Below is a message from Henry Reichman, Chair of AAUP.
Faculty, even those with tenure, are feeling vulnerable these days. Increasingly under attack—from legislators who want to abolish tenure or withhold funding for controversial courses, from overzealous governing boards, and even from students who might accuse them of radicalism on the Professor Watchlist website—faculty sometimes feel compelled to self-censor or to change the way they teach. The time is now to stand up for academic freedom and the importance of higher education in a free and democratic society.
Through our grant programs, the AAUP Foundation supports individual faculty members who need legal or financial assistance after being terminated without due process. Foundation grants also support faculty engagement in shared governance, academic conferences, and other professional opportunities and provide critical funding for the AAUP’s work on academic freedom and faculty governance, costs that membership dues alone cannot cover.
A recent Academic Freedom Fund grant provided replacement income for part-time instructor of philosophy Nathanial Bork, who was summarily dismissed by the Community College of Aurora after saying he would send a report to the college’s accreditor criticizing its new Gateway to Success curriculum. Mr. Bork claimed that new requirements to lower standards in “gatekeeper” courses necessary for transferring to four-year institutions would inadequately prepare students for college-level work. His dismissal was the subject of an investigation by the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which receives funding from the AAUP Foundation for investigations and reports. Delegates at the 2017 AAUP Annual Meeting will vote on whether or not to add the Community College of Aurora to the AAUP’s list of censured institutions.
The AAUP Foundation Legal Defense Fund supports faculty members in cases at the trial and appellate levels that implicate important legal rights, involve legal issues of national significance in higher education, and affect the careers of academics. Grant recipient Robin Meade—dismissed by Moraine Valley Community College after sending a letter criticizing the college’s treatment of adjunct faculty—won a settlement that affirmed the free speech rights of contingent faculty. And a New York Supreme Court ruling allowed grant recipients Marie Monaco and Herbert Samuels to continue their case challenging New York University Medical School’s salary reduction policy, used to slash their salaries after their net grant income declined due to loss of research data in Superstorm Sandy. Such legal victories make a difference for the academic profession as well as for individual faculty.
The AAUP Foundation also supports educational programs that advance the cause of academic freedom. We recently awarded a grant to Scholars at Risk—an international network that protects scholars and promotes academic freedom—for its Scholar Transition Program, which will provide training for higher education professionals who are the victims of external political upheaval. Academic freedom must not be subject to the whims of those in power—whether abroad or in this country.
Chair, AAUP Foundation