2021 Summer Institute Online

By David Kociemba

In July, more than 150 AAUP members attended this year’s lineup of trainings, plenary panels, and discussion sections at the Summer Institute Online, which featured presenters experienced in bargain­ing, organizing for change, and defending professional standards. One attendee wrote that the program provided “access to vital information relating to shared gov­ernance, academic freedom, and organizing, which are now more than ever in jeopardy.”

Workshops focused on help­ing faculty members learn the skills and access the tools and data necessary to effec­tively address current challenges in higher education. Faculty and staff from across the country worked together to answer pressing questions for AAUP chap­ters: How do we decide the issues around which to build a campaign? How do we find the key financial information that our administra­tion won’t share? How do we tell our story to legislators? How can we unite as a campus community?

Many attendees remarked on the common challenges facing faculty from very different institu­tions and chapters. In the opening plenary session, panelists discussed the AAUP’s special report COVID-19 and Academic Governance and recounted how one chapter fought back against efforts to undermine shared governance. In another session, panelists from across the country discussed how the AAUP-promoted New Deal for Higher Education could allow faculty to seize the initiative and begin to undo decades of damage to the profession. Our third plenary panel shared inspiring stories from the past two harrowing years about faculty members in advocacy chapters who united with students and staff to fight for jobs, reform due-process policies and gover­nance practices, and keep their institutions open and operating on their terms.

The issue of policing has gained national attention, prompt­ing faculty members to examine its role at institutions of higher education. In this year’s closing plenary session, presenters drew on their chapters’ experiences and the AAUP report On Campus Police Forces to explain why campus safety and policing are faculty union and shared governance issues. One attendee wrote, “I especially appreciated the panelists’ vulnerability in sharing from their personal experiences and profes­sional lives. Amazingly, they built a small, temporary community of the concerned via ZOOM!”

Ultimately, the role of Summer Institute is not only to develop new skills but also to build a sense of solidarity and connection that members can take back to their campuses. Recordings of sessions and supplementary materials are available to members at https://www.aaup.org/2021-summer-institute-resources.