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AAUP Colorado Shared Governance Conference September 2014

February 18, 2015

If by chance you missed our shared governance conference at Fort Lewis College in Durango last September, I have good news! Thanks to our friends at the Fort Lewis AAUP, video of the entire event is now available.

Here’s Panel 1 on Shared Governance Disasters:

Here’s Panel 2 on Shared Governance Best Practices:

Here’s Panel 3 on Strengthening Adjunct Faculty:

Last, but hardly least, here’s the terrific keynote from our friend the former AAUP Executive Director Gary Rhoades:

Certainly, this is a lot of video to watch, but if you are interested in such things I think you’ll find it all very valuable.

New Faculty Model at the University of Denver a Prototype for Reform?

February 17, 2015
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by Dean Saitta, University of Denver

IHElogo8.5.10Inside Higher Ed has the story in today’s edition. Here’s the take from the National AAUP:

Henry Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, said there was a lot to like about the new Denver policy, including its strong protections of academic freedom and endorsement of tenure. But he said he also had some concerns, including why — if the teaching professional series was supposed to honor strong academics — they wouldn’t be put on the tenure track. Reichman noted, too, that according to AAUP guidelines, anyone serving at an institution for more than seven years should enjoy the privileges of tenure — including due process for any termination.

Denver’s policy “integrates many important AAUP principles into the university’s system of tenure and appointment, in some places offering protections even stronger than AAUP demands,” Reichman said. But “in practice it remains to be seen whether the university will shift significant numbers of faculty off the tenure track and into the other non-tenure-line series. I certainly hope they do not.”

The University of Denver’s AAUP chapter had substantial input on the APT document revision, especially the section dealing with academic freedom. That section didn’t previously exist, and chapter leaders not only drafted it but insisted that it be placed front-and-center.  Thus, we’re delighted to hear from Henry Reichman that DU’s policy offers research, teaching, and shared governance protections “even stronger than AAUP demands.” We’re also in agreement with his concerns.

It’s disappointing that Colleen Flaherty didn’t reach out to our chapter leadership for the local AAUP perspective on DU’s APT revision. Some IHE commentators suggest that the DU revision isn’t all that novel or trend-setting. They may have a point. However, as Reichman notes there’s still “a lot to like about the new Denver policy.”  Our AAUP chapter pushed for revisions that we believe would have made the document even more progressive in respecting what contingent faculty contribute to the research, teaching, and faculty governance enterprise on campus, including tenure and all of its protections after 7 years of demonstrably excellent performance.

AAUP Summer Institute Coming to Colorado

February 10, 2015
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AAUP Institute.DUThe Colorado Conference is proud to report that the next AAUP Summer Institute will be held in Colorado, on the University of Denver campus, July 23-26. The Colorado location honors the work that our Conference has done over the last few years supporting academic freedom and shared governance, including the very successful shared governance meeting that we sponsored in Durango last fall.  Please mark your calendars. Preliminary details are on the National AAUP website. The Colorado Conference will be hosting a welcoming reception for all AAUP members and guests on Wednesday evening, July 22, on the University of Denver campus. This event will be open to all members and guests irrespective of participation in the Summer Institute. More details about that event will follow.

The AAUP Summer Institute is the national organization’s most popular program. Organizers, data analysts, seasoned campaigners, and issue experts help build skills that make participants better advocates for AAUP principles and higher education generally. The Institute also provides plenty of time for social events, informal networking, and exploring the host city. Please see this video created by participants in last year’s Summer Institute.

The AAUP Colorado Conference will have a small number of stipends available for conference members who would like to participate in the Institute so please contact your chapter officers with your expression of interest. We will be reviewing these requests at our next Executive Committee meeting in early April. Please check the National AAUP website for additional information on AAUP Summer Institute scholarships— details are not yet available but the information should be posted soon. Watch this space.

We hope you will join us and our DU Chapter in welcoming AAUP colleagues from across the country to Denver.

SB15-094 Defeated in Committee

January 29, 2015

Colorado SB 15-094, a bill to end the two-tier faculty design within Colorado’s community colleges, was defeated in its hearing Monday, Jan. 26,  before the Senate State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Nevertheless, we are so very grateful for the sincerity and integrity of Senator John Kefalas, who championed our cause.


