UNCC AAUP Mission Statement
The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post‐doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good.
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AAUP Principles and Standards for COVID-19 Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has posed serious challenges for faculty members and their institutions. While its scope and severity are unprecedented in recent memory, this crisis is not the first that the Association has had to address in its 105 years. As the authors of the AAUP's 2007 report on mass terminations at five New Orleans universities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina pointed out, “Relevant AAUP-supported policies . . . are sufficiently broad and flexible to accommodate even the inconceivable disaster.” What follows are questions related to the COVID-19 crisis and guidance derived from AAUP policy documents for faculty members as they assert their proper role in institutional governance during this challenging time.
Please refer to this AAUP document.
Critical principles and standards on academic decision-making in American higher education are set forth in the AAUP’s Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which the AAUP formulated in cooperation with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) and the American Council on Education (ACE). The Statement on Government outlines principles of joint or shared governance in which the faculty exercises “primary responsibility” for decision-making on academic matters, including “curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.” Although governing boards have final decision-making authority (and may have delegated such to the president), that authority “should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty.” Under the Statement on Government, decisions related to canceling classes, holding them online, altering the academic calendar, replacing letter grades with pass-fail or incomplete designations, or canceling final exams and papers fall within the faculty’s area of primary responsibility. Even in areas where the faculty does not exercise primary authority—such as budgetary matters and long-range planning—the faculty still has the right, under principles of shared governance, to expect meaningful participation in the decision-making process. None of these decisions should be made unilaterally by administrations or governing boards.
The COVID-19 pandemic should not become the occasion for administrations to circumvent widely accepted principles of academic governance, as some faculty members have reported has happened at their institutions. As the Katrina report pointed out, “However cumbersome faculty consultation may at times be, the importance and value of such participation become even greater in exigent than in more tranquil times. The imperative that affected faculties be consulted and assume a meaningful role in making critical judgments reflects more than the values of collegiality; given the centrality of university faculties in the mission of their institutions, their meaningful involvement in reviewing and approving measures that vitally affect the welfare of the institution (as well as their own) becomes truly essential.”
As the Statement on Government specifies, “Agencies for faculty participation in the government of the college or university should be established at each level where faculty responsibility is present. An agency should exist for the presentation of the views of the whole faculty. The structure and procedures for faculty participation should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution. Faculty representatives should be selected by the faculty according to procedures determined by the faculty.” If such faculty governance bodies exist on a campus, nothing in the AAUP’s guidance dictates that their members must meet in person. Numerous virtual means exist by which faculty discussions can take place, and some faculties have been conducting governance by such means long before the current crisis. What is critical is that the bodies conducting this work consist of faculty representatives selected by the faculty and that those serving on those bodies take seriously their representative role. Also critical is that the faculty, not the administration, takes responsibility for determining the best means of conducting its business while socially distancing.
The AAUP discussed the topic of administrators’ secretly monitoring faculty members in 1983, long before online education existed. In “The University at Odds with Itself: Furtive Surveillance on Campus,” Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure concluded, “We think the appropriate policy for the Association to recommend is that academic institutions forswear . . . covert surveillance and not . . . seek to spy upon anyone within that community. . . . An academic community will not subject its members to the debilitating inhibitions and anxieties of covert surveillance. . . . The proper [institutional] policy is the absolute prohibition” of such practices. In its 2013 report Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, Committee A noted that administrators might abuse online teaching platforms “to determine whether faculty members were logging into the service ‘enough,’ spending ‘adequate’ time on certain activities, and the like.” The committee concluded that “such monitoring should not be permitted without the explicit and voluntary permission of the instructor involved.”
The publication of faculty members’ classroom speech by self-appointed “watchdogs,” with a chilling effect on the academic freedom of teachers and students, is nothing new. In 1915, in the Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, the AAUP’s founders had to assert that “the classroom utterances of college and university teachers . . . ought always to be considered privileged communications. Discussions in the classroom ought not to be supposed to be utterances for the public at large. They are often designed to provoke opposition or arouse debate. It has, unfortunately, sometimes happened in this country that sensational newspapers have quoted and garbled such remarks.” Online instruction has made it even easier for modern-day watchdogs, like Turning Point USA, to disseminate video and texts cherry-picked from a teacher’s presentation and bring down a hailstorm of harassment on the instructor and, occasionally, the institution.
In 2017, in response to a spate of such cases, the AAUP issued Targeted Online Harassment of Faculty. It urges “administrations, governing boards, and faculties, individually and collectively, to speak out clearly and forcefully to defend academic freedom and to condemn targeted harassment and intimidation of faculty members” and “administrations and elected faculty bodies [to] work jointly to establish institutional regulations that prohibit the surreptitious recording of classroom discourse or of private meetings between students and faculty members.” An in-depth overview of targeted online harassment of faculty members, as well as resources, reports, and articles to aid faculty members in the fight against targeted harassment, is available here.
Principles of academic governance dictate that assessment of faculty teaching performance is the primary responsibility of the faculty, not the administration. The degree to which that assessment takes student perceptions into account thus falls under the faculty’s purview. The AAUP’s Statement on Teaching Evaluation contains guidance on how to assess teaching in a manner that relies on peer review and protects academic freedom while incorporating student perceptions. Under these extraordinary circumstances, the faculty may wish to consider whether temporary adjustments in faculty evaluation, including suspending the administration of student evaluations, may be appropriate.
In conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers, the AAUP issued AFT and AAUP Principles for Higher Education Response to COVID-19. Principle 12 states, “Tenure-track faculty members whose work is disrupted by the institutional or governmental response to COVID-19 should have the option to stop their tenure clock for the duration of the disruption.” AAUP guidelines for stopping the tenure clock are contained in the Statement of Principles on Family Responsibilities and Academic Work.
As already noted, principles of academic governance apply no matter how exigent the situation, as the authors of the Katrina report, cited above, asserted: “However cumbersome faculty consultation may at times be, the importance and value of such participation become even greater in exigent than in more tranquil times. The imperative that affected faculties be consulted and assume a meaningful role in making critical judgments reflects more than the values of collegiality; given the centrality of university faculties in the mission of their institutions, their meaningful involvement in reviewing and approving measures that vitally affect the welfare of the institution (as well as their own) becomes truly essential.”
To the extent decisions are related to the academic program and to faculty status, the faculty should play a “primary role,” as required under the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities: “Determinations in these matters should first be by faculty action through established procedures, reviewed by the chief academic officers with the concurrence of the board. The governing board and president should, on questions of faculty status, as in other matters where the faculty has primary responsibility, concur with the faculty judgment except in rare instances and for compelling reasons which should be stated in detail.”
When these decisions involve potential termination of appointments, the AAUP requires that specific governance and due-process standards be observed to protect academic freedom and tenure. These are set forth in Regulation 4c (Financial Exigency) and 4d (Discontinuance of Program or Department for Educational Reasons) of the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Additional guidance is provided in On Institutional Problems Resulting from Financial Exigency: Some Operating Guidelines and Governance Standards in Institutional Mergers and Acquisitions.
During the 2008 recession, when colleges and universities suffered similar financial stress, the AAUP developed a set of online resources. An FAQ that provides clear explanations of the above standards (“AAUP Policies and Best Practices”) can be found here.
UNCC AAUP Initiatives
to promote the economic security and rights of faculty, graduate students, staff, and hourly workers, all of whom are essential to the university
to preserve higher education’s core mission and values through genuine shared governance
to protect academic freedom for the purpose of ensuring the university's mission to enhance the common good
to support educators, not corporate leaders, in guiding the UNC system and its campuses