The leadership of Miami’s AAUP chapter have submitted a letter to Sian Beilock, president of Barnard College, in support of Georgette Fleischer, an adjunct who has taught there for seventeen years and who was abruptly and unfairly terminated on the heels of the formation of a contingent faculty union at Barnard. Fleischer is a leader in the union, and her record did not warrant termination. Read more on Fleischer’s case here and here. We encourage others who support Fleischer’s case to write to President Beilock to support her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a lecturer or visiting professor at Miami, or do you have a friend who is? As you may know from reading other recent posts (or if you’ve read Miami’s policy manual), you know NTT faculty at Miami—including lecturers and clinical faculty—don’t have due-process protections should they face non-renewal.
Faculty at Miami tend to be a talented, high-achieving lot, whatever their rank, and if you’re a lecturer at Miami, you may rightly feel that you’re highly valued by your department. Your continuing employment at Miami might seem a safe bet. But let’s say that this fall, a new chair replaces the one who hired you. The new chair disagrees with your approach to the subject you teach. In spring, the new chair does not renew your contract. You are not told why. You’re a dedicated teacher, so you suspect the decision was not about your course evaluations or performance. You believe it to have been a political or personal decision. But you can’t find out. There is no opportunity for a formal discussion of your case ahead of your non-renewal, and no chance of appeal now that it has happened. Your department happens to have no due-process procedures for non-renewal of lecturers, and neither does the university. (Miami’s policy manual is clear on this.)
Now let’s say a friend of yours — a visiting assistant professor in her third year — is asked to take over the course. Privately, she says to you that there’s no way she’s going to teach a particular text you’d been using, even though you both think that the text sparks useful critical discussion of your subject. She worries that the chair disapproves of the text and she wants to make sure she gets renewed for her full five years. No censorship has taken place, but your colleague’s academic freedom has been curtailed. She has adapted her teaching, and probably also the opinions she expresses in public, in order to reduce her risk of unemployment.
Could this scenario happen at Miami?
It already does. Ask non-tenure-track faculty members whether they feel they have full freedom to teach the materials and use the approaches they think would be most effective in their classroom. Many will say they feel they do, but some will say no. And those who think they do might change their minds if the leadership of their department changed. Many non-tenure-track faculty also do not feel they can openly and publicly express unpopular opinions or opinions critical of university leadership or policies.
We sometimes assume we have academic freedom until the moment we realize we don’t — which might be the same moment we find ourselves out of a job. Let’s work on expanding due process protections for faculty at Miami, so that we can have academic freedom in more than just 40%* of our classrooms.
Overheard at Miami:
“Tenure? I think it should go away. It’s an unfair system. Some people get a golden ticket to lifetime employment and some of us who are just as qualified have to work for low pay and no benefits and have no protections.” — Part-time faculty member X.
We salute Part-Timer X and understand where he’s coming from. It’s tough to stomach having trained for years to be a scholar only to find oneself in a nonpermanent and low-paid position. The precarious situation of adjunct faculty — as well as that of temporary full-time faculty — is one of AAUP’s core causes; it’s unjustifiable on many grounds.
But is tenure to blame for the obvious injustice of the situation?
Let’s get clear on what tenure is. Tenure protects free, uncensored scholarly research and inquiry. Miami’s policy manual clearly associates tenure with academic freedom. In order for inquiry to be free, it must be protected from censorship. When you are awarded tenure, your university has to show just cause in order to dismiss you. That way, you don’t wind up getting dismissed for doing controversial research or expressing unpopular opinions. Tenure is simply a way to enable and protect academic freedom. And while the tenure system is especially important at universities, where knowledge is (ideally) freely produced and disseminated, it’s actually the way more workplaces should work. Instead of aspiring to make all workers equally unprotected, Part-Timer X, couldn’t we aspire to a system in which there could be due process and academic freedom for you and for all faculty?
Here’s what tenure emphatically is not: it is not permission to do whatever the tenured professor pleases, and is not a free pass to incompetent, illegal, exploitative, or discriminatory behavior. While different institutions vary over what counts as cause for dismissal, incompetence in the classroom and illegal behavior would be cause at most universities.