Read the news distributed nationally across the Adjunct List-Serv:
Defeat of SB 15 094 by Don Eron, Member, Executive Committee, AAUP Colorado Conference


Listen to Senator Kefalas’s presentation of the bill, the formal arguments for it, testimony provided by witnesses and lawmakers’ comments:  Audio recording of SB 15-094 before the Senate State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Read some of the testimony provided by adjunct faculty and supporters during the hearing.

Read some of the letters sent  to the senators on the committee.
 
SB 15-094 aimed to end two-tier faculty design in Colorado’s Community College System

Read the bill: SB 15-094

Read Bill Amendments 001002 and 003

Read the SB 15-094 Fact Sheet prepared for us by AFT Colorado.
 
Read the white Paper by Suzanne Hudson, AAUP Colorado Conf. Executive Committee:
Proposal for a Unified Faculty in Colorado’s Community Colleges

 
Senator Kefalas discusses SB 15-094 with scores of CCCS full- and part-time instructors, AAUP and AFT officials at the Snowflake Summit, held Jan. 14 at the Denver Press Club.


 

Bill Introduced to End Two-Tier Faculty System in Colorado’s Community Colleges

January 20, 2015

A bill to end the two-tier faculty system, aka “adjunctification,” in Colorado’s community colleges has been submitted for consideration by the 2015 Colorado State Legislature. Senator John Kefalas and Representative Joe Salazar are sponsoring SB15-094, “A Bill for an Act Concerning Community College Faculty.”

John Kefalas

Joseph SalazarColorado Senator John Kefalas

The bill requires Colorado’s community colleges “to classify as faculty all employees with teaching responsibilities, including part-time teaching responsibilities. Once classified as faculty, the employees will have the same responsibilities, benefits, and freedoms of regular faculty.” If passed, the bill would make Colorado the first state in the Union to make the two-tier system illegal.

Colorado Representative Joseph Salazar

The two-tier system allows colleges to maintain a core of full-time faculty who receive benefits and fair compensation while employing a large number of instructors who receive no benefits and are poorly compensated. Instructors in the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), commonly referred to as “adjuncts,” are not permitted to teach enough classes during any one semester at any one college to qualify for inclusion on the employer health, dental, or life insurance plans. Though they may teach as many classes over the course of an academic year as their full-time colleagues, they are regarded as part-time. They teach 72% of the classes in the CCCS, are as educated and experienced as their full-time colleagues, yet they receive roughly one-third of a full-time faculty member’s compensation per credit hour taught.

CCCS instructors have little to no representation in their faculty governments, few opportunities for professional development, and no access to due process or a grievance procedure if they have been unfairly dismissed, no matter how long they have served the college. Needless to say, these conditions cast a chill on the exercise of academic freedom at the community colleges. Nonetheless, instructors at four of the community colleges have formed AAUP chapters: Front Range Community College, Community College of Denver, Community College of Aurora, and Red Rocks Community College. Full-time faculty have joined their instructor colleagues in the AAUP chapter at the Community College of Denver.

Thanks to Senator Kefalas and Representative Salazar for recognizing that students are best served by a stable, fairly compensated, full-time faculty who are able to concentrate on teaching, mentoring, and advising students. Education is a public good, and when students are receiving the best possible education, all of the citizens of Colorado reap the benefits.

SB15-094 will be heard by the Senate Veterans, Military and State Affairs Committee on Monday, January 26, 2015. Committee members are Ray Scott (R), Jerry Sonnenberg (R), Owen Hill (R), Matt Jones (D), and Jessie Ulibarri(D).

Read more about the Colorado Conference of the AAUP’s efforts to end the two-tier faculty system here.

