BY RUDY FICHTENBAUM
Rudy Fichtenbaum is AAUP president.
As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at what the AAUP has done in 2016 and at what the new year may hold for us. (Not a member yet? Join us!)
In 2016, we improved conditions for academic freedom and shared governance. We worked with many institutions to improve their policies, strengthening due process and protections for academic freedom. We issued a major report on ways in which Title IX implementation on campuses can conflict with academic freedom, and made recommendations for how best to address campus sexual assault and harassment while also protecting academic freedom, free speech, and due process. We investigated mass layoffs and program closures at the College of Saint Rose and due-process violations at University of Missouri (Columbia). And we initiated an investigation into the case of an adjunct professor who was dismissed after writing a letter to his college’s accreditor conveying serious reservations about mandated changes to a course.
We helped faculty organize. Faculty at twenty-five different colleges and universities formed advocacy chapters to promote academic freedom and quality education on their campuses. We also welcomed six new collective bargaining chapters, including units representing part-time faculty, full-time faculty, and graduate employees.
We defended union rights and diversity. Throughout the year, the AAUP fought to strengthen and expand collective bargaining rights by filing amicus briefs with the courts and the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB’s ruling allowing graduate student employees to organize was a significant victory. In the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a tied Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of agency fee for public-sector labor unions, which, as we argued in our amicus brief, benefits the educational system. And in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in admissions–a win for the AAUP and other supporters of diversity in higher education.
2017 promises to be challenging. Facing Trump appointments to the Supreme Court, the NLRB, and secretary of education and labor posts, we expect to have to fight even harder in 2017 to preserve education as a common good, accessible and affordable to all. We know that challenges to agency fee and collective bargaining will arise again soon, and we must be prepared to face them with strength and unity. It’s likely that efforts to privatize our public higher education system will redouble. We have already spoken out against increased instances of discrimination and intimidation on campuses and will continue to do so, including through support for the campus sanctuary movement.
We can make a difference, but we can’t do it without you. Member dues fund legal work, research, and staff who provide expert counsel on academic freedom and shared governance. Active members inform their colleagues and bring the fight to their campuses. If you’re already an AAUP member, thank you! If you aren’t yet a member, please join us.
Your participation in the fight for the future of higher education is vital. Best wishes for a strong start to 2017.