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.
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.