Message from the President: Executive Board Meeting, October 23, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Below are my notes on the AAUPLA Board Meeting October 23, 2021. Present in addition to myself were Sudhir Trivedi, Tom Miller, Ravi Rau, and Vipin Menon. Two written reports from Kevin Cope were discussed. David Reid and Judith Miranti had conflicts, and nobody besides the board members chose to attend.

Of particular interest to the general membership is the AAUP’s proposal of and support for student debt clinics, as organizing events. Please see the closing portion of this post for information. Also, our January meeting of the general membership will be by Zoom; at it, a nominations committee will be formed for April elections. This is very important; please consider running for office and/or help to identify interested and competent people from your chapters and campuses.

Other business was as follows:

I. Report on AAUP Region 2 Meeting (on COVID regionwide but also tenure in Georgia and elsewhere): Sudhir Trivedi. Sudhir, our Vice-President, and also Member-At-Large David Reid represented us at this meeting, which focused on serious issues re COVID and tenure in Georgia that may soon arise here.

Action:
1. Sudhir is drafting a proposed statement on COVID and teaching, for review and discussion at the January 29 meeting.
2. We will begin a study of faculty handbooks and tenure policies, looking ahead to possible further weakening of tenure in Louisiana and an AAUP response to existing and potential future issues. A list of links to handbooks will be gathered, and the project will be taken up at the January 29 meeting.

II. Treasurer’s report: Kevin Cope.
Our funds, with the 2021 dues remittance of some $1,600, are nearing $29,000. Should we seek to deposit a portion of these in an interest-bearing account?

Action:
1. We request a concrete proposal from treasurer Kevin Cope, as rates on certificates of deposit are now so low. We do feel this amount of cash should be earning some form of interest.

Discussion: Vipin Menon would like to donate annually to, and request additional donations for, a special budget to support a higher level of legal support for faculty than we now provide.
Comments were varied and robust. The Conference provides attorney references and financial support of legal cases for some querents via Committee A. The proposal is that we create a special fund to support legal consultation for a greater number of people, and to provide more substantial support for key cases than we are now able to do. We could, in addition, use such a fund for legal advice on Conference projects for general benefit, such as analysis of general University policies and practices. For instance, can a Federal program like FMLA be considered as “extra research time,” as it has been in some recent denials of tenure? Is there language that faculty members contesting this should refer to or use?

Action:
2. This project should be discussed further; conversation with the Treasurer and coordination with Committee A is indicated. This could be a valuable project if conceived well.

III. Committee A report: Kevin Cope.

1. There are no new cases, although Committee A is following the dismissal case and subsequent lawsuit of one formerly tenured faculty member from Southeastern, and it has provided an expert witness statement to the querent’s lawyers on AAUP standards and positions relevant to this matter. Committee A is also advising the new Faculty Council Organizing Group at LSU-BR, which arose in response to frustration with the slow pace of progress by campus faculty governance in matters relating to COVID vaccine mandates and online teaching options. FCOG is new to faculty activism and has requested clarification on governance, administration, and faculty prerogatives.

Discussion: Committee A should encourage the FCOG members to also join AAUP. Also, more members, on every campus, should join Committee A and undergo Committee A training. Committee A’s function is primarily educational and ideally Committee A will hold events to educate faculty on rights, and on issues having to do with academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance. This is important as it trains faculty to understand and handle many matters about which they often feel they must either ignore or file suit over.

IV: Website: Leslie Bary.

There are new issues and in the medium term, it may be a good idea to do a rebuild. Tom Miller and Leslie will consult with a view to hiring this project out.

V: Letterhead: Tom Miller.

We need uniform letterhead and matching envelopes, so we can send paper mail. Tom Miller has been looking into prices and logistics. It has been decided that a printable e-template for both stationery and envelopes will be created, since we need to be able to generate and send from different locations. Tom is following up.

VI: Plans for future meetings.

1. January 2022 meeting will be the 29th, by Zoom. Agenda will include the items above, and a proposal from Kevin Cope on the creation of a website on administrative actions / policies that go against AAUP principles and policies.

2. At the January 22 meeting we will also form a nominations committee, since we have elections to the Executive Board coming up in April.

3. April 2022 ELECTIONS meeting will be at Southern University in Baton Rouge either the 9th or the 29th, depending upon availability of proposed speaker David Sanders (Purdue).

4. We are inviting David Sanders (not yet confirmed) because he’s a virologist with interesting work; also has work on equity in peer review and grantmaking; is a current member of AAUP National Council and has wide AAUP experience; is from the university that acquired the for-profit Kaplan, and can therefore discuss the implications of for-profit online education, interfaces with traditional universities, and implications for AAUP concerns and principles including academic freedom, tenure and shared governance as well as for higher education yet more broadly.

