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.

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