In short, the due-process protections tenure provides should be the right of the majority of educators and researchers, not the “privilege” of a dwindling few.
By the way, if you’re a lecturer, a graduate student, a VAP or visiting instructor, or a part-time instructor at Miami — that is, if you’re among the people who teach roughly 60% of the credit hours at Miami* — you don’t have due-process protections, and therefore academic freedom in your classroom is not protected.
*See Miami University Budget Symposium 2017 presentation, p. 26.
Overhead at Miami:
“Academic freedom? Sometimes I think that’s just a way of protecting incompetent teachers.” — Professor X.
Most of us at Miami agree with you on wanting to keep classroom standards high at Miami, Professor X! But when we say we value academic freedom, are we really somehow getting into the business of supporting or promoting bad teaching? Certainly not.
Here’s how academic freedom really works: It allows students and faculty to engage in debate and knowledge-production without fear of censorship or retaliation. Academic freedom is essential to a thriving intellectual culture — not just at universities, but in the larger society that’s informed by knowledge generated and shared by universities.
Here’s what academic freedom is not: an excuse for faculty incompetence or bad behavior. A good faculty handbook should clearly state what counts as dismissal for cause — incompetence, bad behavior, a range of other possibilities — while also clearly stating that academic freedom is a value of the institution and that instructors’ and researchers’ rights to it are protected.
For more on what academic freedom is and isn’t, check out Cary Nelson’s post “Defining Academic Freedom” on Inside Higher Ed.
Do all faculty at Miami have academic freedom? Not by any stretch. See here.
First, what’s contingency? As defined by the GAO* and AAUP, “contingent faculty” is an umbrella term encompassing all non-tenure-system faculty — that is, faculty who, to different degrees, experience precarity. Contingent faculty teach about 60% of the credit hours taught at Miami.
Contingency matters a LOT to tenure-line faculty. Why?
- Reduction in TT numbers leads to increased service loads. Feeling run off your feet? So are most of your tenured colleagues. More service means less time for research and teaching.
- Contingents have no voice or vote on campus. As their numbers increase, faculty influence on the management of the university dwindles. More and more top-down decisions are made (if you have been at Miami for awhile, you will recognize the trend). Faculty know-how is essential to the design and protection of Miami’s educational mission—and when shared governance declines, so does that mission.
- Reductions in state funding and market-driven, efficiency-oriented thinking mean that administrative decisions are driven almost entirely by revenue. Tenure-line numbers decrease — and lower-paid contingent faculty numbers increase — with each budget crunch, whether it’s real or rumored. Afterward, the new ratio becomes the new normal.
- Academic freedom is diminished and threatened when, as is the case at Miami, a majority of faculty don’t have employment due-process protections. (For more on academic freedom at Miami, see here.)
What are the end results of contingency?
An insecure labor force, fewer opportunities for research, and lack of academic freedom in academia is harmful to students, faculty, and citizens. Universities’ educational mission is increasingly restricted. Free inquiry declines. When we emphasize career preparation at the expense of critical thinking, we deprive citizens of the tools they need to understand and solve the world’s problems.
What to do?
Tenure-line faculty can try to improve their conditions without seeking solidarity with contingents. But unless TT and non-TT faculty join together and organize, budget pressures and reduced faculty power mean that TT numbers could continue to erode until almost all faculty (if not all faculty) are contingent.
AAUP’s One Faculty movement explains that “the best way to halt the erosion of tenure and to extend economic security and other rights to contingent faculty is by organizing and using our collective strength—working together in solidarity across faculty ranks…The participation of all faculty in shared governance strengthens the faculty’s voice.”
We can fight contingency and win. Become part of AAUP’s One Faculty Miami movement by joining AAUP and becoming active in Miami’s AAUP Advocacy Chapter. And get to know your local VAPs and adjuncts!
Do NTT faculty at Miami have academic freedom? What about due process in case of non-renewal?*
Fact: The answer to both questions is no.
- Miami’s policy manual, MUPIM, specifically associates academic freedom with tenure. (If you aren’t totally sure what academic freedom is or why it’s important, please read this.)
