Under the joint auspices of the Louisiana Conference and the LSU-Baton Rouge chapter of AAUP, a meeting was held on the LSU campus on the morning of Saturday, October 21. Twenty AAUP members from the LSU and SU (Southern University) campuses in Baton Rouge and a couple from the UL (University of Louisiana) campus in Lafayette attended, to hear a presentation by Dr. Brian Turner (Randolph-Macon College, Virginia), President of the Association of State Conferences. Discussion continued over box lunches. Some notable items:
Among the principal roles of state conferences is to provide campus chapters: Solidarity (a sense of “you are not alone”), Collective Advocacy (for all faculty, across varied campuses and faculty ranks, tenure or non-tenure, contingent or permanent), government and relations to Boards (of Supervisors and Regents), media strategies (national AAUP is developing some for social media), and mobilization on behalf of beleaguered colleagues.
Faculty cannot rely on campus administrators but should build relations themselves with the Legislature, Commissioners of Education, and Board of Regents, as well as with others such as the Teachers Retirement System and individual Boards of Supervisors.
Both the State Conference and campus chapters should have a Committee A that handles questions of academic freedom and tenure (the LA Conf and several of our chapters do), giving advice and providing faculty advisors to accompany individual faculty for meetings with upper administrators, and referring cases to the national office’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance (DAFTG); a Committee on Governance to handle complaints of violations of shared governance, helping to focus on AAUP principles, and documenting in writing such violations; and a Committee on Chapter Development, focusing on recruitment and membership.
Sources of funding for State Conferences include the automatic revenue sharing from the national AAUP based on membership numbers and dues (for LA this is currently about $1100 annually) and Conference Development Grants awarded by competition and application to the national office (this year’s deadline is November 17; an example would be to apply to bring in someone from the national office to help set up a social media outreach). Because of shortage of funds, the ASC Conference Grants will be drastically slashed this year.
Currently, Louisiana has 155 members (a reduction of about ten in the last two years) and 7 campus chapters. It takes only 7 members to form a chapter and it will be nice if a couple of our chapters that have recently dropped below that threshold can build back up. We welcome a major new chapter that has just been formed at the SU-BR campus. Across the state, we should build our membership including among adjunct and contingent faculty and graduate students who are also eligible to be AAUP members.
In a right to work state such as ours, AAUP chapters are “advocacy,” and not “collective bargaining” as in some other states. Currently, total membership is about 9500 and 32000, respectively, in these two groups. The national office is very cognizant of AAUP covering both roles and to encourage and support advocacy chapters that speak mainly to improving campus culture on faculty rights and well-being, and advocating for core principles of academic freedom for all faculty in our institutions of higher education.
In other news, our Treasurer’s report shows a healthy conference budget. A prominent case of a tenured professor at the LSU, Baton Rouge, campus who was fired is proceeding in the Courts. The last hearing was on September 25 and the judge’s ruling on the next step is expected soon. The State Conference provided some support and also raised funds from members’ voluntary contributions to help defray some of the legal costs of the faculty member. The conference website has been refurbished, brought up to date, and is also healthy. AAUP Summer Institutes are a great resource and members are encouraged to attend. The 2018 venue will be announced soon; see https://www.aaup.org/our-programs/education-training/aaupaaup-cbc-summer-institute.
Elections of new officers will take place in the Spring at a meeting in April 2018 to be held in Lafayette.
October 22, 2017
A. Ravi P. Rau, President