Salaita: Campus Faculty Association on Investigation and Censure 

The Campus Faculty Association of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was an early advocate of an American Association of University Professors investigation of the university’s administration. Throughout the Steven Salaita viewpoint-cleansing assault on academic freedom, CFA has sustained an impressive advocacy in support of academic freedom and shared governance. One of the benefits in being engaged in AAUP matters, is the opportunity to leave the ghettoized world of one’s campus politics and endless petty disputes and “see the world” either visually or virtually on other campuses. The Campus Faculty Association is an exemplar of establishing a community of scholars that transcends the UIUC campus. They have sought and given counsel to professors interested in their mission. CFA’s courageous efforts to unionize the entire faculty under such harsh, oppressive conditions is laudable. Currently non-tenure track faculty have gained recognition and are affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and AAUP. I should add for those interested in the Salaita matter, that the CFA Facebook page is an excellent compendium and dynamic source of information on the Salaita, Kilgore and other academic freedom cases on campus.

Please see following unedited full text:

The abuse of academic freedom and faculty governance procedures in the Kilgore and Salaita cases have placed our university at grave risk of censure from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). How might the AAUP censure process play out over the coming year, and what consequences might the university face?

Background. Job candidates at the University of Illinois are formally told we “subscribe to the principles of academic freedom and tenure laid down by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).” Yet recent administration actions raise serious doubts about the university’s commitment to AAUP principles.  The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) has stood up to defend academic freedom and the rights of the faculty by requesting back in August that the AAUP conduct an investigation into the Administration and Board of Trustees’ actions.

The current situation.  After Dr. Salaita’s hiring was terminated, the AAUP warned the university  that “[a]borting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause has consistently been seen by the AAUP as tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic freedom and due process and one aggravated in [Salaita’s] case by the apparent failure to provide him with any written or even oral explanation.” Right now the AAUP is waiting for the campus Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) to report on the matter, and then for the administration to respond to that report. Nothing prevents the AAUP from initiating an investigation before the campus process is complete, especially if that campus process appears to get stalled.

Why is an AAUP investigation likely? Regardless of the outcome of the CAFT report, it seems likely to us that the AAUP will authorize a formal investigation – because the Chancellor and Board of Trustees have already acted to deny the tenured position and show no signs of reversing course.  Since the specific situation of Dr. Salaita involves general principles (as does the earlier case of James Kilgore), an investigation could proceed even if he reaches a legal settlement with the university.

How does an AAUP investigation proceed? Investigations are authorized by the Executive Director after consultation with AAUP staff. If the AAUP authorizes an investigation, then the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance sets up an investigating committee, and the investigating committee issues a report to AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom. Then Committee A makes a recommendation to the AAUP Annual Meeting regarding censure of the institution.

Can violations lead to AAUP censure? Yes, if the investigating committee finds serious violations of AAUP principles, then censure can be voted upon by the Association’s membership at the Annual Meeting in June.

How does censure work? AAUP relies upon its reputation as the conscience of the academy to recommend a common law across higher education, particularly in the areas of academic freedom, tenure, shared governance, adjunct rights and academic due process. When an institution grievously violates AAUP principles that have been widely accepted throughout the academy, formal censure is the appropriate response.

When AAUP censures a university, it is the administration and governing board that are censured – the institution as a whole is not. But even if the President, Chancellor, and Board of Trustees are replaced, the censure remains in effect until the institution implements needed changes in policies.

What effect does censure have on hiring and on faculty?  Censure seriously affects an institution’s reputation.  AAUP leaves to the discretion of individual scholars whether they wish to accept an appointment at a censured institution. AAUP does encourage job applicants to examine carefully the institution’s commitment to academic freedom, tenure and shared governance before accepting a position.

Faculty members of a censured institution remain eligible to join the AAUP. Faculty members are encouraged to work within their institution to mitigate the violations of AAUP standards that led to censure.

Which universities are currently under censure? The Censure List is posted on the AAUP website. Very few research institutions such as the University of Illinois ever commit violations worthy of placement on the List.

Conclusion. The Campus Faculty Association believes an AAUP investigation is highly warranted, given the seriousness of the Administration’s violations of academic freedom and faculty governance procedures. If an investigation leads to formal censure, the damage to the university’s reputation will be significant.

