Annual Conference on the State of Higher Education

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The AAUP’s Annual Conference on the State of Higher Education, held June 9–12, 2010, in Washington, D.C., featured four days of presentations on pivotal questions in higher education, in addition to keynote addresses and AAUP annual meeting business sessions. Major threads at the conference included challenges to academic freedom in the United States and abroad; faculty work and workplace issues; pros and cons of online education; contingent faculty issues; diversity, equality, and discrimination; strategic approaches to furloughs, cutbacks, and salary freezes; the role of faculty members in institutional decision making; and pedagogy.

The conference included a special AAUP-sponsored workshop, “Protecting an Independent Faculty Voice,” led by Judith Areen of Georgetown University, Robert M. O’Neil of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, and Lawrence White of the University of Delaware. The panelists discussed the threats to academic governance posed by the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos and by subsequent lower-court rulings.

Luncheon addresses were delivered by Gaye Tuchman of the University of Connecticut and the team of Gary Rhoades and Cary Nelson, general secretary and president of the AAUP, respectively. Tuchman delivered a lighthearted skewering of administrations that approach education “by the numbers” and focus on quantifiable phenomena such as U.S. News & World Report rankings, number of grant dollars received, percentage of students graduated, and the like—sometimes at the expense of more substantive concerns.

Rhoades and Nelson focused on the need for faculty solidarity and an independent faculty voice in today’s climate. As universities suffer from financial pressures and make decisions about cutting budgets, faculty members need to stand together—despite administrative tactics designed to pit departments or different types of faculty against one another and demand a substantive role in decision making.

The banquet speaker was Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Goodman works on the ACLU’s national security docket and litigates cases concerning surveillance, excessive government secrecy, torture and detention, and the freedoms of speech and association. Most recently, she has been counsel in the ACLU’s lawsuits challenging warrantless surveillance, the USA Patriot Act, the government’s practice of ideological exclusion, the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition, and U.S. detention practices in Afghanistan. In her talk, Goodman focused on how academics are sometimes uniquely affected by—but also uniquely suited to speak up and challenge—restrictions on the right to free expression that occur in the name of protecting national security. She discussed the role played by academics and the AAUP in successfully challenging the U.S. government’s practice of denying visas to foreign scholars whose political views the U.S. government disfavors and encouraged the audience to continue defending a free, global marketplace of ideas.

Capitol Hill Day

This year, nearly a hundred AAUP members descended upon Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress about current legislation affecting higher education. AAUP members met with U.S. senators and representatives, along with legislative staffers, from twenty-two states and the District of Columbia to discuss the Association’s legislative priorities.

This year’s discussions centered on labor-law reforms, concerns about the federal push for a dramatic increase in graduation rates, and emergency funding of higher education.

Having faculty, academic staff, and students lobby members of Congress directly is one of the most effective approaches to higher education advocacy. More than as just “constituents” of a particular congressperson’s district, AAUP members were often received as influential members of a community and experts on higher education.

This year’s Capitol Hill Day was a success not just because the AAUP members were able to meet with Congress and push for support of legislation that will improve the profession but also because they were able to engage in true legislative advocacy on a federal level that will surely strengthen advocacy efforts on the chapter and conference levels.

Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey received the Henry T. Yost Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership on behalf of higher education, at the Capitol Hill Day reception. In conferring the award, the AAUP’s Committee on Government Relations highlighted Representative Payne’s long-standing commitment to enhancing the Pell Grant program, his important role in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and especially his leadership this spring in protecting student-aid programs during the health-care reform and budget reconciliation debate. As a senior member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, Payne was instrumental in passing the historic Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA). Payne’s leadership in passing SAFRA will help to increase access to affordable college education for American students and to build a world-class community college system—all at no cost to the taxpayers.

Annual Meeting and Business

Concurrent with the conference were AAUP Council meetings and the annual meeting plenary, at which AAUP members conduct Association business including approving dues rates and making changes to the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. The AAUP’s general secretary, Gary Rhoades, also held an open question-and-answer session.

