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Developments Relating to Association Censure

Every spring the Association’s staff prepares brief accounts of significant developments during the previous year at institutions on the Association’s censure and sanction lists. Members of the staff, acting on behalf of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and of the Committee on College and University Governance, communicate semiannually with the administrations of listed institutions, offering assistance in taking the steps necessary for removal. Last spring the staff reported positive developments at Bastyr University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln that, happily, resulted in their removal from the list of censured administrations later in 2021. While no such removal seems to be in immediate prospect this year, the staff does have favorable developments to report at one institution.

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.


 

ST. EDWARD’S UNIVERSITY (TEXAS), 2019

The report of the investigating committee concerns the dismissals of two tenured faculty members and the nonrenewal of a tenure-track faculty member. The tenured faculty members, husband and wife, were dismissed without affordance of a faculty dismissal hearing, in contravention of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The tenure-track faculty member was not afforded timely notice of nonrenewal or opportunity to contest the decision with a faculty review committee, as required under Regulation 2 of the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

The investigating committee found credible evidence that the actions against all three faculty members were based on considerations that violated their academic freedom. Although the administration claimed it had dismissed the tenured faculty members for manifesting “continued disrespect and disregard for the mission and goals of the university,” the investigating committee found that the basis of the administration’s summary actions was more likely their “persistent outspokenness about administrative decisions and actions.” In the case of the tenure-track faculty member, the investigating committee found plausible her allegation that the decision not to renew her appointment was a consequence of her having lodged complaints of sexual harassment against an administrator.

Although the cases that led to the investigation have thus far eluded resolution in the courts, progress has occurred on addressing the faculty manual policies implicated in the actions against the three professors. In July 2021, the new president of St. Edward’s responded to the AAUP staff’s semiannual solicitation of interest in censure removal by indicating that removing censure was a “priority” for her administration. In September, she asked the institution’s faculty senate president to work directly with the staff to address the policy issues, stating that the institution’s effort to remove censure “should be a joint effort of faculty, faculty governance, administration, and board.”

In October, at the senate president’s request, the AAUP’s staff sent the senate suggested revisions to the faculty manual upon which Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure was likely to insist in order to recommend censure removal. In November, the faculty senate president wrote to the staff to say that the administration seemed supportive of the changes. In early December, the staff met by teleconference with the St. Edward’s faculty to explain AAUP censure and the process for removal. According to the senate president, the faculty senate in January unanimously approved the revisions suggested by the AAUP’s staff. He also reported that, after being reviewed by the full faculty at the end of March, the senate-proposed revisions will be forwarded to the president for approval in April, and the governing board will vote on whether to adopt them at its May 6 meeting.

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