Committee A Report to the 2014 AAUP Annual Meeting

The following is the text of the report of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure to the AAUP Annual Meeting, delivered by Committee Chair and AAUP First Vice-President Hank Reichman on June 14.  The Committee’s official and complete report will appear as part of the annual Bulletin of the AAUP, published annually in the July-August issue of Academe

Since we last gathered a year ago Committee A has had a full agenda. My principal task today is to present for your approval one recommendation to add an institution to the censure list and another to gain your approval to delegate to Committee A the authority to remove another institution from the censure list once the committee can attest that certain promised actions are in process. But before turning to these important items of business let me summarize the committee’s other activities during the past year.

At its November 2013 meeting Committee A approved and sent to Council a much revised and expanded version of its 2004 report Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications. Council approved the report and after some small revisions based on member input, approved by both the Committee and Council, the new policy was published in April. It will appear in the new centennial edition of the Red Book, scheduled for publication in January 2015.

At its November meeting Committee A also approved a new statement on The Freedom to Teach, a short statement written in response to numerous queries regarding Association policy on the relationship between the academic freedom of individual faculty members in the classroom and collective faculty responsibility for the curriculum, particularly with regard to multisection courses. The statement may be found on the AAUP website and was noticed in the January-February issue of Academe. In November the Committee also approved and sent to Council the Statement on Intellectual Property. Council adopted this statement at its November meeting. It too may be found on the AAUP website. These statements will also be included in the centennial Red Book.

At its most recent meeting, last weekend, in addition to approving the proposals I will bring before you shortly, Committee A also took several actions worth reporting. The committee approved a statement On Partnerships with Foreign Governments: The Case of Confucius Institutes. As an important article by Marshall Sahlins in The Nation magazine revealed, the Confucius Institutes established in many American and Canadian universities in partnership with Hanban, an agency of the Chinese government, exemplify a disturbing trend in which university administrations enter into global partnerships that sacrifice the integrity of the university and its academic staff. The statement concludes:

The AAUP joins [The Canadian Association of University Teachers] in recommending that universities cease their involvement in Confucius Institutes unless the agreement between the university and Hanban is renegotiated so that (1) the university has unilateral control, consistent with principles articulated in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, over all academic matters, including recruitment of teachers, determination of curriculum, and choice of texts; (2) the university affords Confucius Institute teachers the same academic freedom rights, as defined in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, that it affords all other faculty in the university; and (3) the university-Hanban agreement is made available to all members of the university community. More generally, these conditions should apply to any partnerships or collaborations with foreign governments or foreign government-related agencies.

The statement is in your packet and will be posted on our website and announced to the media shortly.

The Committee also discussed the apparent proliferation of mandated use of so-called “trigger warnings” in universities, including in syllabi and other course materials. The Committee agreed that such mandates violate principles of academic freedom and we appointed a subcommittee to develop an official statement on the subject, which we hope to issue even before our next meeting in November.

Before turning to our two censure list proposals, I want to share with you two pieces of exceptionally good news.

First, in a major victory the American Bar Association has rejected proposals to eliminate or dilute the tenure provisions in the ABA accreditation standards. In January AAUP submitted comments to the ABA strongly opposing the elimination of the tenure provisions and arguing against the proposal that would have diluted tenure protections. AAUP General Counsel Theresa Chmara attended the ABA Council hearing in Chicago on February 5 to present AAUP’s position and respond to questions. Although we had been informed that passage of at least one of these proposals was a “done deal,” at a March 15 meeting the ABA Council voted to reject both proposals and retain the current accreditation standards. This was a great and somewhat unexpected victory for the AAUP, for our law school colleagues, and for all those who opposed these changes. Special thanks go to Theresa and to our legal staff, Aaron Nisenson and Nancy Long, as well as to Steve Sanders, law professor at the University of Indiana, who was the primary author of the AAUP submission, and to AAUP members Bob Gorman, Bob O’Neil, Matt Finkin, David Rabban, and Rana Jaleel for their contributions.

You may recall that a year ago Committee A made no recommendation regarding censure of the administration of the University of Northern Iowa, which had been the subject of an investigation in late 2012. Based on promising developments following the appointment of a new UNI president we decided to make no recommendation but to revisit the matter this year and report back to you. I am happy to say that our report is a positive one, which is in your packet and which you may read at your leisure. The short version, however, is that all reports from faculty leaders in both the Senate and the AAUP-affiliated UNI-United Faculty union concur that the concerns that led to the investigation have been resolved and that there has been “significant progress in restoring respect for academic freedom, tenure, and faculty governance at the University of Northern Iowa.” In a communication to AAUP the UNI president thanked the AAUP’s leadership for its “support and assistance” over the past year in helping the university “move forward with AAUP as a partner in the educational process.”

In view of these many favorable developments, Committee A is pleased to close its file on the University of Northern Iowa investigation.

Now, let me turn to the business of the day.

First, we have the case of Northeastern Illinois University, whose administration we are recommending be placed on our censure list. The AAUP Council has concurred with this recommendation. I now move that the annual meeting approve the statement on Northeastern Illinois University that you have on your seats and which I will now read.

Next we have a proposal regarding an institution currently on our censure list, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. A new administration at LSU has taken important steps forward in response to the concerns that led to censure and it is our judgment that such movement will continue. However, both the LSU administration and Committee A agree that we are not yet at the point where censure should be lifted. But because that point may well be reached even before Committee A’s November meeting, we are requesting that the annual meeting delegate to Committee A authority for removing the censure providing certain criteria are met. This is more fully spelled out in the statement submitted for your approval that you will find on your seats and which I will now read.

In conclusion I want to thank the members of Committee A for their tireless work on behalf of the principles of academic freedom, our profession, and the AAUP. I would also like to thank the members of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance as well as other members of our devoted national staff for their support of the Committee and their hard work on behalf of academic freedom, shared governance, and the common good throughout higher education.

That concludes the report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

One thought on “Committee A Report to the 2014 AAUP Annual Meeting

Comments are closed.