AAUP@FHSU


Solidarity on Labor Day in Uncertain and Perilous Times

Labor Day 2021 feels very different from Labor Days past. Even more, Labor Day 2021 feels very different from what many of us started looking forward to last spring, when we were rolling up our sleeves to get vaccinated. COVID-19 still represents a global public health crisis, the Delta variant is more contagious and more virulent, hospitals in many locations are full and turning patients away, more children are at risk of very serious illness or death, and there is no end in sight. It didn’t have to be this way.

The way to end the pandemic is with collective action. In some states, however, we see governors and legislatures doing exactly the opposite of what needs to be done: banning mask mandates indoors—effectively guaranteeing that the virus will continue to spread, will continue to sicken and kill people, and will have ample opportunity to mutate into another more deadly and more contagious variant against which our current vaccines may be less effective.

In far too many of our colleges and universities, instead of dealing with the reality of a more contagious variant and how that will spread through a population that is not fully vaccinated, we see magical thinking and plans being put into place as if the pandemic is effectively over. Colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to be places where the best science and the most effective requirements and guidelines—based on the expertise of public health faculty—should be put into place. Our institutions of higher education should be leading the way out of the pandemic. I am dismayed at the lack of leadership in many of our institutions and in mid-August called for administrations to do everything possible to ensure the highest level of health and safety, and to follow the guidance of public health experts to use every available tool to protect students, faculty, staff, and neighboring communities from further spread of COVID.

In today’s message, I want to go further and encourage AAUP members everywhere to use all legal and appropriate levers of accountability in order to make the workplaces safe. I am heartened by the spirit of solidarity I see nearly every day when faculty refuse to passively accept unsafe working conditions being imposed on a campus, but use their collective voice to object and to demand better. In addition to our call to administrators, we have many resources for faculty to consider as they organize to demand that public health be prioritized over the bottom line and the magical thinking behind a premature “return to the on-campus learning experience.” I hope these resources, which include AAUP’s special report on COVID-19 and Academic Governance, are useful to you as we organize, advocate and work together for a safe present and a strong future for higher education.

Let’s be clear: the fight for a safe working environment as we begin the new academic year is our fight since it is inextricably linked to genuine shared governance and collaborative decision making, and to academic freedom in the classroom and on campus. Faculty are the ones taking all the risks in our classrooms. It is outrageous for a faculty member to find herself in a position where she needs to consider the probability of bringing the virus home where it might be responsible for the death of a vulnerable family member. When the administration isn’t making the best decisions for the institution, it’s the faculty’s responsibility to stand up, speak out and do all they can to ensure that the core academic mission is carried out in the most effective way for the circumstances. As AAUP president, I thank you for your work in this regard. I am privileged to represent members of the AAUP as we work together during these very trying times.

Aside from the resources AAUP has put together to help faculty during the pandemic, our work continues on a number of other fronts:

Race and Higher Education: Under my leadership the AAUP is engaged in a multi-faceted long-term initiative to better understand the role of racism in higher education and within the AAUP. We will continue to update you as this work progresses. In particular, the AAUP staff has developed a series of resources to address legislative interference, typically at the state level, in the teaching of the role of racism in US history and society.

The New Deal for Higher Education: As part of our focus on racial justice and social justice we remain committed to fighting for a New Deal for Higher Education. The AAUP continues to press for reform of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. With the impending passage of the American Families Plan, we are now embarking on a campaign to double Pell Grants, secure tuition-free community college, and give grants to four-year institutions to quickly and effectively bring an affordable, high-quality education within reach of all students. Stay tuned for more coming this fall.

For those seeking useful data to organize and advocate for faculty, I urge you to look at two recent major reports by the AAUP. This year’s edition of the always highly anticipated Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession does not disappoint. The report examines long-standing economic crises in higher education, declining fiscal support, overreliance on contingent faculty, growth of administrations, and spiraling institutional debt, while also delving into some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAUP Research Department also published a second report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first national survey on shared governance since 2001.

I encourage you to make the most of the AAUP as a resource in these trying and perilous times, and let us know how we can help you. We stand united.

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP President


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