At the American Association of University Professors’ annual meeting here on Saturday, members of the group unanimously voted to sanction Antioch University for alleged violations of shared governance, and to place Clark Atlanta University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston on its censure list for academic-freedom violations.
The AAUP resolution sanctioning the multicampus Antioch University system for violations of shared governance makes clear that the group finds no fault with Antioch College, the Yellow Springs liberal-arts campus that the leaders of Antioch University had closed in 2008 and that alumni and former faculty members are working to reopen as a stand-alone institution.
The resolution sanctioning Antioch University accuses it of shutting faculty members out of budget and curriculum decisions, and then declaring financial exigency and closing Antioch College without actually being in an immediate, systemwide financial crisis. The resolution acknowledges that the university's chancellor, Tullisse A. (Toni) Murdock, has offered to meet with AAUP staff to come up with ways to ensure faculty participation in the university's governance. But, it said, she has offered few details, and the institution has not yet adopted policies protecting shared governance or extending employment security to all of its instructors.
Before voting on the resolution, the association's members heard a plea for them to approve the sanction delivered by Chris Hill, a former associate professor of media arts at Antioch College. "By sanctioning Antioch University, you will continue to direct attention to the university's unprofessional and uncollegial faculty governance policies," which are detrimental to fair working conditions and high standards, she said.
Chancellor Murdock on Saturday criticized the process by which the AAUP arrived at its decision, saying "this was a stacked deck before we even arrived at this point." Noting that Cary Nelson, the association's president, is an alumnus of Antioch College and has repeatedly spoken out against its closing, Ms. Murdock said Mr. Nelson's formal recusal of himself from the Antioch investigation did little to assure her of its fairness, and she believes that the group turned a deaf ear to the responses she offered.
"In reality, we see very little point in trying to continue with any sort of conversation with them about this," Ms. Murdock said. "We are comfortable right now with the future direction of the university."
Other Censure Resolutions
The association's resolution censuring the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston revolves around the institution's decision to suspend operations and lay off faculty members after Hurricane Ike in September 2008. The resolution says an AAUP investigation found that the campus had terminated the appointments of more than 120 faculty members—about a third of them tenured—after the university system's Board of Regents declared the campus to be financially exigent without any input from faculty. Last year, the resolution says, the institution's administration began recruiting new faculty members for the reopened medical branch without demonstrating that it could not rescind many of the terminations after the storm.
A spokesman for the medical branch, Raul Reyes, declined to comment Saturday.
The AAUP voted to censure Clark Atlanta University after hearing Hugh D. Hudson Jr., the executive secretary of the AAUP's Georgia conference, urge it to take such action. The resolution says the university used a declaration of a "largely nonexistent" enrollment crisis as a pretext for refusing to afford academic due process to 55 full-time faculty members whose appointments it terminated last year.
In response, the administration of Clark Atlanta issued a statement on Saturday noting that the AAUP is not an accrediting agency and saying it stands by the actions it took in 2009, which were "in the best interests of the academy."