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

February 17, 2015

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.

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