We believe the faculty need to regain power over academic employment matters at this university. The best way forward is through unionization, so that tenure stream faculty gain the power of collective bargaining to protect the university from administrative encroachments on freedom of speech and inquiry and on the role of the faculty in academic hiring. These are important reasons why the CFA is building a faculty union. If you agree with the goal, then contact us today to join the union effort!

We are grateful to Peter N. Kirstein, Chair, Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, for assistance in writing this article.

Note: non-tenure-track faculty in most colleges on campus have union representation already, through CFA Local 6546

6 thoughts on “Salaita: Campus Faculty Association on Investigation and Censure 

  1. Is the AAUP leadership not ashamed to leave the decision to investigate any/all academic freedom violations solely in the hands of non-elected staff?

    The staff consult among themselves, we are told. And the main “decider” is a person chosen NOT for his/her experience with academic freedom defense, etc. but with management of a central office and union organizing. No longer does AAUP have a General Secretary whose background, vision and responsibilities were far more encompassing and involved with all aspects of the Association.

    The “reorganization” of the AAUP, and the leadership’s unilateral decision to reduce the position to one of an Executive Director focused on national office management runs counter to the history and the continuing needs of the organization. The disempowering of the Assembly of State Conferences by the officers this past year has been yet another debacle with far-reaching implications for the organization. Where is the focus on academic freedom in AAUP — rather than on self-serving fundraising through union organizing affiliations with AFT, et al. to garnish member wages with agency fees?

    These facts tell members that accountability to the membership within the AAUP is sorely lacking, that the AAUP National staff are a small, hand-picked, closed club with overwhelming power as arbiters of member access to the rights and privileges to which the Association had been pledged for one hundred years. Yes, “had” been pledged.

    It is a truism that flawed processes almost always generate flawed results. The future is indeed dim for academic freedom at UIUC — and for the AAUP we once admired, respected, and loved.

    • I address only one of the points here. There is a three-person investigating committee consisting of full-time faculty who visit a campus and compile a report. Their input as seen in the Northeastern Illinois University case is of significant importance in determining whether an investigation leads to censure. Hence, it is not merely a decision to investigate but the investigating team of professors that can either halt or recommend continuous engagement that could lead to censure. I was interviewed by the team that came to N.E.I.U. and they were objective, focused and very well informed.

      • The insanity of it all is that the faculty of AAUP only enter into full formal investigations _after_ the non-elected National staff Executive Director determines whether or not Committee A may go forward. While this may have made some limited sense in the past under broader-based General Secretary leadership, it makes no sense today in our expanding concept of participatory democracy and insistence upon academic freedom in universities and colleges in the age of information.

        Indeed, many of the National AAUP staff positions, including the Executive Directorship, do not foreground a requirement that the incumbents have themselves served in faculty positions and have on the ground experience with researching and defending academic freedom and governance principles of the Association.Indeed, in the recent past the AAUP leadership even went in the opposite direction from faculty, choosing former college presidents for major staff positions, including the General Secretary role.

        Today’s AAUP leaders, aghast at the election nomination and balloting reforms imposed upon them by the US Department of Labor, have determined to curtail broad-based member participation in the work of the Association as much as possible: they have gutted the treasury of the Assembly of State Conferences (provoking the resignation of its elected Chair), and further, have devised a legally and ethically questionable election protest procedure which forbids the use of email filing and essentially requires any person protesting the conduct of a national AAUP election to spend several hundred dollars on certified mail and photocopying expenses to notice every person on the ballot — which could be done with a keystroke in electronic communications at no real expense to anyone.

        If a university administration imposed that kind of extortionist requirement on a grievance procedure, union leaders would cry “foul” — but for AAUP leaders this is just business as usual in the corporatist AAUP of the centennial, masquerading as a union alternative to faculty in this country.

  2. Not sure about what past of the AAUP is being seen as a better one. Was it when the AAUP spoke against boycott of Israel? What is when Cary Nelson was its face?
    When there clear contradiction at the heart of what the AAUP should stand for, because censure and boycott is the same; it targets institutions hoping through this to push for change.
    What I see now on these issues is much more positive than the past.
    Still your asking for more democratization is important to push for.

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