AAUP@FHSU


AAUP will investigate violations of shared governance at Vermont Law

This week, the AAUP authorized an investigation into apparent departures from widely adopted standards of shared governance at Vermont Law School after the school’s administration and governing board “restructured” the faculty by lowering salaries, reducing the number of full-time positions, and stripping many of tenure, all without involving the faculty in the decision-making process.

A June 5, 2018, memorandum presented fourteen tenured professors with a stark choice: either surrender their full-time, tenured positions and faculty voting rights, sign an agreement containing general and age-discrimination releases along with nondisparagement and nondisclosure provisions, and accept nontenured appointments at lower pay, or have their appointments summarily terminated as of July 1, 2018, with immediate cessation of salary and benefits.

After one faculty member contacted the AAUP seeking assistance, we wrote to the administration three times highlighting our concerns in the case and reiterating appropriate procedural standards for terminating appointments because of financial exigency.

Our concerns, in this case, are myriad. A decision of far-reaching importance and consequence to the entire law school community, and particularly to the faculty members and students, appears to have been taken by the Vermont Law School administration and board without meaningful consultation with the faculty. 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 Universities and Colleges, “rests on the premise of an ‘inescapable interdependence’ in the relationship among governing board, administration, and faculty, which calls for ‘adequate communication among these components, and full opportunity for appropriate joint effort.”

In addition, with only five faculty members having retained tenure at an institution with more than six hundred students, the restructuring appears to have effectively eviscerated the existing tenure system and, with it, protections for academic freedom.

AAUP investigating committees in the area of college and university governance are charged with inquiring into cases that appear to feature severe departures from AAUP-supported governance standards. Committees are composed of AAUP members from other institutions who have had no previous involvement in the matter. If the investigating committee’s published report finds that serious violations have occurred, the AAUP may place the institution on its sanction list by vote of the Association’s annual meeting, which informs the academic community and the public that conditions for academic governance at the institution are unsound.

We will keep you apprised of developments in the case. If you’d like to support our investigative work around shared governance and academic freedom, please donate to the AAUP Foundation, which supports our investigations.

Thank you,

Anita Levy
Senior Program Officer, Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance


Privatization in Online Ed

Privatization of online higher education is on the rise. For-profit online education corporations like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, Pearson, and Blackboard contract with public and private nonprofit institutions to provide digital platforms for educational content, recruit students, manage enrollment, facilitate the development of course materials, and more. While the use of digital platforms and online teaching tools can enrich education, elements of the contracts that institutions make with for-profit online education corporations can present problems in areas of interest to faculty, particularly academic freedom and shared governance.

Your AAUP chapter can meaningfully shape the quality of online education at your institution. Check out our Education Not Privatization toolkit here.

To find out more about how online education is operating at different institutions, the AAUP launched an informal privatization survey this fall.

So far more than four hundred respondents have spoken up about online education contracts at their institutions, and this is what they have to say:

  • Shared governance takes a backseat. 57 percent disagreed with the statement “faculty exercised oversight of the education components of the contract.”
  • Quality is not a focus.  66 percent disagreed with the statement “educational quality has improved as a result of the contract.”
  • Reputation may be at risk. 74 percent disagreed with the statement “the reputation of our institution will be improved because of the contract.”

The emerging themes are clear. Shared governance is not playing a robust role in the development of online education contracts, and as a result quality and reputation may not meet the highest standards. There is a solution: faculty can develop their own proposals for these contracts and demand a seat at the table.

Your AAUP chapter has the power to shape online offerings at your institution and change the course of privatization in higher education. Check out the toolkit here.

Monica Owens
Political Organizer, AAUP

P.S. Join us on Wednesday, October 24, at 1pm ET for a live discussion with David Hughes of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT chapter to hear about the chapter’s anti-privatization efforts and get tips for your own chapter campaign (RSVP here).


WELCOME – 2018 AAUP Fall Semester

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 resulting publicity 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.

Best wishes,

Gwendolyn Bradley,
Director, External Relations, AAUP


Day of Action as Supreme Court Debates Our Future

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, an attack by wealthy, anti-union organizations on the voice of working people and their ability to negotiate collectively.

People from around the country rallied at the Court to let the world know that, regardless of the outcome of the Janus case, we will continue to organize for the public good and for our rights. This followed the Working People’s Day of Action over the weekend, which called attention to our rigged economy and the need to defend our rights at work. It marked the fifty-year anniversary of protests by Memphis sanitation workers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. against discrimination, low pay, and inhumane conditions that led to worker deaths. Share the graphic below on Facebook and spread the word.

