BY JOHN K. WILSON
At the 103rd Annual Meeting today, the AAUP members voted to pass resolutions on funding cuts to the University of Puerto Rico and Illinois colleges, imposed censure on two administrations, and removed two administrations from the censure list.
The AAUP voted to impose censure on the Community College of Aurora in Colorado for the dismissal of a part-time instructor.
The AAUP also voted to impose censure on Spalding University in Kentucky for dismissing a tenure professor.
The AAUP also voted to remove censure from Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). All of the censure case votes were unanimous except for UIUC.
Harry Hilton, the president of the UIUC AAUP chapter, spoke out strongly in favor of removing censure and praised the efforts of the administration to reform.
Peter Kirstein spoke on behalf of the Illinois AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom, opposing the lifting of censure, criticizing the Board of Trustees for failing to apologize and the harm caused to Steven Salaita.
I argued that although the administration has made attempts at reform, the Board of Trustees has not acted to change the University Statutes or promised to follow AAUP guidelines in hiring cases. I also argued that the UIUC American Indian Studies program has been annihilated as a result of hiring a controversial professor, and that UIUC must make a commitment to hire new faculty in the program before censure should be lifted.
But a strong majority of speakers at the session felt that the members should trust Committee A and the staff who negotiated with the UIUC administration, support the UIUC chapter’s position, and not change the conditions that were initially made for removing censure. Censure removal passed by an overwhelming margin.
The membership unanimously passed a resolution, “The AAUP strongly opposes the disproportionate cuts imposed on the University of Puerto Rico by PROMESA.”
The membership also unanimously passed the following resolution from the Illinois AAUP Conference:
AAUP Resolution on the Higher Education Funding Crisis in Illinois
The 103rd Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors expresses its deep concern about the enormous state budget problems that have devastated higher education in Illinois. For three years, Illinois has failed to pass a budget. Although Illinois’ political failures have harmed many individuals and institutions in the state, colleges and universities have suffered some of the biggest blows, affecting students, faculty, and staff at all levels.
Private and public colleges are imperiled by the loss of student financial aid grants, and these unprecedented budget cuts. General Fund appropriations for higher education fell from $1.95 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2015 to $755 million in FY2016 and $843 million in FY2017. Even without adjusting for inflation, Illinois is spending less today on higher education than it did in 2000, and per-student higher education funding has been cut by 54 percent since 2008. Colleges around Illinois have raised tuition, cut staff jobs and faculty positions, and imposed furloughs and temporary shutdowns. Students are fleeing Illinois, and faculty and staff are losing their jobs because of a political dispute.
The budget impasse began with Governor Bruce Rauner, who demanded approval of his “Turnaround Agenda” that included denying workers the right to choose a union. Although there are other politicians to blame in Illinois, the problem started with Gov. Rauner, and he should have ended the damage to higher education long ago.
We call upon Gov. Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to end this political stalemate and do what is best for the students, faculty, staff, and people of Illinois by passing a budget to immediately restore full higher education funding.