The Minnesota A C A D E M E


Spring, 2003

 

The Minnesota Conference of the AAUP

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In this issue:

Minnesota-AAUP Sloan Award Winner P. 1

Call for Nominations for the 2004 Robert E. Sloan Award P. 2

Successful Annual Meeting held at St. Thomas P. 2

Report on the AAUP-88th National Meeting, Part II P. 2

Academic Freedom at Religiously Affiliated Colleges P. 5

How to Contact the Minnesota AAUP P. 7

PLEASE COMPLETE THE ENCLOSED BALLOT

 

James Ashley Wins AAUP Sloan Award

By Anne Pick, University of Minnesota

James Ashley, Professor of Economics at the College of St. Catherine was honored by the Minnesota Conferences of the AAUP with the Robert E. Sloan Award. The Sloan Award is given to Minnesota AAUP members who have made significant personal contributions in support of shared governance and academic freedom. Jim has been active in the College of St. Catherine chapter of the AAUP for many years; he stands out as a strong and consistent voice for faculty in his academic community. He is a respected economist who annually prepares a document allowing the St. Kate’s faculty to evaluate their salaries in relation to others in that institution as well as in other comparable institutions. Jim can always be counted on to speak when a controversial issue comes to the attention of the faculty. In short, his is a model of committed action and responsible leadership. Jim was presented the Sloan award at the conference’s annual meeting on January 28th at the University of St. Thomas.

 

 

 

Visit the new state conference web site at www.mnaaup.org for contact information, useful links to other sites, and information on membership and events!

 

Call for Nominations for the 2004 Robert E. Sloan Award

The Robert E. Sloan award for Outstanding Contributions to Academic Freedom is given annually to one or more current or former AAUP members who have made a significant personal contribution in support of academic freedom and shared governance. The contributions may have been made either recently or over a longer term. The award is named in recognition of Bob Sloan’s sustained commitment to the goals of the AAUP and his important contributions in support of academic freedom and shared governance. The award is presented at the state conference annual meeting held in the late fall.

Please help us identify worthy recipients for this award! Send nominations to Dr. Marsha Blumenthal (mablumenthal@stthomas.edu). All nominations should include your name, your institutional address and e-mail. Please provide a brief description of the contributions that you believe make your nominee an appropriate candidate for this award. ALL NOMINATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED BY OCTOBER 1, 2003.

Successful Annual Meeting Held at St. Thomas

The Minnesota conference of the AAUP held its annual meeting on January 28, 2003 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Greg Scholtz, Association of State Conferences liaison to the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, made a presented on Committee A’s work on the national level. The conference also launched its own state Committee A and initiated a grassroots lobbying campaign emphasizing no cuts to education at any level and calling for an increase in state revenue to help resolve the state’s budget deficit. The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the Robert E. Sloan Award to James Ashley of the College of St. Catherine. About 30 people attend the meeting.

Report on the AAUP-88th National Meeting

Part II: The Various "Distances" from the Core Values of the Academy

By Michael Mikolajczak, University of St. Thomas

The panel session "Taking Distance Out of Distance Education" offered sharply contrasting visions. First, Mark Smith of the AAUP staff stressed the importance of taking a non-Luddite approach to change in higher education. Education, he pointed out, has been changing continuously since the days of Plato to our own and will continue to do so. Most significantly, he called for any changes in pedagogy to be subject to "normal review processes" since the curriculum and teaching are the responsibility of the faculty.

Next, W. Allen Martin, professor of sociology at the University of Texas—Tyler," offered a skeptical assessment of distance education, rating its success from "fair to failure." He reminded the audience of several prominent failures: Columbia, which invested 25 million dollars in distance education," has closed its program, as has New York University, which spent a whopping 45 million. Martin also noted that the University of Michigan’s outreach to China through distance education gained 2 students out of a pool of 1.3 billion. And he pointed out a curiosity: the military, which purports to offer training and education efficiently and sophisticatedly "doesn’t seem to use distance education" at all. Finally, Martin discussed a study indicating that distance-education students did not do as well on exams as face-to-face students and that they had greater difficulty "applying concepts to sophisticated situations."