Photo of Supreme Court protests

The AAUP supports the right of working people, including faculty, to join together in unions as well as in traditional nonunionized AAUP chapters. Our collective voice is a powerful force to set standards and create better workplaces. Together, we fight for higher education and the critical role it plays in this country. Together, we defend academic freedom, shared governance, and due process protections. Standing together also makes it possible for us to negotiate affordable healthcare, a fair return on our work, and the ability to retire with dignity.

At issue in Janus is whether non-union members, who share in the wages, benefits, and protections that have been negotiated into a collectively bargained contract, may be required to pay their fair share for the cost of those negotiations. Learn more about the Janus case and the amicus brief we filed.

Yesterday’s oral argument went largely as expected. Many of the justices sharply questioned the attorneys. Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan generally asked questions and advanced arguments that were supportive of the constitutionality of fair-share fees, pointing to their benefits and to the fact that unions and others had relied on the prior decisions of the Court. Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts took the opposite approach. Justice Kennedy seemed particularly hostile, asserting that unions compel nonmembers to subsidize their political speech.

Because none of the justices appeared to depart from their expected position, today’s oral argument reinforced the view that the Court will rule against us.

AAUP members are sticking together as One Faculty, One Resistance to fight for our collective voice, to promote safe and challenging learning environments, and to defend the important role our universities play in advancing the public good.

Thanks for standing with us.

In unity,
Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, AAUP

Paul Davis, Chair, AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress


Shared Governance under Attack in Wisconsin

Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has sought to ensure meaningful faculty participation in institutional governance.

Last fall, we spoke out when the University of Wisconsin system board of regents announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions—a plan made without meaningful faculty input. It was the latest in a number of unilateral and secretive actions taken by system leaders, the state legislature, and Governor Scott Walker, condemned at the time by the AAUP and AFT Wisconsin as constituting “a concerted attack on the university as a public good and on the university’s role in fostering democratic participation.”

The day after the news of the proposed merger, President Cross, facing backlash from faculty, staff, and students, wrote the following in an email message to a system regent: “Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

President Cross’s remarks, which came to light last week, have drawn quick condemnation. The lone student representative on the twenty-five-member restructuring committee immediately released a statement that read in part: “It is my sincere hope that divisive sentiments toward the employees and students of the University of Wisconsin System will no longer be tolerated. The comments made were simply inappropriate and must be addressed immediately.”

The UW-Madison chapter of the AAUP followed with an open letter to President Cross, expressing its “deep concern about your willful disregard for the role of shared governance” and concluding:

“With the surfacing of your emails, it is particularly difficult for people who are supposed to share responsibility with you in governing this institution to have any confidence in your leadership. When you treat the core principle of shared governance as a concept so worthy of derision and disregard that you surround it with ‘air quotes’ in an email to a member of the Board of Regents, it is difficult to envision ever regaining that confidence. In short, your attitude and words have done further damage to an already damaged relationship.”

The AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance joins the growing chorus of voices denouncing President Cross’s ill-judged remarks and calling on him to explain them.

The committee further calls on President Cross to work actively with faculty, staff, and students on developing policies and practices that will restore a meaningful and productive system of shared governance.

The importance of shared governance to protecting academic freedom and quality higher education cannot be overstated. The AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities notes that “a college or university in which all the components are aware of their interdependence, of the usefulness of communication among themselves, and of the force of joint action will enjoy increased capacity to solve educational problems.” And a recent white paper on shared governance issued by the Association of Governing Boards concludes that “shared governance is an essential component of America’s higher education institutions that needs to be preserved and enhanced.”

The AAUP will continue to monitor the situation in Wisconsin.

American Association of University Professors


Take Action: Protect the University of Wisconsin

A series of actions taken by Governor Scott Walker, the Wisconsin state legislature, and the University of Wisconsin system board of regents over the past few years represent a concerted attack on the university as a public good.

Will you tell the Wisconsin system board of regents to protect the university system?

Taken together, the actions constitute a brazen partisan assault on the Wisconsin Idea, the century-old notion that public higher education is a common good. In 2011, legislation curtailed the system faculty’s rights to negotiate collectively. In 2015, the legislature severely weakened tenure, shared governance, and due process—and, by extension, academic freedom.

This fall, another series of attacks is underway. Without meaningful faculty input, the board recently approved an anti-free-speech proposal allowing for the expulsion of students for “disrupting the free speech of others.” It announced a plan to merge the system’s two- and four-year institutions. And it changed the procedures governing searches for chancellors and presidents.  Right now, there is a bill before the state legislature that would abolish a partnership that allowed university employees to work and train students at Planned Parenthood.

Please add your name to protect higher education for the common good.

The AAUP