Governance Violations at Union County College

By Gregory F. Scholtz

The AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance has authorized publication of a report on serious departures from AAUP-supported standards of academic governance at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. The report, published in November on the Association’s website, will be printed in the forthcoming Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors. It was prepared by former AAUP president Robert Gorman, an emeritus professor of labor law at the University of Pennsylvania. The national AAUP’s governance staff asked Gorman to visit the campus to meet with representatives of the faculty, administration, and governing board; to attempt mediating an amelioration if not a resolution of the issues; and to write a report for the AAUP that would be shared with all interested parties. President Margaret M. McMenamin, however, declined to meet with Gorman, as did the chairs of the college’s two governing boards.

The report details how McMenamin instituted changes in the college’s governance system that “sharply diminished the role and influence of the faculty” through filing a scope-of-bargaining petition with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission. Under New Jersey law most matters of faculty governance are “nonmandatory” subjects of bargaining not subject to negotiation. Over one hundred provisions, many of them related to the faculty’s role in institutional governance, were eventually stripped from the collective bargaining agreement. In contrast to other administrations, which voluntarily agree to include provisions on faculty governance in the collective bargaining agreement or in the faculty handbook, the McMenamin administration acted to remove all such provisions and halt the longstanding practices they supported.

The report finds four administrative actions to be particularly reprehensible in light of AAUP-supported principles and standards: (1) eliminating key faculty committees, restricting the faculty role in selecting representatives to remaining committees, and replacing departments with faculty-elected chairs with divisions headed by administration- selected deans; (2) severely restricting, if not eliminating, the faculty role in decisions related to appointment, reappointment, promotion, and tenure; (3) foreclosing any discussion of governance matters with the excuse that they were nonmandatory subjects of bargaining; and (4) creating an atmosphere of “fear, intimidation, and retaliation” inimical to principles of academic freedom.

In spring 2016, the Committee on College and University Governance will determine whether to recommend, on the basis of this report, that the 102nd Annual Meeting vote to add Union County College to the list of institutions sanctioned for “substantial noncompliance with standards of academic government.”

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