Saturday, June 12, 2010

AAUP Censures Universities for Mass Firings

At its annual meeting, the AAUP voted unanimously this morning to censure Clark Atlanta University (for firing 55 faculty without due process or respect for tenure. New faculty members were appointed to the positions of tenured faculty who were fired, and the university continues to advertise for these positions. Committee A found that the “enrollment emergency” claimed by the administration was “largely nonexistent.”

The AAUP also unanimously censured the University of Texas medical branch at Galveston for firing more than 120 faculty members, with one-third of them having tenure, in the wake of Hurricane Ike and a declaration of financial exigency. The AAUP criticized the failure of the institution to follow adequate procedures, and noted that the administration had begun firing new faculty without providing for faculty recall.

The AAUP unanimously added Antioch University to its separate list of institutions sanctioned for infringing on governance standards. The Committee on College and University Governance condemned the decisions of the administration and the board of governors that led to the shutdown of Antioch College. Larry Gerber, chair of the Committee, noted: “Recently, the Association is paying increasing attention to shared governance.”

Typically, AAUP sanctions deal with cases of individual faculty who are punished for expressing unpopular ideas. This year's cases reveal the new trend in higher education: mass firings of faculty, including tenured professors, using financial problems as the excuse. If anyone ever imagined that tenure provides “a job for life,” these incidents prove that's not true even for faculty who have done nothing wrong.

AAUP President Cary Nelson noted, “hardly a day begins in which we do not encounter some kind of shared governance or financial assault on members of the academy.” Nelson observed, “we're looking at dark days” but said “this is an opportunity for us.” Faculty are realizing “they can't just do their own work anymore” and must join together to fight attacks on academia. Nelson said, “we're doing more organizing than I remember us doing for the last 20 years.”

In other news, the AAUP's membership has held steady during the current recession, and the AAUP today adopted a new progressive dues structure for advocacy members based on income, ranging from $45 a year (for those making less than $30,000) to $225 a year (for those making more than $120,000). The new dues structure is designed to be revenue neutral, but it will encourage more members at low-paying institutions and among contingent faculty.

After three years of running annual deficits over $200,000, in 2009 the AAUP had a $97,392 profit. This was in spite of the fact that the AAUP had to write off $268,000 in uncollectible bad debts from past years, so the financial picture for the AAUP is even brighter. The operating income went from negative $54,391 in 2008 to positive $133,983 in 2009. Total net assets increased dramatically, from $357,930 in 2008 to $822,129 in 2009. The AAUP is also forecasting a surplus for 2010. The AAUP is much stronger than most other nonprofits, since the AAUP has added money to reserves rather than liquidating assets or borrowing money.

The AAUP's 2nd annual conference on higher education also featured 250 presentations by scholars across the country, a substantial increase from last year. However, approximately 100 faculty who planned to make presentations had to cancel, primarily due to cuts for conference travel funds on their campuses.

There will be a November 12-14 AAUP conference and workshop on shared governance in Washington DC, and the AAUP wants to recruit faculty leaders and Faculty Senate leaders to participate. They also have a call for proposals (due by July 15) to present at this conference. The massive cuts to higher education across the country show that academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, and financial exigency are all linked together.

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