Reports on our current work

The AAUP Investigates

Investigations are conducted a few times a year in cases where extreme violations of academic freedom or shared governance prove irresolvable through other means. When an administration responds by improving its policies and practices, the changes broadly benefit faculty and higher education.

Current Investigations

Vermont Law School

In early May the AAUP released  a report of an investigation of issues of academic governance at Vermont Law School (VLS), the state’s only legal education institution. The investigation was launched in response to the VLS administration’s action to “restructure” the faculty in order to address what the administration said were severe financial challenges. The investigating committee found that the administration’s actions violated the principles and standards set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities. The report details the restructuring plan imposed on the faculty in May and early June 2018. It included lowering salaries, reducing the number of full-time positions, and effectively eliminating the tenured status of three-fourths of the institution’s highest paid faculty members. Fourteen of the nineteen tenured faculty members were essentially turned into at-will employees —transferring the bulk of the teaching load to lesser-paid contingent faculty members and radically reducing the size of the full-time faculty. As a condition of their restructured appointments at VLS, affected faculty members were required to sign releases-of-claims and nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements (NDAs). Read the full report here. 

Maricopa Community Colleges

Investigators looked into the college district governing board’s decisions to repeal the entire faculty manual, put restrictions on the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. This process had been used for establishing institutional policies related to faculty matters and for making recommendations to the board on salary and budgets. These steps by the governing board eliminated the mechanism by which changes to institutional policies related to faculty matters were negotiated. They also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body, which also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law.

Investigators found evidence — based on correspondence of individual board members that was obtained through open records requests — which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by partisan ideology.

Learn more and read the full report here. Irene Mulvey, chair of the investigating committee, led a Facebook Live discussion of the report. Watch below.

Nunez Community College

This report concerns actions taken in spring 2018 by the administration of Nunez Community College to terminate the services of Professor Richard Schmitt following his twenty-second year on the faculty.  These actions were taken in apparent violation of his academic freedom and without affordance of the protections of academic due process to which he was entitled as the result of having obtained de facto tenure at the institution through length of full-time service. Read the full report here.

Here’s a Facebook Live discussion with AAUP investigating committee chair, Professor Nicholas Fleisher, about the report.

St. Edwards University, TX

Calling general conditions for academic freedom and governance at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, “abysmal,” a report we released today found credible the claims of three faculty members that their criticism of administrative decisions led to actions against them. Two of the faculty members, both tenured, were suddenly fired in their twelfth year of service. The third was not reappointed after her fifth year on the tenure track, ostensibly for financial reasons.

An AAUP investigative committee found that administrators had violated the academic due process rights of all three faculty members. The committee also noted that  “fear and demoralization” are widespread among the faculty at the university.

Read the full report here.

Maricopa Community Colleges

At Maricopa Community Colleges, we’re investigating apparent departures from widely adopted standards of academic governance. The matter stems from a February resolution of the college’s governing board that terminated a “meet-and-confer” provision of the faculty policy manual and ordered the creation of a new manual that would severely limit the participation of the faculty in institutional governance. Of particular concern is the governing board’s directive that the new manual, to be prepared unilaterally by the administration, may not allow faculty to participate in matters related to “compensation, benefits, accountability, and organizational operations.” Not only would such a change modify the structure and procedure for faculty participation, the resulting changes would themselves be at odds with principles of academic governance, which call for meaningful faculty participation in decisions that affect all of these areas. 

Recent Investigative Reports

University Nebraska-Lincoln

The report examines  the UNL administration’s actions to suspend  from her teaching responsibilities—initially, for stated safety concerns—a sixth-year doctoral student with a part-time appointment as lecturer for the 2017–18 academic year. The lecturer, Ms. Courtney Lawton, received threats after a video recording of her participation in a demonstration protesting an on-campus recruitment table for Turning Point USA was disseminated on the internet. The administration subsequently extended Ms. Lawton’s suspension through the end of her term of appointment, for stated reasons of misconduct but without affording her an appropriate hearing. Read the full report here. 

Spalding University

This report looks at the administration of Spalding University termination of the appointment of tenured professor of social work Erlene Grise-Owens after she criticized the administration’s handling of an incident involving a student who brought a gun to a campus parking lot. The social work school’s chair immediately alerted social work faculty about the incident—except the school’s three faculty members of color, even though the student was scheduled to attend class with one of them the next day. Read the full report here.

Community College of Aurora

This report examines actions taken by the administration of the Community College of Aurora, during the fourth week of the fall 2016 semester, to terminate the appointment of part-time instructor of philosophy Nathanial Bork without affordance of academic due process. Mr. Bork was dismissed after conveying his intention to send to the college’s accreditor a report detailing his “deep concerns” about the college’s Gateway to Success initiative, which modified certain entry-level liberal arts courses in an effort to improve their pass rates. Read the full report here. 

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