AAUP@FHSU


New Report on Status of Academic Governance

It’s a mixed picture when it comes to shared governance faculty roles in decision making areas at four-year institutions of higher education. Today we released a second report on data collected from the 2021 AAUP Shared Governance Survey, the first national survey on shared governance since 2001. Key findings include:

  • In several areas in which higher education faculty had made progress in decision making authority between 1971 and 2001, the trend has reversed and returned to the status of 1971 or worse—most notably in institution-level decision making, such as the allocation of faculty positions and in budgetary matters. By contrast, several areas of decision making that are local in scope, such as programmatic curricular decision making or the selection of department chairs, have seen an increase in faculty authority.
  • Despite persistent opinions that faculty unionization somehow weakens shared governance, this survey reveals that in 22 of 29 areas, there is no statistically significant difference in faculty authority between unionized and non-unionized institutions. In six areas, faculty authority was higher at unionized institutions.
  • Overall, results of this survey present a mixed picture of the current state of shared governance. At most institutions, faculty authority is consistent with AAUP-recommended governance standards in decision making about programmatic, departmental, and institutional curricula; teaching assignments; and faculty searches, evaluations, and tenure and promotion standards. However, in several decision making areas, including budgets, buildings, and allocations of faculty positions, the faculty has little or no meaningful opportunity to participate at a large percentage of institutions.

Read the full report here.

The survey was conducted at 585 randomly-sampled four-year institutions. We asked senate chairs and other faculty governance leaders to assess 29 areas of decision making on a scale that ranges from administrative dominance to faculty dominance. The response rate was 68 percent.

Hans-Joerg Tiede, Director of Research, AAUP


Efforts to Restrict Teaching about Race

At this time, when our nation is confronting deep-rooted racial inequity and having honest and long-overdue conversations about our history, legislators in a number of states have moved to shut down the conversation by restricting teaching about oppression, race, and gender.

The details vary, but generally the bills prohibit teaching or training in public educational institutions about vaguely defined “divisive concepts,” including racism and oppression. Some apply only to K–12 education, while others include higher education. Many include prohibitions on teaching about “critical race theory,” though most of the bills extend far beyond this. While many of the bills in question have not yet advanced, some have been signed into law — and they all have the potential to chill the free exchange of ideas at universities and colleges, and violate core AAUP principles. In some states, college courses have already been cancelled over concerns that they might run afoul of this legislation.

We are taking this attack on teaching very seriously, and are working with a wide coalition of organizations to protect the ability of faculty to teach freely. With three partner organizations, we are releasing a statement today opposing these bills and affirming that Americans of all ages deserve nothing less than a free and open exchange about history and the forces that shape our world today. We’re proud that more than seventy other organizations have endorsed this statement. These bills violate fundamental tenets of academic freedom and shared governance, the foundations of higher education.

In addition, the AAUP has developed resources to help members address legislative interference in the teaching of the role of racism in US history and society.

Decisions about curriculum and teaching materials belong in the hands of educators–not politicians. Join in our fight to keep it that way.

In Solidarity,
Irene Mulvey, AAUP president

PS–If your state conference wants to take action on bills proposed in your state, contact AAUP government relations officer Kaitlyn Vitez and she can connect you with resources.


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


Vote… Volunteer… Organize

I write to you today, as voter registration deadlines fast approach, with an urgent call to action. These are extraordinary times and much is at stake. Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has never endorsed a candidate for office or engaged in partisan political activity. What the AAUP has done in its one hundred- and five-year history is defend and protect academic freedom, promote shared governance, and advocate for the economic security of individuals who teach and research in higher education. These are interconnected necessities to ensure that higher education serves the common good. Most of the time, the AAUP has responded to attacks on higher education exceptionally well, and sometimes we have not lived up to our mission and our founding principles. Now, we find ourselves in a moment to which we must respond with clarity and strength.

There is no downtime in the 24/7 news cycle. There is a constant and yet depressingly unpredictable stream of fresh outrages to process. Our national leadership’s response to the global pandemic is incompetent, at best, and borders on malevolent. We have the highest number of deaths by far of any country. As I write, our death toll is over two hundred thousand, a number which, based on modeling of the pace of spread in March 2020, was suggested as the total number of deaths we would have from the virus, and there is no end in sight. The resulting hit to the economy and the real-world implications for people who are unemployed or underemployed and for small businesses is no less than devastating. As a nation, we may—at long last—be willing to begin to reckon with systemic and institutional racism, but this is likely only due to the fact that instances of brutality and racism, long hidden, are now being captured on video and broadcast. It’s not possible to look away anymore.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would have the Senate vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court before some people had heard that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. At least he saved us the effort of having to speculate if he would respect the precedent he put into place during the Merrick Garland confirmation fiasco. “Of course he wouldn’t. What did you expect?” is a very common response I hear from my cynical friends and colleagues. I view that kind of cynicism as cognitive protection, a form of self-care that is completely understandable. It’s a lot more painful to acknowledge that Mitch McConnell views you and all of your fellow citizens as chumps, but that acknowledgement may help us to see this moment with clarity, and respond with the needed action and strength.