- MUPIM is silent on academic freedom for NTT faculty—LCPL, visiting, part-time faculty, and graduate students—who teach ~60% of the credit hours at Miami.**
- MUPIM provides for a very loose version of due process in cases of nonrenewal only for lecturers and clinical faculty, and only at department or program level. Due process procedures for these faculty are not required and their nature is not specified.
Here are the relevant passages.
“Tenure is a means of assuring academic freedom: that is, the freedom to teach, to inquire, to create, to debate, to question, and to dissent (see Section 5.1). Such activity is the essence of the search for truth and knowledge, and is primary to the University. This atmosphere is necessary as the University seeks to attract, maintain, and nurture a diverse and exceptional faculty.
“The following statement of principles of academic freedom adopted by the American Association of University Professors in 1940 was approved by the Board of Trustees, June of 1950:
Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. (The word “teacher” as used in this document is understood to include the investigator who is attached to an academic institution without teaching duties.)
Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights.
Tenure is a means to certain ends, specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.
No faculty member shall be obliged to make her or his nonpublic work available for inspection by a second party in the absence of compulsory legal process.
From MUPIM 7.11: Nontenured-Eligible Faculty Positions
“Appointments to nontenure-eligible faculty positions are made on an academic year basis. A person in a nontenure-eligible faculty position is eligible to receive, but not entitled to expect, renewal of appointment. No person shall serve more than five (5) years in a fulltime, nontenure-eligible instructional staff position except for those appointed as Lecturers or as Clinical/Professionally Licensed Faculty. Appointments to nontenure-eligible instructional staff positions are subject to renewal at the will of Miami University. Persons whose appointments are not being renewed are entitled to notice of nonrenewal on or before February 1.”
From MUPIM 7.11 C & D: Nonrenewal Process for Lecturers & Clinical Faculty:
In the event the nonrenewal of a Lecturer [or Clinical/Professionally Licensed Faculty] is under consideration, the department chair or program director (when appropriate) must first consult formally with the faculty consistent with the governance procedures of the department or program (when appropriate).
[No language about academic freedom; no language about cause or due process above department/program level in cases of nonrenewal; no language specifying that governance procedures governing nonrenewal exist at department program level, or what they should consist of if they exist.]
From MUPIM 7.1 1A & B: Renewal/Nonrenewal of Visiting Instructors and Visiting Faculty:
Visitors [& Instructors] are eligible to receive, but not entitled to expect, annual reappointment not to exceed five (5) years.
[No language about due process protections in cases of nonrenewal or about academic freedom.]
From MUPIM on per-credit-hour/part-time faculty:
[No language we could locate on either academic freedom or any due process protections for part-time/per-credit-hour faculty.]
The point here is not so much that Miami faculty don’t, in practice, have academic freedom most of the time. Most LCPL we’ve spoken with do feel they have freedom in the classroom. The point is that NTT faculty do not have express protections of academic freedom in the form of due process. That means that their academic freedom depends not on policy, but on the will of the people who hire them. And that means that when someone decides not to renew someone and it’s for the wrong reasons — let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but it could and does happen sometimes — then suddenly their academic freedom is a mirage. And if NTT academic freedom could become a mirage at any time, that means that actually NTT faculty don’t really have it at all.
*This piece focuses on nonrenewal, not abrupt termination. With nonrenewal, due process is not required and no cause for termination need be offered.
**See Miami University Budget Symposium 2017 presentation, p. 26.
For our first fall meeting, the chapter hosted a panel of Miami contingent faculty. They contributed valuably to our discussion of contingency, an issue we hope to make a focus this year.
Whether you are a tenured or tenure-line faculty member, a student, a visiting assistant professor or instructor, an adjunct, or just a citizen, contingency at universities harms you. Find out why in these slides, which contain notes from the panel and a summary of contingency’s harmful effects.
Today’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) will cause massive insecurity, difficulty, disruption and harm for hundreds of thousands of innocent, hardworking people—many of them our students. (The majority of people with DACA status are university students). Miami AAUP urges faculty and students to call their legislators to express support for DACA. We urge Miami University leadership to publicly denounce the DACA decision and to pledge to do their utmost to support and protect DACA and other international students.
