AAUP Calls Out Lack of Faculty Involvement as WVU Board Votes on Massive Program Cuts

AAUP Calls Out Lack of Faculty Involvement, Urges Academic Due Process

Today, the AAUP sent a letter to the administration of West Virginia University warning that it “would view with grave concern any terminations of tenured faculty appointments for financial reasons that are effected in a manner inconsistent with” AAUP-recommended standards. The university’s board of governors is scheduled to vote tomorrow on final recommendations to reduce and eliminate academic programs, which could result in the termination of dozens of faculty appointments, as part of WVU’s “Academic Transformation” process.

University president Gordon Gee and the WVU administration have justified the proposed cuts by pointing to a $45 million structural budget deficit that is expected to grow to $75 million in the coming years. However, AAUP procedural standards designed to safeguard both tenure and academic freedom require that the termination of faculty appointments for financial reasons can only occur “under extraordinary circumstances because of a demonstrably bona fide financial exigency.” By requiring academic due process and extensive faculty involvement in key decision-making, AAUP standards safeguard both tenure and academic freedom during a financial crisis.

The letter notes that the WVU board of governors’ policy on academic freedom quotes nearly verbatim from the “Academic Freedom” section of the AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which the AAUP jointly issued with the American Association of Colleges and Universities. The 1940 Statement has been endorsed by more than 250 disciplinary societies and higher-education organizations.

The letter concludes by emphasizing that tenure is inseparable from the due-process protections that define it and that absent such protections, tenure, and by extension academic freedom, cannot be said to exist at West Virginia University if the program cuts proceed as proposed.



Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 14, 2023