- The American Association of University Professors has censured the University of Missouri and the College of Saint Rose for separate incidents of faculty firings and layoffs.
- AAUP called Mizzou’s firing of professor Melissa Click for threatening a student journalist a “circumvention of university procedures” for faculty discipline, while Saint Rose’s firing of 23 tenured professors also received a unanimous vote for censure after the association said that the effort to rightsize finances through layoffs did not meet appropriate standards for faculty inclusion in the decision-making process.
- Both schools called AAUP’s actions inconsistent with facts in both cases, with Saint Rose calling out AAUP’s policies that last changed “50 years ago” and are not required for the university to adopt.
AAUP’s actions against schools for academic freedom, shared governance and employment protection do an amazing job of lifting up the plight and importance of professors on college campuses. And schools are smart to pay attention to their decisions and to use them as guidance on how to avoid certain pitfalls in administration.
But the tone from Mizzou and Saint Rose indicates a certain righteous indignation from institutions about the opinions of faculty for decisions that could costs schools millions. Given the timing of Click’s actions, Mizzou would’ve been in a far greater struggle with hundreds of students and millions of news consumers by preserving her right to due process than in just firing her for behavior that even AAUP found to be objectionable.
For Saint Rose, the question comes back to a sense of preserving long-term solvency for an institution, which in many cases involves the ability to manage the salaries and benefits of long-serving professors. Certainly the college could have been more forthright with its financial realities and sought the engagement of faculty in negotiating retirement buyouts or restructuring.
But ultimately, it appears that the sanctions and censures of AAUP are little more than awareness building tools and media ammo, and not decisions which can positively support faculty autonomy and support on campus.