Developments Relating to Association Censure and Sanction

The Association’s staff has prepared the following brief accounts of favorable developments during the past year at institutions whose administrations have incurred AAUP censure (for departures from principles of academic freedom and tenure) or at institutions that are under sanction (for infringement of governance standards). For information about the current status of other censures or sanctions (listed respectively on pages 46 and 54), please contact the Association’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance.


 

Censure

Savannah College of Art and Design, 1993

The Savannah College of Art and Design was placed on the Association’s censure list following an investigating committee’s report that dealt with actions by the administration to dismiss two faculty members without having demonstrated cause, thereby denying them the protections of academic due process as set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The report also found a prima facie case of violations of academic freedom in actions against six faculty members to whom the administration issued notice of nonreappointment.

In the early years following the imposition of censure, the AAUP staff regularly wrote to the administration inviting discussion of its potential removal, but that correspondence was entirely unproductive. Beginning nearly a decade ago, different college administrative officers occasionally visited with the staff, who offered suggestions, none of them followed, for revision of the deficient institutional regulations. Last May, a delegation of new college administrators, determined to resolve the censure, met with the staff in the Association’s Washington office. The discussions at that time and subsequently have resulted in the adoption of policies that are in essential conformity with AAUP-recommended standards, most notably with respect to the procedural safeguards to be afforded in a dismissal for cause. The case of one of the two dismissed professors was settled through litigation some years ago. Of the remaining seven faculty members, redress is being paid to those who have been located.

The Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will be reviewing these positive developments and reporting on them to the 2011 annual meeting.

University of New Orleans, 2007

The University of New Orleans, a component of the Louisiana State University System, is one of the two universities still on the censure list among the five that were investigated by the Association’s Special Committee on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Universities.

A sharp drop in enrollment when the university reopened after the hurricane, coupled with a poor prognosis for future funding, led the administration to formulate a restructuring plan to cut programs, faculty, and staff. The governing board approved the plan together with a declaration of financial exigency and implementing procedures. Deficiencies in the procedures and in the ways administrators applied them resulted in widespread disregard for the protections of tenure in selecting professors for release. Moreover, the need for layoffs appeared to decrease steadily as the date for commencing them approached. An initial estimate indicated that the number would be eighty, but unexpectedly numerous faculty resignations and retirements brought the number down to sixteen. The investigating committee’s report concluded that the administration had not shown a need for release in any of these cases.

The Association was advised immediately after censure was imposed of reinstatement offers in some cases. The AAUP staff talked with administrative officers about potential reinstatement or an alternative resolution in additional cases, and over the next several months all of the contested cases known to the Association were resolved.

Still in need of remedy were the deficiencies in the regulations the board had adopted upon declaring a state of financial exigency. In November 2007, a detailed AAUP letter went to the chancellor and to the provost then in office, proposing specific revisions. The provost replied, stating simply that the proposals had been carefully considered. Subsequent staff letters brought no response, and a telephone call to the provost a year ago led to his saying that they had settled the cases at the AAUP’s urging and believe they have done enough.

Last summer the University of New Orleans chancellor was removed from office and the provost also left. The AAUP staff wrote to the LSU System president (functioning temporarily as acting New Orleans chancellor) and to the system’s general counsel, briefing them on the unresolved problem with the regulations and suggesting prompt action so that the new chancellor will not have to inherit the censure. The general counsel replied that a response to the Association’s 2007 proposals was being prepared by the current New Orleans administration. The response, submitted in December by the current provost (now also the acting chancellor), indicated acceptance of all the major AAUP-recommended revisions with one exception. Correspondence and discussion with the provost about the exception resulted in acceptance of what the staff proposed in a revised February document approved by all responsible parties.

The University of New Orleans AAUP membership and the Louisiana conference officers have been informed of these salutary events, which Committee A in June will review and then report to the 2011 annual meeting.

Loyola University New Orleans, 2007

Loyola University New Orleans, the second of the city’s two universities still on the Association’s censure list, suffered less damage from Hurricane Katrina than the others that were investigated. Following the resumption of operations, the administration circulated a plan, called “Pathways,” with the stated purpose of making the university’s academic programs more effective in the post-hurricane city. The plan included the discontinuance of a number of programs, not on grounds of financial exigency but primarily on the basis of educational considerations. Accompanying the elimination of the programs were the terminations of the appointments of eleven tenured professors and of six probationary professors who previously had been notified of reappointment.

The university’s official provisions for program discontinuance, and indeed for all matters bearing on faculty tenure, are fully consistent with applicable AAUP-recommended standards. Eliminating programs requires evaluation of proposed actions by an elected faculty body under criteria established by the faculty senate. The administration went forward with its Pathways plan without the participation of these faculty bodies, both of which sharply criticized the plan’s substance as well as the process being followed. Successive votes of “no confidence” in the administration by the senate and by the faculty of the university’s largest college did not prevent adoption of the plan by the trustees at the board’s meeting in May 2006.

