Pacific Lutheran University Added to List of Censured Administrations

The governing Council of the American Association of University Professors voted to add Pacific Lutheran University to the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. The Council also voted to remove Clarkson College of Nebraska. Since 1938 the AAUP has censured administrations of higher education institutions for failing to observe generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure. Prior to the restructuring of the AAUP that occurred in 2019, censure was imposed by vote of the annual meeting; it is now imposed by vote of the governing Council.

  • Pacific Lutheran University, located in Tacoma, Washington, serves about 3,100 students and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In November 2018, the PLU administration terminally suspended a part-time faculty member with forty years of service in the Department of Music without affording her academic due process. An AAUP report found that the terminal suspension was tantamount to a summary dismissal and thus effected in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The report also found that the dismissal hearing the administration eventually afforded the faculty member, at the AAUP’s urging, was a “sham exercise” conducted in “bad faith.” The report concluded that the available evidence supported the inference that the administration may have dismissed the faculty member based on its long-standing displeasure with her advocacy for the rights of faculty members on non-tenure-track appointments. On the basis of the report, the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure recommended that the administration of Pacific Lutheran University be added to the Association’s censure list, with the AAUP’s Council casting the final vote imposing censure.
  • Clarkson College, a health science-focused institution located in Omaha, was placed on the AAUP’s censure list in 1993 after the college’s administration summarily terminated the services of four full-time faculty members who had attained de facto tenure through length of service. The AAUP investigating committee determined that the college’s policies lacked provisions affording minimal protections of academic due process. The cases of three of the subject faculty members were resolved in 1995, and the fourth faculty member passed away in 2003, leaving only the policy issues to be addressed in order for censure to be removed. In spring 2020, with the encouragement of the interim president, herself a former faculty member at the institution, the faculty voted to adopt AAUP-proposed language that addressed the procedural deficiency, and two administrative bodies voted final approval. In late May, an AAUP representative interviewed faculty leaders and administration officers and reported to Committee A that sound conditions for academic freedom and tenure, as well as shared governance, now exist at the institution. Based on the adoption of the AAUP-proposed change to its policies and the favorable report of the AAUP representative, Committee A recommended that Clarkson College be removed from the Association’s list of censured administrations, and the Council voted its approval.

Censure by the AAUP informs the public as well as the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to the generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure jointly formulated in 1940 by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 250 professional and educational organizations. As of today, 58 institutions remain on the censure list.       

Read Committee A’s statement recommending that Pacific Lutheran University be added to the AAUP’s list of censured administrations.

Read Committee A’s statement recommending the removal of Clarkson College from the AAUP’s list of censured administrations.

Publication Date: 
Monday, June 22, 2020