Illinois Wesleyan University strengthened its policies on financial exigency this spring, bringing them into compliance with AAUP recommendations. The process was led by Hans-Joerg Tiede, associate professor of computer science, who is the AAUP chapter president and also chaired a task force charged with reviewing the faculty handbook.
“AAUP policies carry a lot of weight on our campus—mainly because of the hard work of many of my faculty colleagues over many years,” Tiede says. “In reviewing the handbook, I noticed that the policy on termination for financial exigency and discontinuation of programs was not compliant with AAUP policies. So I drafted a policy by copying the relevant sections of the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations and made additions to some existing policies.”
Tiede shepherded the policy changes through the faculty council, of which he is now chair, and, after they were approv ed by the faculty, presented the proposal at several board meetings before the board ultimately approved them.
Tiede is quick to credit his institution’s board and president for agreeing to adopt the changes and recognizing the importance of the AAUP policies. “While Illinois Wesleyan had some painful budget adjustments this year, we were not facing serious financial problems,” Tiede says. “When I discussed the proposal with the president, he agr eed that this was an opportune time to make sure that we had a reasonable policy on the books, because it was important to adopt such policies when not in need of them.”
The AAUP defines financial exigency as “an imminent financial crisis that threatens the survival of the institution as a whole and that cannot be alleviated by less drastic means than the termination of faculty appointments.”
A workshop offered at the AAUP’s 2009 Summer Institute gave Tiede some practical advice on evaluating faculty handbooks. Greg Scholtz, who co-taught that workshop and who is the director of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, says that members and chapters play a crucial role in putting sound academic policies into place on the local level. AAUP leaders develop new recommendations in response to new circumstances in higher education, and staff members and leaders disseminate and interpret policies both new (such as recommendations on contingent faculty appointments) and long-standing (such as the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which has been endorsed by more than two hundred organizations).
“But these policies don’t mean much unless they are incorporated into faculty handbooks and implemented by colleges and universities,” Scholtz says.