AAUP to Investigate Community College of Aurora

Washington, DC—Today the AAUP announced that it will formally investigate the dismissal of a part-time (adjunct) professor at the Community College of Aurora in Colorado. The investigation will examine the facts of the case to determine whether widely accepted principles of academic freedom, necessary for educational quality, have been violated. An investigating committee will visit Aurora, a suburb of Denver, on December 2 to conduct interviews with faculty members and administrators.

The AAUP initially conveyed its concern to the college’s administration regarding Nathanial Bork’s dismissal in a letter dated September 20. Bork, an adjunct instructor of philosophy who for six years had taught various courses at the Community College of Aurora, received notice on September 13, several weeks after the semester began, that his appointment was terminated, effective the next day. The stated reason was a lack of effectiveness in implementing a required “curriculum redesign” for the introductory philosophy class he was teaching. Bork’s dismissal occurred soon after he asked his administrative superiors to review a letter he wrote to the Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accreditor. The letter conveyed his serious reservations about the mandated changes to the course, which he claimed degrade academic standards, with potentially adverse effects for students.

According to AAUP-recommended policies, when an administration dismisses a part-time faculty member during a term of appointment, it will present adequate cause for doing so, and the faculty member will have the right to contest the dismissal in a hearing before faculty peers. This process is intended to discourage administrations from summarily dismissing part-time faculty members for impermissible reasons, especially those relating to their academic freedom. The AAUP holds that “dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or other rights of American citizens.”

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few select cases annually in which severe departures from widely accepted principles and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite efforts to resolve them. Investigating committees are composed of faculty members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter.  If the investigating committee’s published report finds that serious violations have occurred and an appropriate resolution cannot be achieved, the AAUP may place an institution on its censure list, which informs the academic community and the public that conditions for academic freedom at the institution are unsound.

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Media Contact: 
Greg Scholtz – gscholtz@aaup.org / 202-594-3624
Publication Date: 
Monday, October 24, 2016