AAUP censures a college for its queen sacrifice

AAUP logoToday the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) formally censured the College of Saint Rose for its 2015 firing of tenured and tenure-track faculty members.  The charge: “violating standards of academic freedom and tenure.”  This follows an AAUP investigation and criticism.

As far as I know, this is the first time the AAUP has called out an institution for a queen sacrifice.

The AAUP’s move stands in diametric opposition to a local business association, which earlier this year offered Saint Rose’s president a commendation for her queen sacrifice.

Here’s Saint Rose’s defiant response to the censure, starting with a financial argument:

Saint Rose released a statement Saturday saying that it’s evolving to “meet the changing expectations of our students, to strengthen the college’s finances and to continue to provide a comprehensive, world-class education at a great value.”

A local paper reported a similar statement: “college spokesman Benjamin Marvin said changes at Saint Rose aim to stabilize finances and meet students’ changing expectations. Last fall, the college had a $9.3 million deficit.”

The college goes on to assert its independence:

Referring to a joint policy note on shared governance from the AAUP, the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the statement continues: “Change naturally draws criticism, and the AAUP faults Saint Rose for not adhering to policies AAUP last revised nearly 50 years ago. Saint Rose never adopted AAUP’s policies and has no obligation to follow them now.”

Does this indicate a new stance by the AAUP?  If so, will it give institutions pause?  Richard DeMillo (who was a Future Trends Forum guest in February) is pretty skeptical of the organization’s ability to encourage, much less implement, effective change.  Will that conservative approach lead the AAUP to defend the shrinking number of tenured faculty?  Or will campus leaders see such censure as either unlikely or simply a cost of doing business in order to survive?

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8 Responses to AAUP censures a college for its queen sacrifice

  1. Joe Murphy says:

    Looking at AAUP’s own pages on censure and sanction, I can’t help but be reminded of Robin Williams’ old joke about British bobbies saying “Stop! Or I’ll say stop again!”

    There’s a vague mention that sometimes, some people choose not to accept appointments at institutions under censure… not exactly a rallying cry even before we consider the state of the academic labor market. Has any institution ever said “we can’t fill this position because of the AAUP sanctions?”

    The other two levers which AAUP could try to move, if they wanted to, would be making sure prospective students know about sanctions, and trying to get funders to use adopt the censure or sanctions list as a blacklist. Either of those seems like such a nuclear option that I can’t imagine the membership approving activity there either.

    Personally, I graduated (twice) from a school under censure and it’s not at all clear that it has affected either my education or my professional prospects. (Though that may highlight the differences between censure cases which are really about individual faculty members and queen sacrifice cases which are differently about systemic issues.)

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    • There’s definitely a question of efficacy here. Is the AAUP like the League of Nations?

      That said, there are strong negative impacts from censure. It’s harder to win grad school positions, professional positions, grants, and more.

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  2. tellio says:

    AAUP are a frail reed. There could have been strength in numbers at some point, but the two-tiered citizenship of tenure-track faculty governance broke faculty right down the middle along economic and power lines. Some places AAUP worked with adjuncts, but most places felt the Devil take the hindmost. This censure will make it clear that the tenured folk are toothlessly gnawing away to no effect. Too little, too late. Shoulda invited us junkyard adjuncts and non-tenured contingents in to swell the ranks while they had a chance. Too late.

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  3. VanessaVaile says:

    Agree with both of the above. So why St Rose and not other examples of queen sacrifice?

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  4. Good point.
    There’s probably some behind-the-scenes politics we haven’t glimpsed so far, too.

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