Wednesday, June 29, 2016

AAUP Rethinks How It Fights Governing Boards

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
June 28, 2016

When the nation’s leading defender of faculty rights decides to rebuke a college, its precise language may leave close observers scratching their heads. Why, for instance, did it vote this month to sanction the University of Iowa over its controversial presidential search, instead of the board, which it explicitly identified as the bad actor?

The answer: It has long believed it has no other choice.

The American Association of University Professors imposes a penalty known as "sanction" against colleges for violations of shared governance, but its bylaws preclude it from directing sanctions at governing boards, no matter how responsible they might be. It imposes a separate category of penalty, "censure," for violations of tenure or academic freedom. With censures it has the option of directing the rebuke at the board, but it almost always opts to censure the college itself if administrators have any culpability.

Experience has taught the association that governing boards will shrug off its warnings and reprimands unless they’re convinced that their actions will cause a college to suffer from being on the AAUP’s lists of censured or sanctioned institutions.

Recent developments, however, have prompted the AAUP to begin reconsidering how it challenges boards.

The weaknesses of its current approach came into focus at its annual meeting here this month. Top officials of the association bemoaned how it is struggling to fight off increasingly common board overreach in colleges’ affairs, and heard faculty leaders at the University of Iowa protest the AAUP’s sanction of that institution for the actions of a statewide governing board.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Something Strange Indeed

Inside Higher Ed
By George A. Nation III
June 27, 2016

In U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s 4 to 3 majority opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, in which he upheld racial preferences in college admissions, he recalls that the court has said that enrolling a diverse student body “promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes and enables students to better understand persons of different races.” Equally important, according to the court’s previous decisions, “student body diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”

Unfortunately, Justice Kennedy’s decision significantly undermines the very goals the court hopes to achieve. Also unfortunate is that his memory is conveniently selective: he seems to have forgotten much of what he himself wrote in 2013’s Fisher I decision.

That’s a shame, because the country seemed ready to finally put an end to government discrimination on the basis of race and to have it start judging all people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, as Martin Luther King Jr. admonished. The court has long suggested racial preferences in admissions were temporary, and in Fisher I, Justice Kennedy set the stage to finally end them. In that opinion, he wrote: “Judicial review must begin from the position that ‘any official action that treats a person differently on account of his race or ethnic origin is inherently suspect.’”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

3 Key Takeaways From the Supreme Court’s Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Andy Thomason
June 23, 2016

To many observers, the Supreme Court’s 4-to-3 decision on Thursday that upheld the use of race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas at Austin came as a surprise.

Even inside the court, it seems: “Something strange has happened,” wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito in the first line of his dissent, “since our prior decision in this case.” In 2013 the court ruled that a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, had not applied enough scrutiny to Austin’s admissions program, and ordered it to revisit the case. The appeals court then effectively affirmed its prior decision. That judgment was appealed once again to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in December.

Some Supreme Court cases were expected to deadlock after Justice Antonin Scalia, a vocal critic of affirmative action in admissions, died in February. But his death was not expected to alter the outcome of the Texas case because Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself. During her time as U.S. solicitor general, Justice Kagan had been involved with the Obama administration’s submission of a brief supporting the university. Her recusal left just seven justices to decide the case.

Many observers expected a 4-to-3 decision striking down the Texas policy, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy serving as the swing vote. Instead, he wrote the majority opinion in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, No. 14-981, which upheld the policy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Turmoil Raises Specter of Faculty Exodus From Public Colleges

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Lee Gardner
June 19, 2016

State budget crunches and political turmoil have set off rumblings about a mass faculty exodus from public colleges in some states. High-profile defections stoke the rumors. But have professors really fled in droves?

It appears they haven’t. But the threat of departures has led to plenty of maneuvering behind the scenes, and to other consequences as well.

Many public colleges in Wisconsin, where legislators stripped tenure protection and $250 million in support, and in Illinois, where a state-budget impasse has left campuses in the lurch, didn’t lose substantially more faculty members to other institutions than in previous years.

But even if most professors are staying put, many have considered leaving. Some have quietly entered the job market, and others may soon follow. Meanwhile, universities elsewhere have escalated efforts to lure top scholars away from besieged competitors.