  • Proposal for a United Faculty at Colorado’s Community Colleges
  • SB15-094
  • Colorado Community College Faculty Bill of Rights
  • Results of the 2014 Colorado AAUP Survey of Adjunct Faculty

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CU Denies Barnett Request for AAUP Observer at Privilege and Tenure Hearing

November 21, 2014
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In early November David Barnett, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU), requested that an AAUP observer be present at his dismissal hearing before CU’s Privilege and Tenure Committee (P&T), December 4-5. In a case that has attracted local and national notice, CU has charged Barnett with retaliation for a report he submitted to CU President Bruce Benson and Chancellor Phil DiStefano that was critical of a guilty finding by the CU Office of Discrimination and Harassment against a CU graduate student.

According to the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (RIR), 5c6, “At the request of either party or the hearing committee, a representative of a responsible educational association will be permitted to attend the proceedings as an observer.” However, the Chair of the P&T committee, Thomas Napierkowski, turned down Barnett’s request, citing a CU Regent law that is in conflict with the RIR.

On November 17, the Colorado Conference, in a letter to Napierkowski that outlines numerous ways in which CU appears to have violated Barnett’s due process protections to date, requested that Napierkowski reconsider his decision:

 [T]here is no more grievous threat to academic freedom than the disregard of due process procedures in the dismissal of tenured faculty. It is the obligation of colleges and universities to adopt policies and regulations that are consistent with AAUP policies. Hypothetically, in the event of a national investigation into the practices of the University of Colorado’s administration regarding the academic freedom of faculty, it is not the laws of the institution but the standards of the AAUP to which the institution will be held. Thus a good faith adherence to AAUP policy regarding due process for faculty protects both faculty and the institution.”

On November 19 Laurie Gaspar, chair of the P&T hearing panel, denied the Colorado Conference request.

Here’s the Conference letter to P&T Chair Napierkowski:

 

First Amendment Protections for Adjuncts and the Seventh Court of Appeals

November 8, 2014

Recently a federal court of appeals found that an adjunct professor in Illinois did have the right to sue for wrongful termination; it was her contention that the First Amendment protected her right to criticize her employer publicly. What are the implications of this decision for Colorado’s adjuncts? Following is a letter written from Don Eron, member of the Colorado Conference executive committee, as well as national AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure,  to all participants on the COCAL (Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor) adjunct listserv (adj-l).

Dear Colleagues,

Vanessa has asked that I weigh in on the recent Seventh Federal Court of Appeals decision regarding Robin Meade’s lawsuit against Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Vanessa, Jack and others have suggested that the long-term implications of the decision are unclear and, at least at this point, a note of cautious optimism might be the best response. I agree. Specifically, I think that some of the press coverage has overstated the breadth of the court’s finding regarding First Amendment protections for adjunct speech. There are also questions about the decision’s impact on adjunct eligibility for unemployment compensation. Still, the news from this decision is very good, and there’s already much that adjunct activists can put to use.

In advance, please pardon the length of this missive. But I would like to note that this weekend I attended the AAUP’s Committee A meeting, where we discussed the court of appeals’ decision. Although these impressions are my own, I think that they are generally consistent with those of the AAUP legal staff.

To summarize the case: Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois fired Robin Meade, an adjunct and union activist, explicitly for criticisms made in a letter she wrote in her capacity as head of the adjunct union. Meade sued Moraine Valley in district court. The district court threw out Meade’s lawsuit because they found that she had no legal ground on which to contest her dismissal. Meade appealed to the Seventh Federal Court of Appeals, which was obliged to interpret the evidence in ways most favorable to Meade.

On that basis, the appeals court found that Meade had two legitimate legal claims. First, that the letter she wrote in her capacity as a union official–a letter critical of college policies regarding adjuncts–was protected by the first amendment because it addressed an issue of public concern. Second, that a letter of agreement that Moraine Valley Community College had sent to Meade, tentatively indicating her course assignments for the fall semester of 2013, implied a property interest that entitled Meade to due process protections. Having found that Meade has grounds for a lawsuit, the appeals court has now tossed the case back to the district court to hear the suit.