Here is AAUP’s statement on the DACA decision:
“The AAUP denounces in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). This decision marks a continuation of the anti-immigrant racist policies that the administration has supported from the start.
“Many of our members come from families that immigrated to the US. Their forebears came to the US for the same reason that today’s immigrants do, for a better life for their families, especially their children. But the Trump administration, feeding off the fears and insecurity of many Americans, has used the issue of undocumented workers, along with racism and anti-Semitism, to divide people and disguise the real causes of the declining standards of working people, including working people of color.
“DACA, which provides renewable two-year work permits for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, was created by President Obama after the Republican-led House of Representatives refused to act on immigration. About 1.9 million undocumented young people are eligible to apply for the DACA program. Nearly 800,000 had their request for DACA status granted in 2016. Of those who have DACA status, about 576,000 are enrolled in college. In other words, an overwhelming majority of those granted DACA status are our students.
“One of the major factors that makes American higher education a world class system is the diversity of our faculty and students. We owe it to these students and their families, as well as to other undocumented young people, to speak out against this action in the strongest manner possible. We call on our members to urge Congress to act immediately to undo President Trump’s action and allow these young people to remain in our classrooms.
“We also urge Congress to enact a comprehensive immigration reform policy that will welcome immigrants to our shores–those fleeing political persecution and violence as well as those who simply seek a better life, regardless of their race, religion, or national origin.”
September 5, 2017
At a galvanizing and moving chapter meeting on February 15, the leader of Graduate Students from All Nations, Ancilleno Lewis, urged all of us present to ask our departments and programs to make statements in strong support of students from other nations. Lewis and others reported disturbing details about hate-related activity happening on campus. Some Muslim students are staying home out of fear of being mistreated in the streets. We heard reports of women in hijabs being verbally abused; in one case at Lane Library in town, a community member tried to pull off a woman’s hijab.
Amber Franklin, AAUP chapter treasurer and a member of the police community council, explained that it is possible to call for police presence when verbal abuse is happening; police do not make arrests in such situations, but they will stand by. She also noted that Oxford police have issued a statement explaining that they do not enforce federal immigration laws, only state and local laws; however, they will serve federal warrants and assist federal agencies when requested. We realize that some members of our community, given the history of policing in this country, may not feel comfortable calling the police for protection.
During a discussion of creating a more welcoming atmosphere for international or undocumented students and faculty, issues beyond safety came up. It was suggested that all of us consider diversity of background, access, and religion when planning social and other events for students and faculty. If your event can’t be arrived or departed from without a car, or if your event serves alcohol, you may unintentionally be excluding or discouraging someone from joining you.
It’s clear that the times are calling on all of us to work harder to protect our students and faculty and to create an atmosphere in which all of us can learn and thrive. Here is our chapter’s statement (also posted on our “About” page):
In the wake of recent presidential orders concerning immigration and transgender rights, and as part of its advocacy for the educational mission of the university, Miami AAUP Advocacy Chapter affirms its unequivocal support for the right of all members of the Miami community to have space and time to pursue learning in safety and with full freedom of movement.
We condemn acts and words that denigrate and/or discriminate against members of our community on the basis of national origin, religion, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
We encourage all departments, programs, and individuals at Miami to explore the many ways that diversity strengthens our community. We call on all parts of the community, including Miami leadership, to commit to doing everything in their power to affirm and protect the human and civil rights of members of the Miami community—such as Middle Eastern, Latinx, Jewish, and transgender students—who may currently be experiencing increased vulnerability.
Our chapter meeting tomorrow night features a talk on RCM by National AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum, who is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Wright State University. RCM, or Responsibility Centered Management, is a budgeting model that’s swept higher education, a decentralized management model that rewards revenue generation and cost efficiency in academia. Do the risks of turning academics into entrepreneurs outweigh the rewards? How can competition between programs and divisions help and harm the academic mission?
See you there, 5:30–6:30pm in Shideler 32! Rudy will be glad to answer questions, and we’ll be going out for some social time afterward.