Governance Violations at Union County College

New Jersey community college created an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and retaliation

Today, the American Association of University Professors released a report on severe departures from generally accepted standards of academic governance at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. The report was written by former AAUP president Robert A. Gorman, an emeritus professor of labor law at the University of Pennsylvania. Acting on behalf of the AAUP in response to faculty complaints of governance and academic freedom violations, Gorman sought to meet with representatives of the faculty, administration, and governing boards, to mediate between them, and to report on the situation. 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 sharply diminished the role and influence of the faculty in the college’s governance system. Though governance is not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining under New Jersey law, administrations of other public New Jersey institutions of higher education voluntarily agree to include provisions on faculty governance in the collective bargaining agreement or in the faculty handbook. In contrast, the McMenamin administration petitioned the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission in a successful effort to remove all such provisions from the collective bargaining agreement and halt the long-standing practices they supported.

The AAUP supports standards of governance that were jointly formulated with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. They call for adequate communication and joint planning and effort by the governing board, administration, and faculty in carrying out the wide variety of interrelated complex tasks that colleges and universities must perform. The areas in which the faculty should exercise primary responsibility include curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, and faculty personnel decisions such as appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal.

The report finds that the UCC administration violated these standards in multiple ways, characterizing the following violations as particularly reprehensible:

  1. Eliminating key faculty committees and restricting the faculty role in selecting representatives to remaining committees.
  2. Replacing departments that had chairs elected by the faculty with divisions headed by administration-selected deans.
  3. Severely restricting the faculty role in decisions related to appointment, reappointment, promotion, and tenure.
  4. Refusing to engage in any discussion of governance matters.
  5. Creating an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and retaliation inimical to principles of academic freedom.

In the spring, the AAUP’s 2016 annual meeting may vote to add Union County College to the list of institutions sanctioned for “substantial noncompliance with standards of academic government.” The list of sanctioned administrations is at http://www.aaup.org/our-work/shared-governance/sanctioned-institutions. The publication of these sanctions is for the purpose of informing Association members, the profession at large, and the public that unsatisfactory conditions of academic government exist at the institutions in question.

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; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post‐doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; 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.

Media Contact: 
Gregory F. Scholtz, gscholtz@aaup.org, (202) 737-5900, ext 3628
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, November 17, 2015