• October 21, 2014

U. of Nebraska-Lincoln Is Voted Out of Assn. of American Universities

In an unprecedented move, the Association of American Universities has thrown out one of its members, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

At least two-thirds of the 63-member group, which represents universities with the most prestigious profiles in research and graduate education in the United States and Canada, voted to discontinue Nebraska's membership in an election that concluded early last week. Nebraska's chancellor, Harvey Perlman, was notified of the decision earlier this week.

"The AAU metrics are flawed," Mr. Perlman said in an interview on Friday afternoon. "They didn't take into account the mission, characteristics, or trajectory of the institution."

The AAU's membership criteria focus primarily on an institution's amount of competitive research funds and its share of faculty members who belong to the National Academies. Faculty awards and citations are also taken into account. Based on those criteria, Mr. Perlman said, Nebraska ranked last among AAU members.

What put Nebraska at a particular disadvantage within the AAU is that the university's medical school is part of the statewide system, but not part of the flagship Lincoln campus. So the medical school's research dollars do not count toward Lincoln's AAU numbers. In an analysis conducted last year by The Chronicle, Nebraska's system as a whole outpaces at least 11 current AAU members.

"The indicators that the AAU used to review us did not reflect the accomplishments of Nebraska," Mr. Perlman said.

Nebraska, which was elected to join the AAU in 1909, was first notified last fall that its membership was under review. While Nebraska's Lincoln campus ranked last among AAU members, Mr. Perlman said, the review committee was supposed to look also at qualitative factors beyond the rankings.

"We provided a long list of our accomplishments over the last decade," Mr. Perlman said. Still, the review committee voted, 9 to 1, this month against Nebraska. Within in a little more than a week, the full membership voted. "There wasn't a lot of time to talk to members," Mr. Perlman said.

Barry Toiv, a spokesman for the AAU, said the review process "was followed in its entirety."

Last year the AAU invited its first new member in nearly a decade, the Georgia Institute of Technology. At the same time it placed Nebraska and another unidentified institution under review. But this spring only Nebraska's membership was put up to a vote.

As for what the decision means for Nebraska as an institution, Mr. Perlman said on Friday that as he looked at the university's accomplishments of the past decade, only one may have been helped because of its AAU membership: the invitation last year to join the Big Ten.

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