Just days after Donald Trump’s election took many of us by surprise in 2016, the AAUP’s national leadership issued a statement in which they suggested that a Donald Trump presidency might be “the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy period.” They supported this suggestion with concrete examples from Trump’s campaign and predicted that a Trump presidency could bring a chilling effect on the rights of students and faculty members to speak out, make it difficult for universities to attract students and scholars from other countries and to engage in the international exchange of ideas, and attempt to cripple public employee unions by overturning their established right to collect fees from the nonmembers they must serve.

Despite the fact that every one of their predictions came true, I would argue that my colleagues got things wrong in that they seriously underestimated how bad things could get. Anti-intellectualism, long a thriving subculture in the US, is now the currency of our leaders. Temperatures will get cooler and the coronavirus will just disappear, according to the president. Reasoned arguments, logic, science, evidence-based conclusions, data-driven strategies, the currency of the academy, are all for chumps. In this bizarro world, it’s hard to know what’s real, and that’s the administration’s goal.

The attacks on education by the government are particularly egregious. Certainly, partisan controversy regarding the teaching of US history is nothing new, but the level of government pushback directly aimed at the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, complete with the announcement by President Trump of a competing “1776 Commission” to “promote patriotic education” and a grant supporting “the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history” is an outrageous government intrusion into curricular matters. Trump’s recent attack on critical race theory is a fresh attack on expert knowledge and an inappropriate intrusion of politics into scholarship which puts a bulls-eye on the backs of researchers in this field. When, in a good faith effort to begin to address systemic racism at Princeton, university president Christopher Eisgruber acknowledged that racism is embedded in the university structures and history, Trump’s Department of Education initiated an investigation to determine if Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims since 2013 may have been false as a result of its “admitted racism.” These are only the outrages that involve education, and all happened this month.

Let’s be clear that our problems did not begin with the current occupant of the White House. Our problems are the result of decades of the neoliberal agenda, privatizing what should be public systems and worsening income inequality. But they have been exacerbated by the Trump administration. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum called it spot on when he wrote in early 2017:

The Trump presidency will be neoliberalism on steroids. The transformation of higher education into a highly stratified, for-profit business aimed at serving the interests of the wealthy and America’s corporations will accelerate under the new administration. The goal of creating an educated citizenry will be subordinated to the demands of wealthy and corporate interests, and academic freedom for faculty, students, and researchers will consequently be under attack.

All this was certainly evident in how universities have responded to the pandemic. Faculty had little or no say on how our institutions responded or on re-opening decisions, and administrations more often than not made decisions driven by finances and external political pressure over public health and the common good.

In this election, democracy as a concept is on the ballot. A well-functioning democracy requires respect for rules and standards, and respect for the rule of law. A vibrant democracy demands an educated citizenry and a free press. We need to vote for norms and standards, the rule of law, racial justice, social justice, and decision making with integrity based on reasoned arguments and expert knowledge. We need to vote for a living wage, for access to health care, for access to affordable high quality public higher education as a common good. To be silent now is to be complicit.

Vote, volunteer, organize. Find allies and build a movement for change. Join the AAUP, if you’re not already a member. Honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by following the advice she gave to her audience when she received the Radcliffe Medal at Harvard University in 2015, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

In solidarity,
Irene Mulvey
AAUP President

Getty Images


July 9 COVID-19 Update

This week marked the kickoff of our Summer Institute Online, with webinars focusing on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you join! Read on for more on SI Online, our new statement on shared governance during times of crisis, and how you can take action now to urge Congress to fund aid to states and higher education.

Summer Institute Online

The AAUP Summer Institute Online is now underway. Join hundreds of AAUP members from around the country in our special series of training webinars focused specifically on the challenges facing higher education today. Running through August 4, the virtual summer institute features two webinars each week. Our 90-minute sessions will cover a wide range of topics, from campus decisions about reopening to supporting student protests to pushing back against austerity budgets. In addition, hour-long breakout sessions after the governance and organizing webinars will provide a special opportunity for smaller groups of attendees to brainstorm about how to apply the guidance to their chapter’s circumstances. There is also a special plenary panel that will highlight the experiences of frontline health-care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can view the complete schedule and register for these webinars today.

Principles of Academic Governance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The AAUP Committee on College and University Governance has released a new statement affirming the principles of academic governance in the face of growing concern over unilateral actions taken by governing boards and administrations during the pandemic. “During this challenging time,” the statement reads, “the committee calls upon administrations and governing boards, in demonstrated commitment to principles of shared governance, to maintain transparency, engage in ‘joint effort,’ and honor the faculty’s decision-making responsibility for academic and faculty personnel matters as the most effective means of weathering the current crisis.”

You can read the full statement here.

Send a Letter to Your Member of Congress

Many of our states and communities continue to face mounting and very serious financial shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of states to provide adequate funding for higher education and other public goods will be dependent upon the inclusion of relief for state and local governments in the next federal stimulus package. If you haven’t already, you can to write to your US congressional representative and your senators and urge them to include relief for state and local governments in the next stimulus package. Here’s the link to send a letter now.

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

In solidarity,
Julie Schmid
Executive Director, AAUP