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.

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