AAUP@FHSU


New Report on Institutional Racism in the UNC System

Today the AAUP released a report of the Special Committee on Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System. The report considers the influence of the North Carolina state legislature on the systemwide board of governors and campus boards of trustees. It discusses how political pressure and top-down leadership have obstructed meaningful faculty participation in the UNC system, jeopardized academic freedom, and reinforced institutional racism.

Read the full report here.

The special committee, for which we served as co-chairs, focused in-depth on UNC‒Chapel Hill as the flagship campus, but also examined events across the entire system. Through interviews with more than fifty individuals across the UNC system, the report details the pattern of political interference from the legislature and unilateral decision-making from university leadership that has increasingly come to affect the entire UNC system, with clear violations of AAUP-supported principles of academic governance set forth in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

You can also listen to a podcast discussion of the report here.

The report surveys the environment for governance and academic freedom in the UNC system against this backdrop of overtly partisan political control. It details how the intersection of broken governance, threats to academic freedom, and institutional racism affected campus-level matters, such as the closure of multiple academic centers run by faculty members who had been vocal critics of state leadership; the barring of centers from conducting litigation, which particularly affected the UNC‒Chapel Hill School of Law Center for Civil Rights; the controversial deal regarding “Silent Sam,” a Confederate monument; and the 2021 failed appointment of Nikole Hannah-Jones to an endowed chair in the School of Journalism and Media.

The report also details long-standing patterns of institutional racism that make the UNC system a particularly hostile environment for faculty, staff, and students of color. In examining the structural and cultural elements of racism within the UNC system, the report points to the racial climate; institutional inequities as manifested in the racial composition of the administration and faculty; the distribution of power, authority, and resources within the system; and retention of faculty and staff of color.

The special committee concluded that UNC needs strong and independent leadership that respects faculty expertise and observes widely accepted principles of academic governance, that defends academic inquiry from political pressures and constraints, and that is willing to do more than simply pay lip service to the idea of equity. The report emphasizes that the system- and campus-level governing boards not only need to fulfill their “special obligation to ensure that the history of the college or university shall serve as a prelude and inspiration to the future,” as described in the Statement on Government, but also “must ensure that the history of UNC inspires and serves as a prelude to a future that looks very different from its past and its present.”

To read the full report, visit the AAUP website.

Nicholas Fleisher, professor of Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Afshan Jafar, professor of Sociology at Connecticut College
Co-chairs of the special committee


Dismissal at Linfield – Academic Freedom Violated

Today, the AAUP published the report of an investigating committee on the dismissal of Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor and endowed chair in Shakespeare studies at Linfield University in Oregon. The report finds that Linfield’s administration violated the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the institution’s own regulations, which incorporate AAUP dismissal standards, when it dismissed Pollack-Pelzner without demonstrating adequate cause for its action before an elected faculty hearing body.

The investigating committee also found that the administration violated Pollack-Pelzner’s academic freedom to participate in institutional governance without retaliation. General conditions for academic freedom and shared governance at Linfield University, the report states, are “deplorable.”

Pollack-Pelzner’s difficulties began after the faculty elected him faculty representative on the board of trustees. Following his first board meeting in the role of “faculty trustee,” female colleagues and former students reported that they had been the objects of sexual misconduct by board members at social events following board meetings. Pollack-Pelzner shared these allegations with the board and requested remedial action. When the board and administration refused to address the problem, he made the sexual misconduct charges public on Twitter, along with the charge of antisemitism (Pollack-Pelzner is Jewish) on the part of administrators and board members. Less than a month after he posted his Tweets, the Linfield administration terminated his tenured appointment without affording him any process, much less the academic due process required by the AAUP.

Professor Pollack-Pelzner’s dismissal occurred in a context of eroding shared governance, which has jeopardized the faculty’s exercise of academic freedom and contributed to a culture of abuse. At its June meeting, AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure will vote on whether to recommend adding Linfield University to the Association’s list of censured administrations. For more about AAUP censure, click here.

You can read the full report here.

Charles Toombs, Professor, San Diego State University
Chair of AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure


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