Collective Bargaining

Delegates to the Collective Bargaining Congress, an organization of AAUP collective bargaining chapters, held elections for five officer and executive committee positions. The winners of the elections were as follows: for treasurer, Rudy Fichtenbaum (Wright State University); for secretary, Louis Kirschenbaum (University of Rhode Island); and, as at-large members of the CBC executive committee, Mayra Besosa (California State University, San Marcos), Frances Jackson (Oakland University), and Jason Jones (Central Connecticut State University).

Rudy Fichtenbaum received the Marilyn Sternberg Award, which recognizes the AAUP member who best demonstrates concern for human rights, courage, persistence, political foresight, imagination, and collective bargaining skills.

State Conferences

Delegates to the Assembly of State Conferences, the organization comprising the AAUP’s state-level organizations, held elections for three officer and executive committee positions. The winners of the elections were as follows: for secretary, Brian Turner (Randolph-Macon College); for treasurer, Charles Smith (University of Michigan); and for atlarge member of the ASC executive committee, Lynn Tatum (Baylor University). The election for ASC chair is being held by mail; results will be posted on the AAUP Web site.

The Al Sumberg Award, which recognizes a person or organization that has been particularly effective in lobbying on issues furthering the interests of higher education or in furthering such lobbying efforts on the state level, went to the Tennessee AAUP conference. The Nebraska AAUP conference earned the Outstanding Conference Web Site Award, and the Fairfield University AAUP chapter earned the Outstanding Chapter Newsletter Award.

The Hopper Travel Award, which goes to an individual attending his or her first annual meeting to help cover travel expenses, went to Kenneth A. Fischer (University of Oklahoma).

Censure Actions

Delegates to the Ninety-sixth Annual Meeting voted on June 12 to place Clark Atlanta University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Censure by the AAUP informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to the generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure jointly formulated by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than two hundred professional and educational organizations. With these actions, fifty institutions are now on the censure list.

In addition, the delegates voted to sanction Antioch University. Institutions are sanctioned for infringement of governance standards after AAUP investigations reveal serious departures from generally accepted standards of college and university government endorsed by the AAUP.

Chapter Award

The Boston College AAUP chapter received the Beatrice G. Konheim Award, which is given to a chapter for outstanding achievement in advancing the Association’s objectives in academic freedom, student rights and freedoms, the status of academic women, the elimination of discrimination against minorities, or the establishment of equal opportunity for members of college and university faculties. The chapter was recognized for its extraordinary and successful efforts to rejuvenate itself. This chapter, which last year had been small and inactive, now has close to a hundred members and active committees on academic freedom, compensation, contingent faculty, and governance. The latter is of special concern at Boston College, which has virtually no system of shared governance.

In addition, three chapters received Konheim Travel Awards, which are given to chapters engaged in activities advancing the Konheim Award objectives to help the chapters send delegates to the AAUP annual meeting. This year’s awardees were Anna Maria College, Greensboro College, and Boston College.

Meiklejohn Award

The Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom was presented to Patricia Ann McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University. The award is given to an American college or university administrator or trustee, or to a board of trustees as a group, in recognition of an outstanding contribution to academic freedom.

McGuire was recognized for her authentic appreciation of the central role of rigorous and open debate in a university and her consistent willingness to speak out on topics that other college presidents will not touch.

In the aftermath of September 11, McGuire courageously and eloquently raised questions about the ethics of detentions at Guantanamo Bay, threats to civil liberties made in the name of national security, and new federal regulations that treated international students with suspicion and limited their fields of study. In a time of great national stress, she insisted that “the university is the rational center that must hold when all else has gone mad.”

More recently, McGuire took on those in the Catholic Church who sought first to cancel and then disrupt President Barack Obama’s commencement address last year at the University of Notre Dame. In this she stood virtually alone. In commencement remarks to the Trinity community, she called the pressure on Notre Dame “one of the angriest and most aggressively hostile efforts to block a commencement speaker ever endured by any American university.” Citing the precedent of luminaries such as Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, a former Meiklejohn Award recipient, she noted that “Catholic universities must have the same high intellectual standards as all universities, nurturing academic freedom as the bedrock of excellence in scholarship and teaching.”

2011 Annual Conference on the State of Higher Education

Planning will soon be underway for the 2011 conference. Visit here for information on how to submit a proposal.