The First Amendment implications of this decision are welcome, but narrower than some of the press coverage has suggested. First Amendment protections for public employees are generally guided by the Supreme Court’s 2006 Garcetti ruling, which determined, essentially, that public employees have no first amendment protections for speech made “pursuant to their official duties.” However, Moraine Valley conceded that they fired Meade for speech made in her capacity as head of her adjunct union, which–all sides agreed–was not among her official duties as an adjunct instructor. Thus, the court applied the Supreme Court’s far more liberal 1968 Pickering decision to determine Meade’s First Amendment rights. The court did not comment on what they might have ruled had Garcetti been applicable—if, for example, Moraine Valley had fired Meade because they didn’t like comments she’d made at a faculty meeting. In other words, this decision says nothing about First Amendment protections for speech made by adjuncts in the course of performing their job responsibilities. What it does suggest, however, is that activists who are involved in the leadership of their unions or AAUP advocacy chapters or other adjunct organizations have considerable protection for speech made when representing those organizations. If you are not already actively engaged in an organization that represents adjunct interests, please join in the fun.

Other news from the decision is mostly good. The appeals court decision rousingly characterizes the adjunct crisis as a national problem, and the working conditions of adjuncts as a matter of public concern. While this finding may be self-evident to anyone reading this post, it certainly wasn’t apparent to the district court. This lower court didn’t fathom a connection between adjunct working conditions and student learning conditions, and found that Robin Meade’s criticisms were a matter of “private griping” rather than public concern because, as an adjunct, she was personally affected by the policies of the college. In their decision, the upper court found the district court reasoning (or myopia) to be almost incomprehensible. As activists, we can now use the powerful Seventh Court of Appeals decision to validate one of our central arguments. From my own vantage point, I can say that when I meet with administrators, legislators, or lobbyists to advance our Colorado initiatives, my argument—that the desire of higher education administrations for maximum flexibility over their workforce has a corrosive impact on the educational product—is often met with skepticism. This decision will help.

The decision is also significant for the finding that the “spare” piece of paper Moraine Valley CC sent Robin Meade before the fall semester of 2013 indicating (with many qualifications) her class schedule, and also furnishing a beginning and end date, constituted a binding employment contract for the fall semester. In effect, the letter gave her property rights that superseded any presumptions of at-will employment (despite that Illinois is an at will state and that Moraine Valley’s CBC agreement stipulates that all adjuncts are to be employed at-will). As a practical matter this means that, for the duration of that semester, Meade should not have been fired without access to due process dismissal procedures. More generally, it may suggest that adjuncts are no longer to be considered at will employees as long as they receive something in writing that confirms class assignments and states a beginning and end date.

While this implies some degree of job security that many adjuncts have not enjoyed, as Maria and others have observed colleges can find ways around it, if they wish to. For example, if classes don’t “make,” the contract would no longer be valid. Furthermore, as the appeals court explicitly states, had Moraine Valley wished to legally dismiss Meade, they could simply have waited until the end of the fall semester and then advised Meade that there were no courses available for the spring term. All that notwithstanding, the court’s recognition that a written notification of class assignments that almost all adjuncts receive but that almost no one has considered to have legal validity, might now be considered to be a binding contract replete with property rights for adjunct teachers, is an exciting step in the right direction.

As for the possible negative consequence, it may be (as some have suggested) that the viability of the contract constitutes a reasonable assurance of employment, and therefore it might interfere with one’s case for unemployment compensation between sessions. That will need to be sorted out, obviously, but there are positive laws in some jurisdictions. In California, for example, it’s doubtful that Meade’s “spare” piece of paper would provide a reasonable expectation when classes that do not fill can be cancelled or when full-timers who want or need classes can take them away from adjuncts. If the Seventh Court of Appeals decision becomes the precedent that I hope it will, for all the good reasons, it will be necessary for us to prioritize the issue of unemployment compensation even more than we have.

On a final note, in Colorado we have found that attorneys seldom are willing take on cases involving adjunct termination–and not only because the laws tend not to favor part-time employees. Generally, an adjunct cannot afford to pay for a lawsuit. Nor do adjuncts usually earn enough money to make it worthwhile for attorneys to take on their cases on a contingency basis. Thanks to Robin Meade (who should be on this list if she is not) and her lawyers for pressing her case, and best wishes for a successful outcome as her suit has now been tossed back to district court.

Sincerely,
Don

Don head shot

Don Eron

 

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