VII. Lagniappe: a possible organizing activity for campuses, or groups of campuses (e.g. LSU-BR and SU-BR; Tulane, HCNO, and Xavier; LaTech and campuses in northern and CenLA).

Kaitlyn Vitez has contacted us about organizing one or more AAUP/AFT student debt clinics. These events would create visibility for AAUP and help recruit. Would you like to consider creating one at your campus?

Vitez writes: “As time runs out on the current pause on federal student loans, we wanted to offer a new service to our members to navigate the complicated path back to repayment. While AAUP national will (of course) be offering opportunities for folks to call on President Biden to cancel student debt, there have been big shifts in student lending practices that borrowers may not have heard of during the pandemic – and that might cause more financial harm after an already difficult year.

“We are partnering with AFT to offer a series of 90-min student debt clinics via webinar, which will cover the new expanded eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, transitions to new servicers, how to get in the right repayment plan, and more. We will run a number of these events at the national level for any member to join, but they are typically capped at 100 attendees. Historically, AFT has found these events to be a great tool for membership drives at the local level.

“Would you be interested in partnering to hold a student debt clinic? We’ll provide the speakers. You will just need to recruit interested attendees. The priority would be to hold these events before repayment resumes on Feb. 1st.”

I encourage chapters interested in putting on such an event to contact Kaitlyn Vitez to discuss details and dates/times. She is Government Relations Office, AAUP, 1133 19th St NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20036, kvitez@aaup.org.

In Solidarity,
LESLIE BARY
2020-2022 President
Louisiana Conference AAUP

President’s Fall Newsletter and Summer Meeting Minutes

FROM THE PRESIDENT September 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The Louisiana Conference of AAUP has a post office box now, and will soon have paper letterhead. Our address is:

Louisiana Conference AAUP
POB 4732
Baton Rouge, LA  70821

The Executive Board and Committee A have, in the past year, written a number of advocacy letters on behalf of individuals and in support of policies, and we need a return address. Letters to some entities, including legislators, have to be sent by paper mail, so we are setting ourselves up for a more professional look.

There are 191 of us in Louisiana now, meaning that over the past three years we have replaced all who moved or retired, and added another 25 members. This is a positive development and I encourage each of you to promote AAUP membership to at least two of your colleagues this semester, as there is strength in numbers. Brochures and stickers are available from the national AAUP, and we should use them. If you did not receive a version of this newsletter and these minutes by e-mail to your individual address, your membership may have lapsed, and/or the e-mail address you have on file with the AAUP may not be up to date. You can resolve this by contacting them at membership@aaup.org.

The state conference met by Zoom July 17, with a small group. Secretary Thomas Miller (SU-BR) took notes, which are pasted below with some updating from me. We will meet again by Zoom October 23, defining this as a meeting of the executive board, with an audience if people would like to attend. Reasoning: the quarterly Zoom meetings of the entire conference are a child of the COVID situation. The executive board needs to make some routine and practical decisions. We will schedule another meeting in January for more general discussion and to form a nominations committee for elections, to be held April 24, 2022.

Kevin Cope, Treasurer, reports that our dues remittance was above $1600 this year. With no new expenses beyond the minor one of the post office box, our finances are healthy; chapters undertaking projects including speaker events and recruiting should contact us.

In solidarity,
LESLIE BARY
President

FROM THE SECRETARY

Present at the July 17 meeting were:

Elected Board
Leslie Bary (President) (UL Lafayette)
Sudhir Trivedi (Vice President) (SU-BR)
Thomas Miller (Secretary) (SU-BR)
Ravi Rau (Past President) (LSU-BR)

General Membership
Judith Miranti (Xavier)
Peter Siska (LSU-S)
Christof Stumpf (LSU-A)
…and more.

Meeting begins: 10:15 am

AGENDA:

Item I: Mold Remediation LSU-S – The LSU-S administration continues to neglect facility upkeep. In particular, the ongoing presence of mold in the Science Building has not been adequately addressed. The campus Faculty Senate sides with this administration when this issue and other related complaints are aired at meetings, a situation exacerbated by the fact that administrators regularly attend Faculty Senate meetings. A group of four faculty have attempted to bypass the Senate, seeking to meet with the administration directly.  The administration remains unresponsive. Forcing the administration to respond to this and other issues will be difficult, so long as the campus Faculty Senate is unwilling to confront the administration.

Recommendation:  AAUP members should seek out faculty who show a willingness to speak up on issues of concern and to recruit the same to contest for positions of leadership in the Faculty Senate. Faculty Senate elections are annual.

