Investigative Reports Published

By Anita Levy and Gregory F. Scholtz

The AAUP published four investigative reports this spring, all of which are available on the AAUP’s website. Unofficial summaries of their content follow.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center focuses on actions taken by the administration of the cancer center to terminate the services of two professors, one with twelve years of service and the other with thirty, in violation of the joint 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The 1940 Statement provides that full-time faculty members with more than seven years of service be afforded the due-process protections that normally accompany tenured status. MD Anderson employs a system of “term tenure” in which faculty members serve on renewable seven-year appointments. Upon notice of nonrenewal, their grievance rights are limited to appealing the adverse decision to the same administrative officers who rendered it. The report found that the affected faculty members, who had been recommended for “renewal of tenure” by the faculty personnel committee, were not therefore afforded what AAUP-recommended procedural standards require when an administration seeks to separate a post-probationary faculty member from service: opportunity for an adjudicative faculty hearing in which the burden of demonstrating adequate cause for dismissal rests with the administration. The report also found that the MD Anderson administration disregarded normative standards of academic governance, as set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, by declining to provide “compelling reasons stated in detail” when it rejected the faculty personnel committee’s recommendations.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign involves the actions taken by the UIUC administration and the board of trustees in early fall 2014 not to approve the tenured faculty appointment previously offered to Steven Salaita in October 2013. These actions, which occurred against the backdrop of a summer of fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians in Gaza, were triggered by Salaita’s expression of outrage at events in Gaza, which he made in a series of impassioned posts on Twitter. The investigating committee’s report addresses a number of critical issues, among them whether the UIUC board and administration conformed to AAUP-supported principles in the decision not to confirm Salaita’s appointment; Salaita’s faculty status at UIUC at the time his appointment was rejected by the chancellor and the board; the extent to which he was entitled to the academic freedom and due-process rights accorded to tenured faculty members; and the relevance of extramural expression, including on social media forums like Twitter, in determining the fitness of a faculty member for a university position. Among the report’s conclusions are that the administration and the board of trustees, in rejecting Salaita’s appointment without having demonstrated cause, acted in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and that the chancellor’s and the board’s reasons for rejecting the Salaita appointment violated Salaita’s academic freedom and contributed to a poorer climate on campus for academic freedom. The report affirmed the Association’s position that aborting an appointment in this manner without having demonstrated cause is tantamount to summary dismissal, an action categorically inimical to academic due process.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Felician College concerns the cases of seven full-time faculty members who were notified in late January (along with nine colleagues who did not contact the AAUP) that their services were being terminated in June at the end of their one-year appointments. The administration attributed its actions to a downturn in enrollment, which, it claimed, had resulted in financial exigency. Full-time faculty members at Felician College, like those at MD Anderson, serve on renewable term appointments and are ineligible for indefinite tenure. The terminations discussed in the report were not preceded by the procedures set forth in Regulation 4c, “Financial Exigency,” of the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and none of the seven faculty members, all but one of whom had served well beyond the seven-year maximum period of probation permitted under the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, was afforded the procedural protections that accompany tenured status. The report also discusses the deplorable conditions for academic freedom and faculty governance in the absence of a tenure system.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Southern Maine addresses the decision by administrators at the University of Southern Maine to reduce or consolidate numerous academic departments and to reduce the size of the faculty by fifty positions as of the end of the fall 2014 semester. The investigating committee was charged with determining whether the program closures and retrenchments were justified and whether they were conducted in accordance with AAUP-supported principles and due-process provisions. The committee concluded that the USM administration violated Association-supported standards on financial exigency and program discontinuance, as well as those on academic governance, as set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, meeting on May 29 and 30, will formulate the official statements on the four cases for presentation to the AAUP’s annual meeting on June 13. These statements may conclude with a recommendation that the annual meeting impose censure. The official statements and resulting censure actions will be printed as part of Committee A’s annual report in the next issue of Academe (the 2015 Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors), and the investigative reports themselves will appear elsewhere in that issue.

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