Faculty turnover is a fact of academic life, but the forces squeezing public colleges in several states make the jockeying for jobs a little more charged this time. Departures have further dimmed already low morale, even at prestigious flagships. And with budgets trimmed to the quick, especially at regional universities, the loss of professors who may not be replaced is felt deeply.

Monday, June 20, 2016

AAUP Rebukes Universities for Their Boards’ Actions

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Peter Schmidt
June 19, 2016

Leaders of the American Association of University Professors described many of its members as under assault by neoliberal, bottom-line-focused college governing boards as the group voted on Saturday to denounce several institutions for trampling faculty rights.

"The attacks are not going to stop," Howard J. Bunsis, chairman of the AAUP’s Collective Bargaining Congress, warned here at the association’s annual conference. The threat to tenure, shared governance, and academic freedom, he said, "mostly comes from those boards of trustees who come from different worlds than we do," representing business interests rather than academe.

Frustration with boards’ disregard for AAUP guidelines was a common theme in several of the group’s votes to censure or sanction college administrations. Some of the association’s members voiced frustration that its bylaws require it to direct such votes at institutions rather than the boards that oversee them.

For example, in unanimously voting to censure the University of Missouri at Columbia for the firing of a controversial professor without adequate due process, the AAUP noted that she had been dismissed by the University of Missouri system’s Board of Curators, under pressure from state lawmakers. Similarly, in unanimously voting to sanction the University of Iowa for a lack of faculty involvement in its presidential search, the AAUP noted that its rebuke was "primarily directed against the Iowa Board of Regents," which picked the new president. The board also oversees Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

Distrust in the University of Illinois Board of Trustees prompted the AAUP to put the brakes on an effort to lift a censure imposed on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last year over its treatment of Steven G. Salaita. Its decision to pull back came after Harry H. Hilton, president of the AAUP chapter on that campus, warned from home, in a statement relayed by an Illinois colleague, that lifting censure too quickly would remove any incentive for the trustees to adopt new faculty protections proposed by the campus’s University Senate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Orlando’s Colleges Offer Solace in the Wake of Tragedy

The Chronicle of Higher Education By Beckie Supiano
June 14, 2016

Colleges in and near Orlando, Fla., have spent the past two days responding to the mass shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded there over the weekend. Presidents released statements of condolence, while their campuses provided counseling services, organized blood drives, and planned memorials.

Many young adults were among the victims of the attack, which began at a gay nightclub at about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning. The city was still releasing their names on Monday, but several had been identified as college students in news reports, and at least one student’s death has been confirmed by his college.

As the victims’ names were released, the student-registration staff at Seminole State College cross-referenced them with those of the college’s students, said Mark R. Richardson, Seminole State’s communications manager. They found one match on Sunday: Luis S. Vielma, who was studying emergency medical services before he died in the attack.
The college has not yet planned a memorial for Mr. Vielma, but the student government or alumni association may organize one, Mr. Richardson said.

Representatives of several other area colleges said that they were also monitoring the list of names to find out if their students were among the deceased.

It may take some time for the colleges to determine just how many students, faculty, staff, and alumni were present during the shooting or lost a loved one in it. In the meantime, they are working to provide students with support, and also give them a chance to help by offering solidarity and donating blood.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tragedy in Orlando

Inside Higher Ed
By Scott Jaschik
June 13, 2016

He was among many in academe thinking about the 50 victims of Sunday morning's mass murder at a gay club in Orlando. Only a minority have been identified, but they include two whom press reports have identified as students: Juan Ramon Guerrero, whose family members told the Associated Press that he recently started attending the University of Central Florida, and was very happy to be there; and Luis Vielma, who worked at Universal Orlando and whom The Orlando Sentinel reported was studying at Seminole State College of Florida and planned to become an EMT. Both Guerrero and Vielma were 22.

John Hitt, the University of Central Florida president, released a statement Sunday -- before victims started to be identified -- in which he described how "painful, frightening and infuriating" the attack on the club has been for many at the university, and how he expected many there to have connections to victims.

"In time, I expect we all will know someone affected. A friend. A sister. A partner. A co-worker. To the victims of this attack -- and their loved ones and friends -- I offer the sincere prayers and hopes of the entire UCF family," he wrote. "Earlier today, I extended to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer all of the university’s resources to help our community. To start, on Monday UCF will host a blood drive on campus. I hope you will join me there."

The university announced Sunday that it was providing additional counseling and police services in the wake of the shooting.