Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Administration Violated Academic Good Practice

February 2, 2011
Contact: Gregory ​Scholtz

Washington, D.C.─ In a report published today, an AAUP investigating committee finds that, in suspending the faculty senate and refusing to grant governance rights to contingent faculty, the administration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute “contravened basic principles of shared academic governance.”

In the summer of 2007 the governing board and administration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suspended the faculty senate after senate leaders rejected the board’s demand that they amend the senate constitution to exclude non-tenure-line faculty from the senate’s constituency and membership. Most faculty in full-time non-tenure-line appointments had previously been included; around the country, non-tenure-track faculty (also called “contingent faculty”) are now the vast majority of faculty.

In place of the senate and its representative faculty bodies, the administration created its own “transitional” structure of faculty governance. After several joint administration-faculty efforts failed to resolve the impasse and after the RPI administration rejected the AAUP’s offer of a mediator, the Association authorized an investigation. Investigations are carried out by AAUP members with no previous connection to the case.

The investigation found that RPI administrators violated standards set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities and widely accepted by colleges and universities around the country. The administration and board failed to provide the faculty with compelling reasons for suspending the faculty senate.  They stripped contingent faculty of governance participation rights. And they imposed an alternative governance structure that lacks the essential characteristics of academic shared governance as widely understood in American higher education.

"In many respects, the committee system overseen and administered by the RPI senate represented an exemplary instance of faculty governance. From promotion and tenure to grievance procedures, the senate guaranteed an authoritative voice for the faculty in its areas of concern and expertise,” says Cary Nelson, AAUP president. “The loss of the senate brought those governance traditions to an end."

Both the RPI administration and campus AAUP leadership, however, have expressed hope that the current efforts to restore the faculty role in governance will bear fruit.

The report and other resources on governance are available on the AAUP’s website. For more information, please contact Gregory Scholtz .
The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, shared governance and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has over 48,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Media Contact: 
Gregory Scholtz
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, February 2, 2011