Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AAUP Reports on Mass Faculty Dismissals at the University of Southern Maine and on Felician College

(Pix (c) Larry Catá  Bcaker 2015)

From a recent AAUP Press Release
Last month the AAUP released the reports of investigations of alleged violations of academic freedom and tenure at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Today I’m writing to announce the release of two new investigating committee reports, both involving mass dismissals of faculty.

In these two new reports—on the University of Southern Maine and on Felician College—the investigating committees found that both administrations violated standards recommended by the AAUP and widely accepted in the academic community.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: The University of Southern Maine ( addresses the administration’s actions to discontinue, reduce, and consolidate numerous academic departments and to cut fifty faculty positions as of the end of the fall 2014 semester. The investigating committee, which sought to determine whether the program closures and retrenchments were conducted in accordance with AAUP-supported principles and due-process standards, concluded that the USM administration violated the Association’s standards on financial exigency and program discontinuance, as well as those on academic governance.

Even in these days when we have grown used to seeing humanities departments slashed, the closings were unusual. The USM administration shuttered an applied science program that enjoyed a great deal of support in the local biotech industry and a geosciences program supported by the state geologist’s office. Though the programs were shut down mid-year, no meaningful provisions were made for the students enrolled in them to complete their courses of study.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Felician College ( concerns the cases of seven full-time faculty members, most of them long-serving, who were notified in late January (along with nine of their colleagues who did not contact the AAUP) that their services were being terminated in June. The administration initially attributed its actions to a decline in enrollment that it claimed had resulted in financial exigency. Full-time faculty members at Felician College serve on renewable term appointments and are ineligible for indefinite tenure. The terminations were conducted in violation of AAUP-recommended procedures on financial exigency and without the procedural protections to which long-term full-time faculty members are entitled. The investigating committee also found very poor conditions for academic freedom and faculty governance at Felician in the absence of a tenure system.

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few cases each year in which severe violations of Association-supported principles and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite AAUP efforts to resolve them.

I am troubled by the growing tendency of academic administrations to behave like corporate overlords and to disregard academic standards and the rights of faculty members and students. I wish the AAUP hadn’t needed to authorize four investigations this year. But I am proud that the Association could and did conduct them and that our investigating committees produced four careful and credible reports. The AAUP is the only organization that does this kind of work, a vital force protecting American higher education. Hats off to the investigating committee members, who volunteered so much of their time and talent. And hats off to you for supporting the AAUP’s work with your membership.

-- Henry Reichman
Chair, AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure

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