entrenched inequality. Jennifer Mittlestadt from Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Education described how the COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged existing inequities, deepening the austerity model that has gutted public higher education and hurt so many faculty and students through cutbacks, underfunding, and crushing student debt.

But with challenge comes opportunity. The answer proposed by all the speakers at the launch was clear: create a just, bold New Deal that returns colleges and universities to a gold standard of serving the common good.

Check out the resources on our New Deal for Higher Education site. While you’re there, take action. Add your name to a letter calling on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan.

Higher education can and should be an engine of social mobility and a profession worth joining, as AAUP president Irene Mulvey said at the launch event. As part of this campaign, the AAUP is partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, the Roosevelt Institute, and Scholars for a New Deal for Higher Education to call on Congress to act now.

Here’s what we believe a New Deal for Higher Education can do: it can reauthorize the Higher Education Act and create other federal policies that establish dedicated public funding streams and hold administrations accountable for how those monies are spent. This campaign will advocate for:

  • prioritizing teaching, research, and supporting student success;
  • allowing all students to access higher education regardless of their ability to pay;
  • ensuring job security, equitable pay, professional voice, and sustainable careers for all faculty and staff;
  • creating academic environments free from racism, sexism, and other bigotries that prevent learning, degrade research, and perpetuate inequality; and
  • canceling student debt for borrowers who have unjustly shouldered the burden of financing higher education over the last forty years.

The reckoning is underway. You can access a campus toolkit, read some excellent articles, and join the fight here. Check it out.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


September COVID-19 Update

As many faculty have begun a new term, we continue to work to provide everyone with guidance and trainings to help navigate these difficult times. Check out our upcoming webinar, a newly announced investigation, and updated campus opening guidance below.

Financial Exigency during COVID

On Thursday, October 1, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, we will host a webinar for AAUP members providing an overview of recommended AAUP-supported standards on financial exigency and program elimination that should be included in faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements, with a particular focus on financial exigency and the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar will be led by Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer at the AAUP, and Mark Criley, a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University. Note that this webinar covers much of the same material as the financial exigency webinar held in April 2020. RSVP here.

AAUP Investigates Academic Governance during COVID-19

The AAUP has authorized an investigation of the crisis in academic governance that has occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on seven institutions: Canisius College (NY), Illinois Wesleyan University, Keuka College (NY), Marian University (WI), Medaille College (NY), National University (CA), and Wittenberg University (OH). Given the comprehensive nature of the undertaking, the investigating committee may decide to discuss relevant situations at additional institutions. The report, to be released in early 2021, will reach findings on whether there have been departures 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, but it may explore other issues as well, such as the effects of unilaterally imposed mass layoffs on academic freedom and tenure, the enrollment and financial challenges facing many institutions, and the impact of these challenges on higher education, especially the humanities and liberal arts. Read more and watch a Facebook Live with the co-chairpersons of the investigation here.

Campus Opening Guidance Updated

We have updated our guidance on reopening and operating campuses during the pandemic to include recent developments.

Fall Academe Preview

Last week, Academe published several online articles, including a new series of “pandemic reflections” by faculty members and AAUP activists, in a preview of our forthcoming fall issue on the COVID-19 crisis. Visit Academe online to read more.

An Invitation from Academe Blog

Colleges and universities around the country have approached the fall term in a variety of ways, and those approaches are constantly evolving. Whether your institution is holding classes in person or online or using a hybrid model, Academe Blog welcomes submissions from members about the challenges of teaching and engaging with and supporting students—and about other faculty concerns—during the ongoing pandemic. See submissions information here.

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

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP


August COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 graphic

Here’s a round-up of some of our latest work that touches on the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you are staying safe and well in these trying times.

Medical Faculty Solidarity Letter

AAUP president Irene Mulvey saluted the work of AAUP clinical, medical research, nursing, and health professions faculty. The statement of solidarity provides guidance for all chapters and members on how they can support such faculty going forward. Read more here.

Recommendations of the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession

The AAUP’s Committee on Contingency and the Profession provided recommendations to the higher education community about how to address the unique challenges contingent faculty face during the pandemic. These recommendations are followed by resources that can help chapters fighting for contingent faculty to get paid sick leave, to increase their job security in the fall, to apply for unemployment benefits, to retain their intellectual property rights after the emergency transition to remote instruction, to protect their academic freedom, and to gain better access to shared governance structures. Read more here.

AAUP Masks

New swag for new times: our online store will be offering non-medical-grade masks starting next week. There will be six different versions, including ones with the AAUP logo and another that says, “You can’t silence academic freedom.” We’ll share the link to the masks in the next update. In the meantime, you can check out other items in our store.

Masks image

AAUP Joins Amicus Brief Opposing DHS Directive

The AAUP joined over seventy other higher education organizations in submitting an amicus brief, prepared by the American Council on Education, in support of a successful legal challenge filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology against the US Department of Homeland Security in the US District Court in Massachusetts. The challenge sought to prevent DHS’s July 6 directive, which rescinded a prior COVID-19 exemption for international students participating in online education, from taking effect so that thousands of international students couldn’t continue to participate in educational opportunities in the United States, even if their course of study is online. Read more here.

Virtual Summer Institute

The AAUP Summer Institute was virtual this year. Our ninety-minute sessions covered a wide range of topics, from campus decisions about reopening to supporting student protests to pushing back against austerity budgets. A special plenary panel highlighted the experiences of frontline health-care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch recordings of the sessions here.

Academe and Academe Blog

Last month, Academe published several new online articles addressing the COVID-19 crisis in higher education, and Academe Blog continues to highlight faculty perspectives on the pandemic in blog posts about academic governance during a financial crisis, mask mandates, remote teaching, and other topics.

We’ll be in touch with another COVID-19 update in September.

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP