AAUP censures institutions

This just in from Scotty…. and from the chronicle.

AAUP@GA Chapter Presidents and AAUP members,

Here is an extract from today’s online Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The American Association of University Professors on Saturday added St. Edward’s University, in Texas, and Nunez Community College, in Louisiana, to its censure list. The list highlights institutions that violate academic freedom and tenure practices.”
It would be very worthwhile to check out that link. Much of what happened at the annual meetings focused on internal reorganization, which is probably not too interesting to many – especially to non-AAUP faculty. But the institutions on the censure and sanction list, especially the reasoning, should be of interest to all. The linked article goes over four cases that were voted on.

The first one (St. Edwards, in Austin, TX) involved the dismissal of two tenured faculty members essentially because they were adjudged to be activists on their campus. They were not given the process protections mandated by the AAUP (and in this case, by their own faculty manual). They were husband and wife, and firing them both zeroed out their family income. The AAUP stepped in to defend them, the AAUP Foundation actually contributed money to them during the investigation process to keep the proverbial wolf from their door, and they are now back on their feet financially, at a different institution. But St. Edwards was censured because they still have not fixed the process that led to the faculty members’ firing.

In the second one (Nuñez Community College), a faculty member on an annual non-tenure track contract was not renewed despite continuous service at the institution for over 20 years. The AAUP standards are that any faculty member who has continuous service over seven years has “de facto tenure” in the sense that (s)he has earned the process rights that include a board hearing before peers, with the burden of proof to justify the non-renewal on the administration and with the faculty member afforded the right to rebut. None of that happened, and so the institution was censured.

In the third one (Vermont Law School), the offense was against shared governance principles in that there was a supposed financial crisis that caused the school to effect massive layoffs of tenured faculty members, along with several offers to re-hire at much lower salaries. There was no faculty governance visibility into the degree of the financial difficulties nor involvement in weighing and recommending a way out. Since this clearly violated AAUP shared governance standards, the institution was sanctioned (“sanctions” pertain to shared governance violations, whereas “censures” apply to academic freedom and tenure violations).

And finally, in the fourth one an institution previously sanctioned (Idaho State) petitioned the AAUP as to how they could get off the sanction list, following the arrival of a new university president. The AAUP went over why they were sanctioned in the first place, and the institution made changes to their policies and procedures accordingly. So the AAUP voted to remove them from the sanction list. This process, although it is far from immediate, is really why the sanction and censure processes exist: to put pressure (not “legal” pressure in the sense of court cases, but peer pressure and PR pressure) on institutions who disregard AAUP standards and convince them eventually to implement those standards.

So here we have cases regarding tenured faculty, non-tenure track faculty, and governance in general, in each of which the AAUP supported faculty rights and responsibilities. And one case in which the institution made changes and corrections, as a direct result of an AAUP investigation.

Also mentioned in the write-up was a fifth case this year (Maricopa Community College) that did not require a vote, in which there was an AAUP investigation regarding shared governance processes. The investigation write-up included recommendations to fix the situation, which they did immediately – and thereby avoided being sanctioned in the first place. This happens frequently in both censure and sanction cases, and of course does not gain the adverse public relations spotlight on the institution. These are the quiet “wins” for faculty rights, thanks to the AAUP.

There are many reasons why the AAUP exists, but none are more important than these. All your faculty colleagues, including faculty who have not yet joined an AAUP chapter, should know about them. Whether or not they are AAUP members, whether they are new hires or have been there for years, and whether or not they are on a tenure track, every faculty member should know of the rights afforded by AAUP processes, even when those processes are not (yet?) mentioned in your faculty manual or honored at your institution. AAUP membership is like health insurance: you pay for it even when you are well, so that it will be there when it is really needed – even when it’s not you, but your neighbor who really needs it.

Have a great summer!

— Scotty

Robert M. Scott, PhD
President, Georgia Conference, AAUP
Mathematics Department
Augusta University
Office: Allgood Hall, Room N327
Office phone: 706-667-4032