Lastly, Jeanette Sharpe Kreiser, a psychologist/counselor at the University of Maryland University College—who has had success with distance education—argued for its virtues. Distance education, she opined, suffers from the negative connotations of "distance"; yet a a distance-education course is closer to the students than a large lecture course because it is "coming into their homes." Kreiser also argued that distance education is "a leveler" because of its affordability, its helpfulness to disabled students, and its relative anonymity (the professor does not know gender, age, or other categories that could lead to prejudgment of students). And, she even claimed that distance education makes the detection of plagiarism easier. Kreiser also enumerated several issues that still need resolution:

What was clear from this session is that distance education is not the "cash cow" universities first imagined it to be and that the face-to-face conversation at which Plato excelled may well be the academy’s foundation, however much it has been augmented by the blackboard, the mimeograph, the overhead, the photocopier, the telephone, the phonograph, the VCR, the computer, and the internet.

Arguably, the most important business of the AAUP Annual Meeting is the vote on the recommendations of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Last June, an important question was raised about Committee A’s relationship to, and handling of, institutions depending on their size, prestige, and "clout." Does the AAUP trounce small institutions for infringements but "glance the other way" when "major" institutions come before Committee A. Several in the General Assembly voiced this sentiment in the General Assembly last June.

The Committee recommended, and the General Assembly approved, that action against the University of Virginia be deferred. The Virginia case involved a tenured professor who was removed from teaching in 1998 and dismissed in 1999 for mismanagement of a federal grant. While the professor admitted in court to irregularity in his use of a university credit card, Committee A did not think that the university had observed a clear grievance procedure in the case. The committee recommended deferral based on the progress the Virginia administration and faculty had made in revising its grievance procedure.

Censure was voted for the University of Dubuque because of the termination of tenured faculty owing to financial exigency. Committee A did not dispute the Dubuque’s financial condition, "but it concluded that the administration and board of trustees acted to release two professor without having demonstrated that the university’s financial condition necessitated the termination of tenured appointments." The committee "also concluded that the administration did not meet its obligation under principles of tenure to arrange suitable continuing assignments for the two professors, although such assignments appear to have been feasible."

Tiffin University was placed on the censure list for dismissing "a professor in his twelfth year of full-time service without having provided a written statement of the charge against him and without having demonstrated cause for its action in a hearing of record before a faculty body." In addition to this violation of "procedural safeguards," Committee A "also found Tiffin University’s official policies and the administration’s practices to have been seriously deficient in meeting the standards for faculty participation in institutional governance enunciated in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities."

Committee A also issued an "interim statement" on "The Al-Arian Case at the University of South Florida." It advised the university’s president that Professor Al-Arian’s statements on the "Palestinian and Islamic developments: "the investigating committee believes that Professor Al-Arian’s statements fell well within the ambit of academic freedom." The AAUP report was an interim one because although it has suspended Professor Al-Arian from his duties, the university has not made a final decision on the case.

Report on the Conference "Unity and Diversity: Academic Freedom at Religiously Affiliated Colleges and Universities," March 13-16, 2003, Co-sponsored by the American Association of University Professors and the University of San Diego

By Jim Read, College of St. Benedict

This was the latest of a series of AAUP conferences in recent years on the theme of academic freedom at religiously affiliated colleges and universities. There were about 90 participants in the conference, most of them faculty or administrators at religiously-affiliated colleges and universities. Approximately half of the participants were from Catholic institutions (including the host institution, the University of San Diego). Most of the other participants were from various Protestant-affiliated institutions, including creedal institutions like Calvin College, Wheaton College, and Baylor University, where religious affirmation is expected of all faculty members. A small number of participants were from Catholic colleges that have collective bargaining arrangements in which the AAUP is the bargaining agent.

