NOTE: These two letters were read to the audience directly prior to the votes to censure Community College of Aurora and Spalding University at the AAUP Annual Meeting, June 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
Statement from Nate Bork
Community College of Aurora, Aurora, Colo.
Prior to AAUP’s presence in Colorado, all higher education faculty in the Colorado Community College System were disposable and replaceable parts, deserving of neither moral consideration nor academic rights. Without AAUP, my situation would have been business as usual and I would have been kicked to the curb sans explanation or attention, and the standard administration’s response of “We don’t discuss internal matters” would have been all that anyone would have been able to find out about it.
Because AAUP does have a presence, for which I am glad to have established a chapter at the Community College of Aurora, my retaliatory dismissal without due process was able to get the attention it deserves. Committee A’s Investigation was not only thorough, but fair as it sought out both parties to the degree each was willing to cooperate. Committee A was the only organization involved that acted in a professional manner and treated the matter as important, and their work will make a major impact on CCA, the larger Aurora community, and throughout the Colorado Community College System.
Equally important is the AAUP foundation’s support of me throughout this process. They provided guidance throughout the process, and their grant helped me bridge the gap between my former situation and my new career as I begin work towards my Ph. D.
Beyond my individual situation in 2016, I have reason to believe that the plan to increase Student Success rates via lowered standards at CCA was meant to be a pilot program for the entire state. Shortly after Committee A announced their findings, all faculty at Arapahoe Community College, where I also teach, received an email announcing a similar plan, but because of the light AAUP had shone down on CCA’s policies, the full-time faculty there were quick to push back and the plan was quickly scuttled.
Committee A did a great service to higher education in Colorado. Because of their work, students now know about the deceptive practices CCA tried to implement that would have resulted in them receiving lesser education. Because of their work, current and potential full-time and adjunct faculty now know of the very real danger to their already extremely limited academic freedom. Because of their work, college and system administrators know that their actions can be made public, and that there is now an opportunity for faculty to push back when an administration acts without any consideration to the students and educators whom their decisions affect.
For all of Committee A’s work, I was, am, and shall remain thankful. The harm that would have happened without AAUP’s Committee A report giving me a voice would have negatively impacted Colorado’s students and educators for generations, and all protests and concerns on the part of faculty throughout the state would have been met with immediate dismissal without due process.
AAUP has taken its place as the defender of academic freedom in the state of Colorado, and I am humbled and thankful to have been a part of all of this.
Statement from Dr. Erlene Grise-Owens
Spalding University, Louisville, Ky.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak by proxy to this body.
I am a self-professed “word nerd.” But, I cannot describe what it is like to be fired by a university where I was a full, tenured faculty member of almost two decades; be denied basic professional processes, much less humane consideration; be ousted from a program I helped start and into which I poured my professional passion, expertise, and commitment; be maligned about “unflattering,” albeit unspecified and undocumented accusations; be prevented access to professional roles and resources; and be stymied in a professional path on which I have found great joy and meaning.
But, GRATEFUL. That one word encapsulates my experience with AAUP, amidst this indescribable experience. From the initial e-mail and phone call, to my next conversations with the additional staff members, AAUP has been impeccable! From the outset, staff members were compassionate in their attention to the impact of this situation on me, personally. At the same time, they were clear that they do not represent me, individually, but rather advocate for the core principles of academia. This compassion and clarity were balanced and admirable. In particular, I applaud Hans-Joerg Tiede! He has been unstintingly authentic, transparent, respectful, and competent. I am grateful.
And, the investigating committee—comprised of Professors Michael DeCesare, Rachel Buff, and Emily Houh—was simply stellar! In my interview with them, they were thoughtful and thorough. The final report was a masterpiece of clarity and completeness. I appreciate the talent and time required for such documentation. The entire process was fair, unbiased, and comprehensive. I am grateful.
I am grateful for AAUP’s intervention in my situation. Likewise, I am grateful for the investigation ensuring accountability and shining light on the University’s administration and culture. I hope this intervention will inform and impact both this particular university and broader academia.
I am grateful for the ongoing work of AAUP in representing and advocating for the BEST of what academia is and should be. The role of AAUP is even more crucial in this era. AAUP sets a standard of excellence in accountability that other professional organizations (e. g., accrediting bodies) can emulate. I am encouraged by the vigilance, integrity, and competence evident through this experience. I hope others will be encouraged, as well.