Past Issue Campaigns
Academic Bills of Rights
Over the past decade, approximately two dozen state legislatures considered legislative proposals challenged the fundamental concept that higher education in the United States is and should be free of government control or interference. The AAUP strongly opposes such proposals. Learn more.
The Commission on the Future of Higher Education was created in 2005 by Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education. The nineteen-member commission held hearings around the country to identify ways to increase access to higher education and to explore how well institutions prepared their students for the workforce. The AAUP testified at hearings, spoke at meetings, and submitted written materials to the commission. Learn more.
Endorsements and Coalition Activities
The Employee Free Choice Act, also commonly referred to as "card-check" or "majority sign-up" legislation, was reintroduced in the House and Senate on March 10, 2010. The AAUP strongly supported this bill, which would allow employees to unionize by signing petition cards rather than only by secret ballot, and worked with other groups to support passage of the legislation.
Follow-up re: Whistleblowers Protection Enhancement Act (Letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Subcomittee on Oversight and Government Management, The Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, 6/16/2009)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (Letter to the Executive Secretariat Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 5/29/2009)
Follow-up re: Border Searches (Letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, 3/20/2009)
Ideological Exclusions (Letter to the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, 3/18/2009)
Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (Letter to President Obama and several members of congress, 1/27/2009)
Transparency in the Financial Bailout Bill (Letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 9/23/2008)
Free Speech Protection Act (Statement supporting the Act, July 2008)
Border Searches of Electronic Materials (Letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, 5/1/2008)
Classified Materials (Letter to the White House Chief of Staff, 4/11/2008)
Maryland Law School Clinics vs. Perdue Chicken
Student practitioners at the University of Maryland School of Law’s environmental law clinic, under the direction of their faculty advisers, drew the ire of the Maryland Senate when they filed suit against an Eastern Shore chicken farm and one of the state’s largest employers. The suit against poultry giant Perdue accused it and the farm of multiple violations of Maryland environmental laws. In response to the lawsuit, an amendment was added to the state’s budget bill that proposed cutting $500,000 from the law school’s appropriation unless the clinic provided details to the legislature about its clients, finances, and cases from the past five years.
According to one of the amendment’s strongest and most vocal supporters, Maryland State Senator J. Lowell Stoltzfus, senators wanted to send a clear message: the law school should not target small farmers when choosing cases. In the period immediately following the amendment’s introduction and passage in the Senate, the AAUP was joined by other defenders of academic freedom and the law school in opposing it. Budget conferees arrived at a compromise that requires the environmental law clinic to submit information about its clients and its outside funding sources for the past two years or risk a $250,000 reduction in the state’s appropriation to the law school.
AAUP Action – General Secretary Gary Rhoades wrote a letter to the president of the Maryland Senate, Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., and the speaker of the House of Delegates Michael E. Busch, on April 7, making it clear that the AAUP viewed the action against the law school’s funding as a threat to academic freedom.
Louisiana Law School Clinics vs. Oil/Gas/Petrochemical Lobby
In response to the work of the work of Tulane’s law students, Louisiana legislators in March introduced Senate Bill 549 to prevent student legal clinicians at any state or private university that receives state funding from suing any government agency. The bill also sought to forbid clinics from suing individuals and businesses for financial damages and ban student practitioners from raising constitutional challenges on behalf of their clients.
As drafted, any violation of the bill’s requirements “would result in the forfeiture of all state funding to the university for that fiscal year.” The AAUP’s position, expressed in a letter from general secretary Gary Rhoades, was that passage of this bill would constitute a serious violation of academic freedom and interfere with the ways in which Louisiana’s law schools serve and engage numerous constituencies in the state and beyond. The bill would also discriminate against the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of the state, since it would not prevent all Louisiana citizens from filing suit against the government or from seeking damages—only those citizens too poor to afford attorneys and who therefore seek the pro bono services of law school clinics.
Extensive media coverage of this issue revealed that SB 549 was part of a larger attack by the Louisiana Chemical Association (LCA). Frustrated with the success of Tulane’s environmental law clinic, the LCA issued a memorandum to its 61 corporate members urging them to stop donations to the University, halt employee matching donations, and curtail recruiting at Tulane. The LCA enlisted the help of Governor Bobby Jindal, the Chamber of Commerce, and members of the state’s Congressional delegation to oppose the work of the law school students and faculty. Senate Bill 549 was just one additional tactic in that effort.
SB 549 was defeated in Committee on May 19.
AAUP Action – general secretary Gary Rhoades wrote a letter on May 14 to each member of the Louisiana Senate Commerce Committee, with copies to the four law school deans and university presidents/chancellors.