I am excited to serve as the AAUP’s executive director because this is where the fight is. US higher education is in crisis. We are four decades into a radical defunding of state institutions of higher education. Faculty salaries are stagnant, while students are asked to pay more and more for their education. The overuse and exploitation of contingent faculty and graduate student employees continues. Academic freedom is under attack, and faculty senates have seen their voices diminished—sometimes because of administrative overreach and sometimes because the faculty has not exercised the power it has. And collective bargaining—which in many instances has proven to be an important means for bettering the working conditions of faculty members and academic professionals and for maintaining academic quality—is now under attack.
The AAUP is the conscience of the profession. For nearly a century, the AAUP has defined professional standards for higher education and vigorously defended those standards when they have come under attack. And for nearly half that time, the AAUP has epitomized faculty unionism by organizing strong collective bargaining chapters and by enshrining AAUP principles and policies in collective bargaining agreements. As someone who has spent most of my career in the field organizing academic workers, I know how important the AAUP is because I hear how important the AAUP’s policy documents are any time I am on a campus. Unfortunately, this identification with AAUP principles does not always translate into membership in the AAUP.
The nature and the sheer number of the challenges facing the profession means that the AAUP must evolve. We need to make the AAUP an essential part of what it means to be an academic in a way that it isn’t right now. We need to organize tenure-line and contingent faculty, graduate students, and academic professionals at the campus level and empower them to engage in this fight on their campuses and in their statehouses while continuing to issue policy statements and define standards at a national level. We need to do a better job of acculturating graduate students and new faculty members into the AAUP so that they become members of and participate in the Association. And we need to continue to work in partnership with such organizations as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, because the challenges we face are immense, and, as we learned in the fight against Senate Bill 5 in Ohio, we are stronger together. I look forward to working with the members and the staff of the Association to address these challenges and to build an even stronger organization.