The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is a faculty organization independent of the University of Michigan administration that has worked to promote shared governance of the university since its inception as a chapter on the Ann Arbor campus. in 1915. In 2010, the Ann Arbor AAUP chapter at the University was disbanded due to a dwindling number of active members. But things took a turn at the January 11 Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) meeting, when SACUA Representative Kentaro Toyama and LSA Professor June Howard proposed reinstatement of the AAUP chapter of the University. university to strengthen the voice of professors.
The AAUP is considered a non-profit association with more than 400 chapters across the country. As a national institution, AAUP began in New York City in 1915 with the primary purpose of advocating for the academic freedom of its members. The UM Senate Assembly Handbook defines “academic freedom” as having four main facets: freedom of research and publication, freedom of teaching, freedom of internal criticism, and freedom of participation in debate. public.
Toyama said the reinstatement of the AAUP chapter at the University comes after increased activism by many faculty members calling for more active conversations with the University administration, particularly after concerns of the community regarding UM COVID-19 policies have not been heard during the pandemic.
“Even today, we remain very concerned that the most vulnerable members are still not getting the flexibility we believe they deserve,” Toyama said. “We are again hoping for a shared governance model where different perspectives will be discussed in conversation with the administration.”
While other shared faculty governance organizations such as SACUA or the Faculty Senate Assembly exist on campus to work with the administration on behalf of the faculty, Toyama said AAUP has more freedom. to express views with which the University may not always agree because they are independent of the University. .
“The faculty senate organs have to be somewhat careful in their relationship with the administration, because it’s like they’re married, so they can’t completely destroy that relationship,” Toyama said. “AAUP is truly an independent body … In some cases, we might be willing to push the administration further than SACUA would be.”
Valerie Traub, AAUP Ann Arbor secretary and professor of English and women’s and gender studies, said another key difference between AAUP and other government faculty organizations is that AAUP is part of a national organization. Traub said being connected to the national organization is an asset for AAUP members at the University, as it allows UM members to access platform resources more large.
“The AAUP being a national organization also has resources and a lot of information and expertise that we can draw on when we identify an (academic freedom) issue,” says Traub. “They tend to write statements and put them out in the media, so they have a sort of national platform that (we) can use…if we feel our rights are being violated.”
Jerry Sanders, a biology professor and current AAUP chapter member on the Flint campus, said he thinks there is a lack of understanding of academic freedom in academic affairs on all campuses.
“We’ve lost the understanding of what academic freedom is,” Sanders said. “Once you lose that, you lose the checks (and balances) on the administration… You don’t have control.”
Traub said she specifically hopes the UM chapter of AAUP can increase the discussion of academic freedom on campus.
“One of my personal goals would be to foster more informed and nuanced discussions about the meaning of academic freedom, as this word is used so often,” Traub said. “As a community, we need to work out what we think we mean by that, and I would look forward to our chapter being able to foster those conversations.”
The top priority for the UM Ann Arbor AAUP chapter is the ongoing search for the university’s next president, Traub also said. After the university’s former president, Mark Schlissel, was fired by the board of trustees in January, the university’s acting president, Mary Sue Coleman, was offered a six-month contract. The regents hope to select the university’s next president over the summer.
Toyama also said the UM chapter of the AAUP works to ensure the selection process is public and encourages the administration to consider the perspectives of a wide range of demographic groups and campuses. The Presidential Search Committee held several community listening sessions over the past few weeks to gather community feedback, which included a focus on carbon neutrality and sexual assault accountability. AAUP’s UM Flint and Ann Arbor chapters underscored that sentiment in an open letter that was sent to the Presidential Search Committee in February.
“More and more, there’s a tendency for these searches to become confidential, where the first time someone hears about a candidate, the person has already been selected,” Toyama said. “This severely limits the ability of different groups on campus to interact with applicants before a final person is chosen.”
Traub said she was dissatisfied when the University announced its selection process to choose the next provost in November 2021 after current provost Susan Collins announced she would step down. At the time, Schlissel appointed himself chairman of the selection committee while he was also responsible for making the final decision as to which candidate would be chosen. Traub said she hopes the selection committee for the next president will include a group of campus community members to encourage input from alternative perspectives.
“We will also push for broader representation of different types of groups of people on the research itself,” Traub said. “The more people you have in a room to make a decision, the more perspectives you have, the better the decision will be.”
Sanders said that like the AAUP on the University’s Ann Arbor campus, the UM Flint AAUP chapter is also restarting after low membership numbers disbanded them in 2021. In February 2022, there are at again enough interest on the Flint campus to restart its chapter, Sanders said. Although they have goals specific to their own campuses, members of the UM Flint AAUP Chapter are excited to work with the Ann Arbor Chapter in the search for a new president.
“I think as a campus we should push for the research finalist to come to the UM Flint campus and give a public presentation where all stakeholders can interact with them and see how they are performing to evaluate them. “Sanders said. “This assessment should have an impact on who is selected, rather than just being a facade.”
Outside of presidential research, members of the UM Ann Arbor and Flint AAUP chapters said they are excited to continue expanding their membership and look forward to tackling other issues that affect faculty members, including increasing collaboration between campus organizations and strengthening sexual misconduct policies.
The daily staff reporter, Isabella Kassa, can be reached at [email protected]