Thursday, June 24, 2010

AAUP and a breaking academic freedom story

An academic freedom story -- breaking just this past week -- can show by example how one element of my ASC Action Plan could work (cf. May 28): Information and action alert when academic freedom is threatened!

ACADEMIC FREEDOM as a contractual right is for all alike in higher education: adjunct/tenured, part-time/full-time, temporary/tenure-track. It is the thrust of the AAUP Speak UP/Speak Out Campaign (

"A contract is a contract" -- but not if your AAUP-affiliated collective bargaining chapter doesn't even try to enforce its academic freedom article. SUNY'S AAUP-affiliated union last week refused to pursue an academic freedom grievance -- simply because the aggrieved was on a part-time temporary appointment.

AAUP lends its voice to union organizing, yet how and where is this AFT-affiliated union walking the walk of academic freedom? What is the "duty of fair representation"? How can we promote shared information and lobbying from AAUP members in the cause of academic freedom?

(told with permission)

You are an established scholar from a major European university engaged by a major campus in one of the largest U.S. university systems to teach and conduct research, with part of your salary being awarded from a national foundation grant and part from regular SUNY payroll. [With modification, this story could be happen to you or to a colleague.]

Your supervisor repeatedly "visits" your classroom unannounced and without your permission, and emails instructions to use PowerPoint in your 15- to 25-student seminars -- even censoring which sources you may and may not cite in your courses.

You reply, defending your academic freedom, your contractual right to use the methods that you deem appropriate in course instruction where you are the instructor of record.

Your student evaluations are similar to those received in the department and are 'good'. Your research work progresses.

Your dean cancels the second semester of your appointment. Your home university in Europe protests.

Your campus grievance chair, Paul Zarembka, presents the first-level grievance with written and oral argument.

You have considerable support both on campus and in the community.

The university campus denies the grievance.

Only the SUNY union President can advance the grievance to the system level but the union President demurs, without even considering the merits of the case -- because the grievant is a part-time temporary employee.

As the 10-day limit for advancing the case file is ending, the grievance chair asks the union President to file for an extension to re-consider his decision, but SUNY refuses to grant an extension -- because the grievant is a part-time temporary employee.

The SUNY union President then refuses to pursue academic freedom for temporary employees (unequivocal documentation available upon private request), depriving grievant of recourse and compensation.

The SUNY union President thus condemns all non-tenure-track employees to inferior, unprotected status regarding academic freedom despite the global application of the contract (cf. Article 9 at and the Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

is just one of the agenda items in my ASC Action Plan for serving the membership in the cause of academic freedom. All interested AAUP members would be able to subscribe, receive and share information and work for the defense of academic freedom in all colleges and universities – as well as enforcement of the "duty of fair representation" in both AAUP advocacy chapters and chartered/affiliated AAUP unions alike.

No comments:

Post a Comment