public statements

AAUP Purdue rejects threats to shared governance in the era of the pandemic

Solidarity with the University of Evansville and the University of Kansas

Over 50 years ago, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) revised and adopted as its core organizational principle the need to defend “shared governance” in institutions of higher education. The central feature of shared governance was the following: 

“Shared governance” in higher education refers to structures and processes through which faculty, professional staff, administration, governing boards and, sometimes, students and staff participate in the development of policies and in decision-making that affect the institution.”

The 1966 Statement on Government, describing the principle of shared governance, was jointly formulated with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. It has been institutionalized as the yardstick by which administrators, faculty, staff, and students can and do participate in policies affecting the educational process in colleges and universities. 

The American Association of University Professors believes that the principle of shared governance is particularly important as a centerpiece of university policy-making during historical moments when changes are occurring or crises of various kinds emerge. It is during these times that pressures — political, financial, and organizational — may lead university decision-makers to ignore the long-held principle of shared governance with faculty on matters of education policy. During this pandemic, as during other crises, adherence to the principle of shared governance is vital.

However, over the last few months, at least two such violations of shared governance have received public attention.

First, on December 11, 2020, in our own backyard in Indiana, the President’s Council at the University of Evansville announced that the University was “realigning” the academic programs eliminating three departments and twelve majors. These included the elimination of departments of music, philosophy, and engineering. The Council indicated that some faculty would be laid off. A report in Inside Indiana Business, December 11, 2020 indicated that

“the university says faculty will have about 30 days to review the proposed academic realignment plan and provide feedback to the administration.”

In a January letter to the President of the University of Evansville, Indiana State AAUP President David Nalbone indicated that after reviewing the recent history of this issue, he concluded that UE had violated the principle of shared governance in coming to the “realignment” decision. During the week of January 28, 2021 the university president indicated that the realignment proposal would be sent to the University Senate’s Curriculum Committee for discussion. But a report from local public radio station WNIN suggested an ambiguity in the UE administration’s commitment to substantive dialogue on their realignment plan. 

Second, recently, and more directly, the University of Kansas Board of Regents:

“has unilaterally suspended tenure protections and long-established procedures of transparency and due process in order to ease the termination of faculty and staff.”

The state Board of Regents policy governing higher education policies declared that due to financial crises, faculty and staff at Kansas universities “may be suspended, dismissed, or terminated from employment by their respective university.” This directive by the Board of Regents gave only one day’s notice of the changed policies to faculty governance committees.

As a result of these events, lacking in shared governance, the Purdue chapter of AAUP raises our concern, and shares our support to our academic colleagues in these institutions. 

First, our chapter wants to make clear our continued and irrevocable support for the principle of shared governance in higher education. Addressing the exigencies of crises in higher education demands, more than ever, serious, timely collaboration between administrators, faculty, staff, and students on all policies relating to the educational mission of the university.

Second, we support the just demands of our colleagues at the University of Evansville and the University of Kansas for the right to engage in authentic shared governance in all critical policies in their institutions.

Third, we share our solidarity with our faculty colleagues and staff in institutions of higher education everywhere in their demands for the right to engage in authentic shared governance regarding the educational policies of their universities.

Purdue chapter statement, passed by over 50% of chapter members.
February 15, 2021

Co-signed by AAUP – Purdue Fort Wayne, and AAUP Purdue Northwest.