press release public statements

Over 300 Purdue Faculty Sign Petition Calling for Improved Shared Governance on Matters of Instruction


August 5, 2020

Contact: Alice Pawley, AAUP-Purdue chapter president, [email protected], 765-427-0923


West Lafayette, IN –– Frustrated with the Purdue University administration’s wholesale disregard for shared governance regarding matters of instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty across the Purdue University system have come together in a petition reasserting their rights to determine mode of instruction, and calling for Board of Trustees Michael Berghoff to require joint action on matters of instruction.

The petition, hosted by the Purdue West Lafayette chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and supported by the Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest AAUP chapters, was signed by over 300 Purdue faculty. AAUP-Purdue West Lafayette Chapter President Alice Pawley delivered the petition to the Board of Trustees office in Hovde Hall on the Purdue West Lafayette campus on Tuesday August 4, with copies to the Office of the President’s office, Office of the Provost, and University Senate Chair, in anticipation of the Board’s meeting on August 6-7.

The petition draws attention to the fact that the administration has brought not one single piece of legislation regarding changes to instruction due to COVID-19 to the University Senate, the faculty representative body at Purdue, let alone reopening plans.  It reminds the administration about key wording from the AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE, a body composed of university presidents), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). Purdue is a member of both ACE and AGB. There are two sections of the Statement on Government of note:

“The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty. […] The faculty sets the requirements for the degrees offered in course, determines when the requirements have been met, and authorizes the president and board to grant the degrees thus achieved. […] The primary responsibility of the faculty for such matters is based upon the fact that its judgment is central to general educational policy.”


“The governing board of an institution of higher education, while maintaining a general overview, entrusts the conduct of administration to the administrative officers—the president and the deans—and the conduct of teaching and research to the faculty. The board should undertake appropriate self-limitation.”

In the AAUP petition, signatories reasserted their authority over, and responsibility for, the curriculum including methods of instruction, and requested that the Board of Trustees require that Purdue’s administration take joint actions with the Senate, rather than relying on weak forms of shared governance of only discussion or consultation with faculty.  “Joint action” is a technical term that means that changes to instruction, including mode of instruction, would require formal agreement by the representative body of the faculty, the University Senate, as well as other components of the institution.

“It is really shocking how little the Purdue administration has involved the University Senate in figuring out reopening plans. They say that they involve faculty, but they really mean informally, handpicked, and without any decision-making authority,” said Alice Pawley, associate professor of engineering education at Purdue-West Lafayette and president of the AAUP Purdue West Lafayette chapter.  “This is not shared governance.  Purdue students, staff, and faculty deserve better than that.  Faculty are supposed to be meaningfully involved in issues regarding instruction because we are an asset to Purdue and to its operations , during the pandemic as in normal times. The AAUP Statement on Government gives primary responsibility over the curriculum to the faculty because we are experts in our fields and experts in instruction.  To not even assess the will of the faculty out of hand is appalling in these difficult circumstances — although admittedly is par for the course for Purdue in recent years.”

“Our campus has suffered from a lack of shared governance and respect for faculty control of the curriculum for several years now,” said Noor O’Neill Borbieva, professor of anthropology and president of the AAUP chapter at Purdue Fort Wayne. “This has hurt morale across campus, among students, staff, and faculty alike. Our experience during the COVID-19 crisis is no different, it is just intensified. Decisions being made about how to respond to COVID-19 at Purdue are not just about teaching and learning, they are about our lives and well-being. Many faculty feel vulnerable, and yet even at a time of perceived existential threat, the administration here and in West Lafayette has little interest in our input and does not honor our requests for meaningful, shared decision-making.” 

“We’ve seen during this pandemic that things do not go well when politicians ignore the advice of experts, and instead make decisions for political reasons,” said David Detmer, professor of Philosophy, and president of the AAUP chapter at Purdue Northwest. “The faculty have expertise in instruction. In the shared governance system that is allegedly in place at Purdue, the faculty are the ones who have authority on matters of instruction–on what is taught, and on how it is taught.”

The three AAUP chapters are also coordinating with other AAUP chapters across the region and nation through the AAUP Midwest Coalition, which has released public statements regarding circumstances around reopening in a time of COVID, and on racial justice on campus; these can be read at

Founded in 1915, the AAUP works to promote academic freedom and shared governance, define professional standards, and protect the economic security of all involved in higher education. Of the group’s 500 campus chapters, 70 represent faculty in collective bargaining agreements, with the rest comprising advocacy chapters.  All three Purdue AAUP chapters are advocacy chapters.