Notifications of termination sent in June of that year to the seventeen professors informed them that they would receive a year of severance salary but would have no further teaching or other responsibilities, that they were to vacate their offices within two weeks, and that they would no longer have access to the campus. Some of the professors had already been assigned courses for the next term, and new instructors had to be recruited to teach them.

Eleven of the dismissed professors filed for a hearing, and proceedings in each case were held by the elected faculty hearing body in the fall and spring of the 2006– 07 academic year. The hearing body found unanimously in all of the cases that the administration failed to follow required procedures, failed to relocate the professor in an available suitable position, and, regarding the eight hearings that involved tenured professors, failed to provide adequate severance salary. In all eight of these cases, the hearing body recommended reinstatement.

The university president’s reply to the hearing body came late in June 2007, after the AAUP censure had been imposed. In a single brief letter, serving as his response to all of the cases, he rejected all of the body’s findings and recommendations. Seven of the professors initiated litigation, and the next three years witnessed depositions, rejected motions for summary judgment, pretrial briefs, and countless negotiation sessions. Outof- court settlements satisfactory to the plaintiffs were reached in one case after another, with the final one among them, that of the professor who had been president of the AAUP chapter, concluded this past fall.

In deciding whether to recommend removing a censure, Committee A customarily considers not only the soundness of official policies and affordance of redress to injured faculty members but also the current climate at the institution for academic freedom and tenure. In December, with the cases having been settled, the AAUP staff wrote to the Loyola New Orleans president recounting the successive votes of no confidence in 2006 and 2007 coupled with calls from the faculty senate and the AAUP chapter for corrective actions. The staff invited the president and the current provost to comment on their perception of changes in the climate for academic freedom over the ensuing four years. Letters also went to the officers of the senate and of the AAUP chapter inviting comment on whether and to what degree the “no confidence” registered in 2006–07 still stood.

The president met in February with AAUP staff members in Washington, and he followed shortly thereafter with a written response in behalf of the provost and himself. He attributed the Pathways plan and the dismissal of selected professors to several administrators who were appointed to office by his predecessor and who are no longer at Loyola New Orleans. He acknowledged that the level of faculty dissatisfaction and concern had become such that the need to restore the collegial process of faculty governance was manifest. He emphasized the work of two key 2008 administrative appointees, the current provost and a new chief financial officer, who have significantly improved the campus climate by ensuring transparency and meeting regularly with faculty groups. He stated that these officers have brought about a more efficient operation and earned strong faculty support while allowing him as president to focus on fund-raising and external relations. He concluded by emphasizing “commitment to the spirit and the letter of the provisions in the Faculty Handbook” and affirming the university’s commitment to academic freedom and tenure.

The university senate and the AAUP chapter have also responded, and the Louisiana conference officers have been notified. As a final step in gauging current conditions for academic freedom, a former AAUP general counsel with no previous involvement in the case is going to Loyola New Orleans for scheduled meetings with the president and the provost, with the executive committee of the senate, and with the chapter’s executive committee.

Committee A will be reviewing these developments at Loyola University New Orleans when it convenes in June prior to the 2011 annual meeting.

Sanction

Lindenwood University (MissourI), 1994

The report of the investigating committee dealt with conditions of academic governance at Lindenwood College (now Lindenwood University). Based on the findings and conclusions of that report, the Association’s Eightieth Annual Meeting placed Lindenwood on the list of institutions sanctioned for substantial noncompliance with generally accepted standards of academic governance.

Prior to the investigation that led to the imposition of the sanction, the college’s governing documents had been premised on a commitment to shared authority and cooperative action. The faculty was significantly involved in institutional governance and had an effective voice in determining the basic policies of the college. A change in administration, however, saw drastic changes in academic governance, with the existing structure replaced by a system in which authority was concentrated in the office of the president. Faculty meetings were conducted with rigidly controlled agendas, with little purpose other than to hear reports and announcements of decisions previously made, or actions already taken, by the president. Governance practices at the college, the investigating committee found, did not provide for a meaningful faculty role in such fundamental areas as educational policy, faculty status, and related matters where the Association’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities accords the faculty primary responsibility. Although Lindenwood College’s official policies had previously provided for a system of tenure and academic due process modeled on the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the administration that had taken office issued a new edition of the faculty handbook without these provisions, and the faculty was informed that “the College does not grant tenure.”

Four years ago, the presidency again changed. With the new president’s appointment, according to senior faculty sources at what was now Lindenwood University, conditions of academic governance improved dramatically. These sources report that wellfunctioning structures of shared governance have been established and the faculty plays a meaningful role in institutional decision-making processes. They also report a healthy climate for academic freedom. While a formal system of tenure has not been reinstated, a revised handbook, approved by the faculty and the administration during this past year, now incorporates protections against postprobationary involuntary termination and other key aspects of academic due process called for under AAUP-recommended standards.

The Association’s Committee on College and University Governance will be reviewing these welcome developments and will report on them to the 2011 annual meeting.

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