Though there were several disturbing reports about violations of AAUP principles at religious institutions, most of the conference focused on ways in which AAUP principles of academic freedom, faculty governance and contractual due process contribute positively to the mission of a religiously-affiliated institution, and vice-versa. As Monika Hellwig, Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities put it, "the issue is not academic freedom of the individual versus the self-definition of the religiously-affiliated university, but the academic freedom of the individual within the self-definition of the religiously-affiliated university." The fundamental meaning of academic freedom, which she argued goes back to the founding of Catholic universities in the 12th century, is that "you pursue the truth without putting blinders on." Hellwig praised the broad vision of Part I of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but claimed that Part II, the juridical application document for the United States, was drafted by people who had "a total lack of understanding" of American Catholic higher education and who incorrectly believed that canon law takes precedence over civil law in the United States.

Mary Burgan, General Secretary of the AAUP, described her undergraduate education at Seton Hill College, where she was taught by nuns holding PhDs from top-ranked secular universities who "brought into classrooms the fresh air of academic freedom." This liberated Burgan (who is still a Catholic) from the extreme doctrinal rigidity of her Catholic upbringing and taught her that "thinking was a spiritual exercise."

Participants from the University of San Diego described how their university and the local bishop have responded to the mandatum requirement in the Ex Corde Ecclesiae application document (which directs the local bishop to determine whether Catholic theologians in his diocese are presenting "authentic Catholic doctrine"). This is the part of the application document that most threatens principles of academic freedom because it seems to give the local bishop authority over what Catholic theology faculty members can teach and publish. At the University of San Diego an amendment was added to the handbook specifying that whether or not a faculty member had asked for or received a mandatum would not be a consideration in appointment, tenure, or promotion. This serves as a protection both to faculty members who do not request a mandatum, and to faculty who do seek a mandatum but fear that colleagues may view them as caving in to ecclesiastical authority. This handbook amendment was supported by the bishop himself, who is a member of the University’s board and who was instrumental in convincing other board members to agree. The bishop of San Diego decided early on to treat the mandatum not as a mechanism of juridical enforcement, but as an opportunity to communicate, in his pastoral role, with faculty members as individuals. The bishop will report to the University’s President which faculty members had asked for and received the mandatum, but neither bishop nor President will release this information to anyone else. There was much positive commentary on these arrangements by participants at the conference. Whether the arrangements made in San Diego will ultimately prove acceptable to higher church authorities is, however, an open question.

There was much discussion of how the 1940 AAUP Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, along with the 1970 Interpretive Comments, ought to apply to institutions that require a creedal commitment from faculty members. The 1940 statement specifies that "limitations on academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment." The 1970 Interpretive Comments maintain that "most church-related institutions no longer need or require" this "departure from the principle of academic freedom" and "we do not now endorse such a departure." Some participants in the conference support the 1940 statement but believe the 1970 Interpretive Comments "do not endorse" clause casts unfair suspicion on institutions that have creedal commitments. They welcomed AAUP conferences like this one as an opportunity to counteract what they see as prejudice against creedal institutions among some AAUP members. Stanton Jones, Provost of Wheaton College, and Lee Hardy, from the Philosophy Department of Calvin College, argued that creedal commitments are fully consistent with academic freedom and the vigorous pursuit of truth. Hardy observed that, where there were threats to academic freedom at creedal institutions, they typically proceed not from the creedal commitment itself but from "constituencies" outside the university or on its board that interpret the creedal commitment in a doctrinaire way.

AAUP principles hold that creedal commitments and any other limitations on academic freedom must be clearly stated at the time of hiring, and that any discipline or termination must meet standards of due process. Many AAUP investigations at creedal institutions involve either unclear (or shifting) standards, or violation of due process, or both. For example, at Nyack College, an evangelical Christian college that has a "Statement of Faith" and "Lifestyle Expectations" requirement of all faculty and students, a faculty member was fired for criticizing the political agenda of the Christian coalition and for displaying a "support gay rights" button on her briefcase. The faculty member reaffirmed her faith commitment, and ceased to display the button, which she said was meant to protest violence against homosexuals rather than an endorsement of the lifestyle. Her explanation was accepted by the President of the college, but her contract was terminated without a hearing by the Board, who on the same day terminated the contract of the President. The AAUP investigation concluded that both the faculty member’s due process rights and her academic freedom were violated, because she was denied a hearing and because she could not have reasonably have anticipated that her words and actions would be interpreted as inconsistent with her profession of faith.

