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Recommendations to the Biden Administration

In a December 7 virtual listening session on higher education with the Biden-Harris transition team and other higher ed advocacy organizations, AAUP president Irene Mulvey delivered remarks about planning for a better future for higher education; supporting students, faculty, and staff; and reversing Trump administration policies.

Thank you for inviting the AAUP to participate in this event. We are truly honored to have the opportunity to share our priorities and concerns with the Biden-Harris Transition Team. I am Irene Mulvey, the elected president of the American Association of University Professors. We represent all kinds of faculty at all kinds of institutions of higher education in the United States. We work in very close partnership with AFT on a number of issues and we also work in partnership with NEA on legislative priorities such as the Higher Ed Reauthorization.

Our priority and our mission is ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good, acknowledging that a robust system of higher education—that is affordable and accessible—is essential in a well-functioning democracy. Any specific priorities of ours would follow from that mission to advance academic freedom and shared governance in higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good.

From the AAUP:

  1. We need a plan that will make higher education affordable and accessible to anyone willing to do the work to get a degree.

  2. In that vein, we support student loan debt forgiveness. The current situation is morally wrong and economically untenable.

  3. Along the same lines, we support a national movement to increase wages for adjunct faculty in contingent positions. Most are paid literally poverty level wages. Colleges and universities administrations should be held accountable for their employment practices. We are deeply concerned that in the post-pandemic world, higher education will be offered on the backs of contingent faculty. Institutions must be disincentivized from exploiting contingent faculty.

  4. This leads to our strong support for unions and labor so that faculty and staff who want to organize unions can do so.

  5. We’d like to see the Biden-Harris team put the full weight of their new administration behind a real COVID relief stimulus package, that includes adequate funding for higher ed and ensures that students will still be able to receive a quality education and that faculty and staff will be treated with dignity and respect. (We would be remiss not to point out that funding for higher education has been eroded to a very large degree over the last ten to twenty years and that, in general, restoring funding of public higher education must be a top priority.)

  6. We need the Biden-Harris administration to provide support for scientists and other experts across all disciplines. The pandemic has shown what happens when we ignore those with expertise.

  7. Something that can be done on day one: a number of the Trump administration’s executive orders and department-level rules undermine the role that higher ed plays in our society. Right off the bat, the Biden administration should:

  • issue guidance that would allow for maximum flexibility to support international students during the COVID-19 crisis that would apply not only to current students but to new international students as well;

  • rescind Trump’s March 2019 Executive Order on Campus Free Speech; and

  • reverse the OMB’s direction to agencies to discontinue critical race theory and racial sensitivity trainings.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, December 9, 2020