Legislative Priorities for the 110th Congress

The American Association of University Professors is proud of its nearly 100 years as the primary voice for faculty and the foremost defender of academic freedom.  In accordance with AAUP principles and goals, we submit the following list of priorities for the 110th Congress, which we believe will improve higher education and in turn, benefit the collective good of the nation.  

Higher Education Act Reauthorization

The AAUP looks forward to a thoughtful, comprehensive renewal of the Higher Education Act, in accordance with the following four themes outlined in the AAUP goals for the 109th Congress:

  • Increase access to a college and university education;
    Support legislation that will improve access to higher education for those who need financial assistance, especially increases in the Pell grant program, direct student loans, campus-based programs and TRIO, and ensure that Congress fully fund these programs 
  • Protect the quality of higher education programs;
    Support measures that preserve and promote the quality of higher education, including the use of new technology where claims for effectiveness still need critical examination. Insist on the central role of faculty in evaluating the academic integrity of transfer credits, and resist federal mandates to standardize procedures.
  • Promote the diversity of our higher education system;
    Support and strengthen programs for institutions serving traditionally under-represented populations. Continue support for programs to assist graduate students and to improve access for minorities and women to graduate and professional schools. Maintain the diversity of institutions that is one of the hallmarks of American higher education.
  • Maintain support for the openness of the academic community.
    Support international education and the availability of programs in multiple languages, and other methods of enriching and broadening the freedom and openness of the higher education experience.

Student Loan Interest Rates

The AAUP wholeheartedly supports the Congressional leadership’s goal of cutting student loan interest rates by half in 2007.  Financial concerns should never keep motivated students from pursuing higher education, and students should view their degrees as a benefit, not a burden.

Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

The AAUP calls upon Congress to resist any attempts to limit free expression and academic freedom in academic environments.  We oppose politically motivated interference in university curricula, particularly inappropriate attempts to politicize science departments and academic scientific research.  We also call for the full support of academic disciplines that may suffer politically motivated interference under an advisory board created under Title VI.  We also support the unrestricted publication and sharing of scholarly research.  The AAUP urges legislators to resist the false promises of “intellectual diversity” or “academic bill of rights” campaigns that harm rather than protect and advance academic freedom.   We strongly support the protection of privacy and vehemently oppose “loyalty oaths” and similar requirements as a prerequisite for employment on campuses. 

In addition, the increasing use of adjuncts potentially threatens academic freedom, as adjuncts do not enjoy the same institutional protections as their tenured colleagues.  The cancellation or non-renewal of contracts can be used to punish faculty who take unpopular positions or limit their ability to speak and publish their views freely.

International Scholarship and National Security

The AAUP urges Congress to protect academic exchanges of people and ideas, and the dissemination of scholarly research without censorship.  Overly broad, arbitrary, or restrictive visa policies place needless restrictions on the free exchange of knowledge, scholars, and students, without strengthening our national security.  We believe that focused, specific guidelines relating to the exchange of people and information in academia allow security resources to be concentrated where they are truly needed, so that both security and civil liberties are adequately protected. 

Diversity on College Campuses

The AAUP encourages Congress to support diverse student and faculty bodies on college and university campuses.  We ask for continued commitment to equal opportunity and non-discrimination, and support for programs aimed at traditionally underrepresented groups in higher education.

Full Funding for Pell Grants

The AAUP urges the full funding of Pell Grant program, and an increase in amount of the grant to make it equivalent to its original purchasing power.  Despite the decision to freeze spending amounts for FY 2007 at FY 2006 levels, we hope that the 110th Congress will return to this issue, particularly in light of strong bipartisan support.

The Association also strongly supports the following platform which includes values and issues critically important to the professoriate.

Labor Law Reform

Support legislation to overturn the Yeshiva decision, and maintain support for the legal right of faculty to take collective action, including collective bargaining. Oppose legislation that would interfere with rights of faculty to organize, to determine democratically how they participate in governance, and to exercise their freedom of association.

Health Care

Monitor the implications of the crisis in health care financing on higher education, and support efforts to alleviate those effects. The increased cost of, and decreased access to adequate health care threatens the viability and even the existence of smaller institutions, the ability of academic medical centers to provide adequate levels of medical education, and the opportunity for institutions to provide the necessary level of faculty compensation and benefits.

(posted 2/07)