Alert Top Message

Due to concerns about COVID-19, the AAUP office has transitioned to telework. Please contact staff by email.

 

Pacific Lutheran University Dismissed Long-Serving Faculty Member in Violation of AAUP Principles

The AAUP released a report on the dismissal of Jane Harty, a part-time faculty member with forty years of service in the Department of Music at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). The report found that the PLU administration had acted in violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure when it summarily dismissed her and then acted in bad faith by conducting a dismissal hearing the report calls a “sham exercise.” The report concluded that the relatively minor nature of the misconduct in which Harty was alleged to have engaged and the summary nature of the administrative action taken against her led to the inference that the real reasons for her dismissal may have stemmed from the administration’s long-standing displeasure with her advocacy for the rights of faculty members on contingent appointments.

Pacific Lutheran University, located in Tacoma, Washington, serves about 3,100 students, and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Beginning in 2012, PLU was the site of an academic labor dispute when the Service Employees International Union attempted to organize the contingent faculty at the institution. The administration opposed this effort, based on PLU’s religious affiliation and on the claim that full-time contingent faculty members are managerial employees. Harty coauthored a report on a survey of the contingent faculty at the institution undertaken on behalf of the local AAUP chapter and led the organizing effort among the contingent faculty. Following the conclusion of an unsuccessful organizing campaign, Harty continued to engage in activism on behalf of the non-tenure-track faculty on campus, which brought her into conflict with the administration.

As the report details, in November 2018, Harty was summarily suspended from her teaching responsibilities without a dismissal hearing for allegedly violating a directive that prohibited faculty members from accepting payment from PLU students for private music lessons given independently of the university. Following lengthy correspondence between the AAUP’s staff and the administration, in which the administration’s representatives repeatedly shifted their characterization of the action against her, the PLU administration agreed to afford Harty a faculty dismissal hearing, as stipulated under AAUP-recommended standards.

At the hearing, which was attended by an AAUP observer representing the AAUP’s national office, the administration took the position that it was not actually dismissing the faculty member, and the faculty hearing body did not therefore determine whether the charges warranted dismissal. In effect, the procedure was a dismissal hearing in name only.

The report faults the administration for having made the offer of a dismissal hearing in bad faith. It also concludes, with respect to academic freedom, that the summary nature of her dismissal, combined with the relatively minor stated basis for the dismissal, gives credibility to the notion that the actions taken against her may have been based on other considerations, including her activities in defense of her rights and the rights of other part-time faculty members.

Read the full report.

You can also watch a brief Facebook Live discussion on the report with AAUP senior program officer Hans-Joerg Tiede, below.

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 21, 2020