What seems to have occurred at Nyack as well as many other evangelical Christian colleges (based on reports from participants at the conference) is that new and politically-charged requirements have taken the place of the original profession of faith at the time of hiring (e.g. if you support gay rights or the Democratic Presidential ticket, you are by definition no longer a Christian). Many of these institutions are deeply hostile to AAUP principles and it seems the best the AAUP can do is warn prospective faculty members about what to expect.

But some other evangelical Christian colleges have resisted the pressure to impose a new and more restrictive definition of their creedal commitment. Both Wheaton College and Calvin College seem to have preserved academic freedom and open scholarly inquiry in ways consistent with their religious self-definition.

Peter Facione, Provost of Loyola University of Chicago, observed that many attempts to restrict academic freedom are directed, not at individual faculty members, but at the institution as a whole, and that we should learn to think of academic freedom as an institutional as well as an individual concern. For example, many Catholic colleges and universities have been pressured by religious conservatives to remove items and links in their institutional web site. In Loyola’s case, someone found a link to Planned Parenthood buried among a long list of resources for the university’s Women’s Studies program, and demanded that the link be disabled. The institutional website is legally the property of the institution, not the individual faculty member, so the university could have immediately disabled all offending links without the consent of any faculty member. Many Presidents of Catholic universities have done exactly this. Facione, however, was able to convince Loyola’s President that this was a slippery slope that would multiply the number and scope of such demands, and instead to take the position that the links accessible through the university website do not necessarily represent the views of the University.

One speaker at the conference reminded participants that threats to academic freedom in the name of religious conformity are not limited to private, religiously-affiliated colleges and universities: "Some of the most intolerant Bible thumpers are on the boards of public universities and in legislatures."

On the whole, as I reflect on the conference, I am on the one hand discouraged by the intense and growing outside pressure to restrict academic freedom at religiously-affiliated institutions in the name of religious orthodoxy. On the other hand I am impressed with the degree to which faculty and administrators at many religiously-affiliated institutions are able to find resources from within their religious tradition, as well as from AAUP principles, to uphold principles of free inquiry, openness to different views and traditions, procedural fairness, and faculty governance.

Dr. Read would like to thank the Minnesota AAUP Conference and CSB/SJU Provost Henry Smorynski for sponsoring his attendance at this conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to contact the Minnesota AAUP

Visit us at our new website or contact one of the state executive committee members listed here.

President: Marsha Blumenthal, University of St. Thomas

Vice President: Michael Livingston, St. John’s University

Past President: Anne Pick, University of MN-TC

Treasurer: Dave Emery, St. Olaf College

Secretary: Michael Mikolajczak, University of St. Thomas

m9mikloajcza@stthomas.edu

Director: Jane Carroll, College of St. Catherine

jlcarroll@stkate.edu

Director: George Chu, Hamline University

gchu@gw.hamline.edu

Director: Cecilia Konchar Farr, College of St. Catherine

ckfarr@stkate.edu

Director: Eric Wiertelak, Macalester College

How to contact the Minnesota Committee A

You may wish to contact the Minnesota Conference Committee A on academic freedom by getting in touch with the chair of the committee, Dr. Wayne Wolsey:

Dr. Wayne C. Wolsey

Chemistry Department

Macalester College

1600 Grand Ave.

St. Paul, MN 55105

Office: 651-696-6352

Fax: 651-696-6432

e-mail: Wolsey@macalester.edu

The conference website (www.mnaaup.org) contains more information about Committee A.

 

How to contact the National Office

Use the National AAUP website for information on national events, publications, services, and membership: http://www.aaup.org. You may also call the national office at 202-737-5900 or toll free at 800-424-2973.

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