Developments Relating to Association Censure and Sanction

The Association’s staff has prepared the following brief accounts of significant developments during the past year at colleges and universities on the Associa­tion’s list of administrations censured for departures from principles of academic freedom and tenure and on the Association’s list of institutions sanctioned for infringement of academic governance standards. 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 annually with the administrations of listed institutions, offering the staff’s assistance in taking the steps necessary for removal. For information about the current 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 [email protected].


Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 1997

The published report concerns actions by the admin­istration of the college, which has no tenure system, to terminate the services of five long-serving fac­ulty members at the end of the second year of their three-year term contracts and pay them only a year of severance salary. The report found that the faculty members were entitled to the procedural protections of tenure through length of service and that the ac­tions were therefore tantamount to summary dismiss­als in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

In summer 2017 MCAD’s then president contacted the Association’s staff to inquire about removing the censure. The staff informed him that Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure would wish to see appropriate changes made to the institutional regula­tions implicated by the censure and redress offered to the five subject faculty members. With respect to the institution’s regulations, the staff recommended that the college adopt a policy affording full-time faculty members whose length of service exceeded seven years a faculty hearing prior to their being involuntarily sep­arated from service. The president informed the staff that the faculty had voted to form a union and asked whether a grievance process with arbitration would satisfy the policy requirement. The staff recommended that he send any proposed grievance article to the national office for review before the collective bargain­ing agreement was finalized. He agreed to do so.

With respect to redress, the president indicated his willingness to offer modest payments to the five affected faculty members and later took one of the affected faculty members to lunch to discuss redress for him and the other three surviving faculty members. Six or seven months passed with no further word from the president, despite several attempts to communicate with him. In October the staff learned that he had left MCAD to accept a presidency elsewhere and that a search for a new president was under way. The staff will renew discussions about censure removal with whoever is installed as president.

Lawrence Technological University (Michigan), 1998

The investigating committee found that the admin­istration did not afford even minimal safeguards of academic due process to a tenured professor whose appointment was terminated when his program was eliminated. The case was settled after he initiated litigation, and two additional cases the following year were resolved through out-of-court settlements. In 2013 two more cases eliciting AAUP intervention were resolved by a new administration. As a result, the only obstacles to censure removal that remained were deficiencies in the university’s regulations on academic freedom and tenure.

In 2017 the Association’s staff reviewed the LTU’s faculty handbook, at the president’s request, and recommended changes to six sections. Responding in April 2018, the president wrote, “I did not respond to your earlier message listing numerous changes recommended that would literally rewrite the large or major portion of the faculty handbook. I believe that it is not your role to tell us how we should change the handbook and the guidelines that have been approved by the entire faculty, the administra­tion, and the board of trustees. . . . I respectfully ask that the longstanding censure on Lawrence Techno­logical University be removed.” In reply, the staff acknowledged the progress achieved during the presi­dent’s tenure but pointed out that censure removal “requires a favorable recommendation by the AAUP’s standing Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.” The staff further noted that, under the Association’s procedures, “that committee cannot recommend removal unless an institution amends its key policies on academic freedom and tenure.” The president has not responded.

Virginia State University, 2005

The report of the investigating committee concerned the dismissal of two tenured faculty members, after each had been required to undergo post-tenure review. The committee found that the administration’s implementation of the university’s system of post-tenure review made no provision for peer involvement, permitted one unsatisfactory evaluation to stand alone as grounds for dismissal, and placed the burden of demonstrating fitness on the faculty member. In so doing, the committee found, the administration acted in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the companion 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings.

Staff conversations with various VSU administra­tions about effecting removal began in 2006. By spring 2007, removal seemed imminent, with settlements reached in both cases, AAUP-recommended revisions adopted by the governing board, and a visit to campus by an AAUP representative scheduled. The AAUP visi­tor, however, identified additional concerns regarding policies in the School of Business that precluded Com­mittee A from recommending removal.

Efforts by the local AAUP chapter brought further discussions, including a staff member’s trip to cam­pus in February 2013 for a meeting with chapter and administrative officers. In a follow-up letter to the administration, the staff member identified at least four policy issues that still needed addressing, but no action was taken.

Discussions resumed in 2017, initiated by the university’s new provost. At his request, the staff reviewed the current edition of the faculty handbook and provided specific suggestions for changes. The staff also consulted with the newly revived AAUP chapter, whose president quickly took a leadership role in addressing the policy issues that remained, working closely with the provost and with the faculty handbook committee, which she had agreed to chair. Last spring it seemed possible that the necessary changes to institutional regulations would soon be adopted. No further word, however, was received from the provost or the chapter president until Octo­ber 2018. Responding to an email message from the staff, the chapter president wrote that she had taken a leave of absence to deal with the final illness of a parent. She had consequently been unable to carry out the task she had undertaken and had resigned as president of the chapter. Good news, however, came in April when another chapter member informed the staff that she had just been elected president of the chapter. In a subsequent telephone call, she sought the staff’s advice on how to continue moving forward in effecting VSU’s removal from the censure list.

University Of Nebraska–Lincoln, 2018

The investigating committee’s report concerned the administration’s 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 conservative organiza­tion that opposes what it views as a liberal agenda in US higher education. The undergraduate student staffing the table recorded the lecturer’s actions on her cell phone, and the recording was widely disseminated online, generating negative publicity that resulted in threats against the lecturer and the university. The administration initially removed the lecturer from her teaching responsibilities, allegedly for her safety, but then refused to reinstate her, even in the subsequent semester. The investigating committee deemed the action of the UNL administration as tantamount to a summary dismissal, stating that “[t]he 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.”

Following imposition of censure by the 104th Annual Meeting, the administration and the faculty senate each indicated publicly its intention to begin working on removing the censure. Their efforts were initially delayed by internal dissension in the sen­ate in response to the senate president’s decision to proceed with that process in secret. In October the senate voted to remove the president. In November a committee consisting of representatives from the sen­ate, the administration, and the AAUP chapter began a review of the institution’s regulations in order to bring provisions relating to the terminal suspension of the lecturer into conformance with Association-supported procedural standards. With the assistance of the AAUP’s national staff, these efforts are currently ongoing. The committee is expected to complete its proposed changes by May, at which time they will be presented to the faculty senate and administration for approval, with final approval anticipated to occur in early spring 2020.


Idaho State University, 2011

The staff report concerns the action by the Idaho State Board of Education to suspend the faculty senate at Idaho State University on the recommendation of the university’s president, following several years of intense conflict between the senate and the administra­tion. The report found that no justification existed for the decision to suspend the faculty senate and that the administration had violated AAUP-supported gover­nance standards by severely restricting the faculty’s decision-making role, suppressing faculty dissent, and initiating the abolition of the faculty senate.

In spring 2018 the president whose actions led to the sanction retired. In November his successor approved a proposed new faculty senate constitution that the faculty had ratified. In December the Idaho State Board of Education gave its final approval to that constitution. As the restoration of the faculty sen­ate under a constitution approved by the faculty was the major step necessary to remove the sanction, the staff contacted the new president, the leadership of the provisional faculty senate, and officers of the AAUP chapter to recommend that an AAUP representative be sent to campus to make an assessment of current conditions for faculty governance and to submit a report of that assessment to the Committee on College and University Governance. The president and both faculty groups assented to the visit, which occurred at the end of March. After reviewing the report, the Committee on College and University Governance will discuss whether to recommend to the Association’s 105th Annual Meeting that Idaho State University be removed from the list of sanctioned institutions.