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AAUP Releases University of Southern Maine and Felician College Investigative Reports

May 13, 2015
For University of Southern Maine:
Michael Bérubé, investigating committee chair, 814-404-2178
Jordan Kurland, AAUP senior program officer, (202) 737-5900, ext. 3647

For Felician College:
Diane Zannoni, investigating committee chair
Greg Scholtz, AAUP senior program officer

Both institutions were found to have violated AAUP-supported standards

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Southern Maine addresses the actions taken by administrators at that institution to discontinue, reduce, and 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 sought to determine whether the program closures and retrenchments were conducted in accordance with AAUP-supported principles and due-process standards. The committee concludes that the USM administration violated the Association’s standards on financial exigency and program discontinuance, as well as those on academic governance.

“We were genuinely surprised by some of these closings,” said Michael Berube, investigating committee chair. “We have grown wearily accustomed to seeing French departments shuttered, but USM also closed an applied science program that had a great deal of support in the local biotech industry and a geosciences program that had the support of the state geologist’s office. Shockingly, none of the closed programs had any meaningful ‘teach-out’ provisions for students whose programs were shut down mid-year.”

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Felician College concerns the cases of seven full-time faculty members, most of them long-serving, who were notified in late January (along with nine colleagues who did not contact the AAUP) that their services were being terminated in June. The administration initially attributed its actions to a decline in enrollment that it claimed had resulted in financial exigency. Full-time faculty members at Felician College serve on renewable term appointments and are ineligible for indefinite tenure. The terminations discussed in the report were conducted in violation of 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.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed annually in a few selected cases in which severe violations of Association-supported principles and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite AAUP efforts to resolve them. Investigating committees are generally composed of AAUP members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter. 

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.

Publication Date: 
Friday, May 8, 2015