AAUP@FHSU


Principles on 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.”

For more context on the statement, join Michael DeCesare, chair of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance and professor of sociology at Merrimack College, for a brief Facebook livestream tomorrow, June 30th.

The stream will go live on our Facebook page (accessed through this link) at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. It will also be posted on our website with the statement after it concludes.

The statement stresses that the fundamental principles and standards of academic governance set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities remain applicable even in the current crisis. It reinforces the key principle articulated in the Statement on Government, that the faculty has “primary responsibility” for decisions related to academic matters, including “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.” It further notes that, “even in areas in which the faculty does not exercise primary authority—such as whether and how to reopen campus, budgetary matters, and long-range planning—the faculty still has the right, under widely observed principles of academic governance, to participate meaningfully. No important institutional decision should be made unilaterally by administrations or governing boards.” The statement also observes that administrations or governing boards should not “suspend provisions of faculty handbooks or collective bargaining agreements in reaction to the COVID-19 crisis by invoking ‘force majeure,’ ‘act of God,’ ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ or the like.”

To read the full statement, visit our website.

In solidarity,
The AAUP


COVID-19 and the faculty role in decision-making

As we are learning, COVID-19 (the coronavirus) has the potential to present a serious challenge to the health and safety of our campus communities. At this time, campuses in Washington State, New York State, California, Nebraska, and elsewhere have closed or moved to all-online teaching, and a number of study-abroad programs have been cut short or suspended altogether.

Administrations are taking the potential health impact of the virus seriously, and we applaud their efforts to do so. The safety of the students, the staff, and the faculty should be everyone’s primary concern. We are hearing from AAUP members, however, that decisions to close campuses or to move to an all-online model for the short term are being made without adequate faculty involvement in decision-making. The AAUP’s 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities makes clear that “the faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction . . . and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.”

In certain situations, it is necessary to close a campus or move to online instruction to safeguard the health of the campus community. Faculty and academic staff—through their shared governance bodies or, when applicable, their unions—should be consulted on how best to implement this decision. In order to ensure full participation, administrations should share information with faculty and seek input from the appropriate faculty bodies. In cases where the institution is moving to an all-online model to avoid virus transmission on campus, it is incumbent on administrations to provide all instructional faculty with the appropriate software and training. Administrations should also consider the needs and limitations of students, who may lack access to the internet or face other obstacles to completing their coursework remotely.

It is hard to know what the ultimate impact of COVID-19 will be on our campuses. The administration should provide the appropriate faculty body—the union or the governance body—with information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on enrollments, revenues, and hiring and renewals. In the spirit of the AAUP’s One Faculty campaign, we encourage our chapters to be especially sensitive to how these closures and any future curtailment of programs could affect our colleagues on full-time non-tenure-track or part-time contingent appointments.

The AAUP has developed a web page with resources on COVID-19. We will continue to update this page as new resources become available. We also ask that chapters share information with us about what is being done on their campus and what the chapter or faculty senate’s role has been in decision-making around campus closures and the implementation of all-online teaching.

In solidarity,

Rudy Fichtenbaum
AAUP President


Report Finds Partisan Ideology and Political Ambition Motivated Changes at Maricopa

An AAUP investigation released today finds that the governing board of the Maricopa Community Colleges was motivated by a desire to bust the faculty union when it decided in February 2018 to repeal the entire faculty manual, restrict the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. That process had been used for more than forty years to establish institutional policies related to faculty matters and to make recommendations on salary and budgets.

The board also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body. This also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law. In short, the board’s actions destroyed what had been an effective system of shared governance.

Our investigating committee—Bethany Carson of Santa Fe Community College, Emily M.S. Houh of the University of Cincinnati, and I—found that the governing board acted in disregard of normative standards of academic governance, as laid out in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

We also found evidence, based on correspondence obtained through open records requests, which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by the partisan ideology of two former Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives—one who served as chair of the board and the other as a member.

Join me for a Facebook Live discussion of the report tomorrow at 12 ET. RSVP here.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards of academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Governance investigations are an important tool in our work to protect and advance the faculty’s voice in decision making; they shine a light on egregious practices and are intended to motivate institutions to improve these practices.

In this case, improvements came quickly. Not long after the visit of the investigating committee, three new members were elected to the Maricopa governing board and the existing board president announced his resignation. After the AAUP shared our findings with the administration, the board passed a proposal that rescinded the earlier changes and will eventually restore many of the shared governance mechanisms that the old board had terminated.

You can read the full report here.

Best,
Irene Mulvey,
Chair of the Investigating Committee,
Professor of Mathematics, Fairfield University

P.S.–You can support governance and academic freedom investigations by donating to the AAUP Foundation today.


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


Challenges to Academic Governance at Maricopa

Today we wrote to the governing board of the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona to convey our concern over apparent departures from generally accepted principles of academic governance. The matter stems from a February resolution of the 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. The “meet-and-confer” process is specified in the current faculty policy manual as a process of deliberation “for the purpose of articulating agreement regarding change with respect to responsibilities, wages, governance, benefits, and all other terms and conditions of Residential Faculty employment.”

Significant changes to the structure and procedures for faculty participation in institutional governance should not be made unilaterally. As 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 Colleges and Universities, observes, “The structure and procedures for faculty participation should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution.” The governing board’s action to terminate the “meet-and-confer” provision effectively eliminated the role of its representative faculty body in the process of making changes to the policy manual and thus has unilaterally modified the structure and procedure for faculty participation 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.

The AAUP’s letter further expresses concern that, following the adoption of the governing board’s resolution, Provost Karla Fisher wrote to college presidents to inform them that “Senate Presidents and Representatives must be dutiful in avoiding any [Faculty Executive Council] or Faculty Association-related work or conversations during business hours.” As the AAUP’s statement On the Relationship of Faculty Governance to Academic Freedom observes, “The academic freedom of faculty members includes the freedom to express their views … on matters having to do with their institution and its policies.” The provost’s directive thus appears to interfere with the academic freedom of the identified faculty members.

The letter concludes by urging the governing board to rescind its resolution and restore the “meet-and-confer” provision. It further urges the administration to rescind its proscription against certain “conversations during business hours.”

Read the full letter here.

Hans-Joerg Tiede
Senior Program Officer,  Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance