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Developments Relating to Association Censure

The AAUP’s staff has prepared the following brief accounts of favorable developments during the past twelve months at two institutions whose administrations have incurred Association censure because of departures from AAUP-recommended principles and standards of academic freedom and tenure. For information about the status of other institutions on our censure and sanction lists (printed elsewhere in this issue), please contact the Association’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance at academicfreedom@aaup.org.


Bastyr University (Washington), 2007

Censure resulted from an investigating committee’s findings that actions by the Bastyr University administration to terminate the services of three faculty members, without demonstration of adequate cause or affordance of other safeguards of academic due process, constituted summary dismissals in violation of their academic freedom.

Ongoing efforts to remove the censure, undertaken by the faculty senate and the local AAUP chapter in cooperation with the administration and with the assistance of the Association’s staff, have been proceeding apace. As a step toward addressing deficiencies in the university’s policies on academic due process, the chapter president sent a draft revision of the faculty handbook to the AAUP for review. The AAUP’s staff reviewed these policies and recommended several changes, while noting that key due-process deficiencies in the existing institutional regulations appear to have been corrected. The staff anticipates reviewing the handbook again shortly. In February, the staff’s communication to the university president led to a request to meet by conference call to discuss steps toward censure removal. With respect to redress for the subject faculty members, the president informed the Association that productive discussions were underway with two of the faculty members, while the third had not responded to overtures to meet with the administration.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2018

The report of the investigating committee concerned the suspension of a sixth-year doctoral student appointed as a part-time lecturer in the Department of English. She had participated in a demonstration protesting an on-campus recruitment table for Turning Point USA, a right-wing organization that opposes what it views as a liberal agenda in US higher education. The undergraduate student who was staffing the table recorded the lecturer’s conduct on her cell phone, and the recording was widely disseminated online, generating publicity that resulted in threats against the lecturer and the university. The administration initially removed the lecturer from her teaching responsibilities, purportedly for her own safety, but then declined to reinstate her, even in the subsequent semester. The investigating committee deemed the action tantamount to a summary dismissal, stating that “the conclusion seems inescapable that the basis for [the lecturer’s] dismissal was related to the political content of her speech and thus may have violated her academic freedom, a conclusion that stands unrebutted absent the affordance of a dismissal hearing.” Censure was imposed by the 104th Annual Meeting.

Efforts to remove the censure, undertaken by the faculty senate and the local AAUP chapter with the assistance of the Association’s staff, have seen substantial progress in the past year. On April 9, 2021, the system’s board of regents amended their bylaws to bring institutional regulations relating to faculty suspensions into essential conformity with Association-supported standards. In particular, the amended bylaws acknowledge that a suspension for the duration of a faculty member’s term appointment is tantamount to a termination of appointment and therefore requires an adjudicative hearing before an elected faculty committee, in which the burden of proof rests with the administration. The board’s approval of these amendments was a substantial step toward removing UNL from the Association’s list of censured administrations.

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