Washington, DC—Today, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released a report on the investigation of the case of Nathanial Bork, a part-time faculty member dismissed by Colorado’s Community College of Aurora (CCA) early in the fall semester of 2016. The investigation found that the CCA administration fired Bork in disregard of basic principles and standards of academic freedom. The report, available here notes that at CCA the academic freedom of part-time faculty members “is not universally guaranteed as a matter of institutional policy but selectively bestowed as a function of administrative benevolence. That is to say, it does not exist.”
The case offers insight into the conditions of contingent academic employment. It touches on themes of academic freedom, due process, administrative overreach, and the dumbing down of course material. Bork was fired after six years of teaching philosophy and related courses with positive reviews because he allegedly had failed to adequately implement a curriculum redesign mandated by the CCA administration. Bork, an advocate for adjunct rights, believed his dismissal was in retaliation for a report he wrote to the Higher Learning Commission, the institution’s regional accrediting agency, criticizing CCA’s efforts to raise course completion rates by lowering standards. In violation of AAUP due-process standards for part-time faculty, the administration did not afford Mr. Bork an opportunity to contest his dismissal in a faculty hearing.
The report states, “As the proportion of the faculty employed in adjunct and other contingent positions grows, the overall academic freedom of America’s faculty shrinks.” A lack of due process protections creates a climate of fear amongst those who teach part time and leads to an absence of academic freedom, foundational for quality higher education.
“Professor Bork is not alone. The AAUP and members of the profession will continue to advocate, with adjunct and other contingent faculty, to ensure such rights and protections as ought to be afforded all who teach in the nation’s colleges and universities, tenured or not. To do less would be an injustice to students and an abrogation of the Association’s hundred-year-old commitment to the common good,” said Debra Nails, professor of philosophy emerita at Michigan State University and member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
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 AAUP members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter. If, in academic freedom and tenure cases, 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 public and the academic community that conditions for academic freedom at the institution are unsound.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) champions academic freedom; advances shared governance; and promotes economic security for all who teach and research in higher education. Since 1915, the AAUP has shaped American higher education by developing standards that uphold quality education and ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.