Item II: Fall/Spring organizing – Chapters should send out communications to all faculty, ideally during convocation although it can be later, explaining the purpose of the AAUP while promoting new membership. Every campus with an active membership should ideally have a display table present at orientation. It is worth beginning to plan for January and August 2022 now. To become more visibly effective as an organization, it was recommended that the State Conference focus on concrete actions including:

1) Frame and promote a solid argument in favor of increased funding for higher education, including vocal support for the College for All Act, and
2) Continue to advocate for the inclusion of university faculty on System Boards and on the Board of Regents.

Item III: Media management, outreach and communication – These two committees of the Conference have merged into one. It was agreed that the Conference should continue to use Optima Web Services, our current web service provider, and that letterhead should be designed and printed on letter stock and envelopes. The secretary has secured a Post Office Box in Baton Rouge. We must still design and print letterhead, and place the P.O. address on the website.

New business – The Executive Committee has scheduled the fall Zoom meeting for Oct. 23. The spring meeting is planned for April 24 in Baton Rouge. This is an election meeting.

Meeting concludes: 12:05 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

THOMAS MILLER
Secretary

Creating a Faculty Senate: First Principles and First Steps

By Kevin L. Cope, AAUP-LA Treasurer, April 30, 2021

Anyone who serves for long as an AAUP Chapter, Section, or Conference
officer will experience the synonymy of the individual with the universal.
Problems are about the only things that are not in short supply in contemporary
higher education. Many colleagues seek help with what they regard as unique
troubles, not knowing that many others have faced those same challenges and
that the AAUP has plenty of pertinent, collected and collective wisdom to share.
One of the most common difficulties facing governance-minded academic
professionals is that of irregular (or, worse, non-existent) “faculty” or “shared”
governance institutions. Some institutions regard the faculty as little more than
hired labor without a voice in campus affairs; others create hybrid or chimerical
governance bodies such as “university senates” that seem to include everyone
but that end up, in their piebald character, representing no one. It is easy to
understand why a clear-thinking faculty member working in such an institution
might propose the creation of a faculty governance entity while simultaneously
being daunted by the difficulty of that task. Uncertainties concerning best
standards and practices for faculty representation in college and university
management make the challenge all the harder.

As a step toward encouraging colleagues to strengthen the faculty voice at
institutions that have yet to establish elected, representative faculty bodies
meeting AAUP standards, the following anonymized letter is being made public.
The letter was originally sent in response to questions that seemed, to the
querist, unique but that, in sad fact, arise on all too many campuses.

First Steps toward Faculty Governance: An Open Letter

Dear and Esteemed Colleague,

Thank you for the more complete picture of what is underway at your
campus, Disenfranchisement U.  I suppose it is good to know that you have at
least a “university senate,” but there is much more to good university governance
than such a body or concept can comprehend. In your letter, you pose a number
of queries, which I shall address serially, in bullet-list form, in the hope that we
can amplify the faculty voice at your institution.

  • Although it is true that many institutions create “university senates” rather
    than faculty senates, those with experience in faculty governance, including
    the AAUP as well as ALFS, discourage this arrangement.  In almost any
    institution, the faculty will be outnumbered by the combination of
    administrators with the staff and other non-tenured personnel who are
    obliged to administrators. Thus, a university, as opposed to a faculty,
    senate is simply a mechanism by which to silence the faculty voice by
    putting it permanently in the minority. The concept of a university senate
    is especially invidious because it seems to be inclusive and plays on
    professors’ liberality and sense of guilt, making them feel ashamed for
    being more prosperous than other workers and therefore reluctant to
    make demands.  In sum: A university senate is illegitimate. It has no
    mandate from anyone other than administrators.
  • What to do: First, you need to assess whether you have support.  Faculty
    governance is a group, collective effort. You cannot manage it alone as a
    solo crusader.  Here you will have to face some facts. Your colleagues may
    turn out to be too timid or cowardly or comfortable to take action. If that is
    the case, you must honestly judge that to be so, give up on them, not give
    them free help, and continue your work for faculty governance in some
    other context, such as the AAUP-LA or the AAUP or ALFS. Warning: If you
    help or stand up for people who lack the courage to fight for themselves,
    you will, in the end, be betrayed by them and left to face administrative
    retaliation on your own.
  • What to do, part two: If you do determine that you have support, you need
    to call a meeting, either on or off campus or on Zoom. In that and any
    following meeting, you must lend order, discipline, and legitimacy to your
    project by writing a faculty senate constitution to which you can all agree.
    Then you must all do just that: openly agree to it—no anonymous
    participants who fear to help their colleagues in public.
  • The creation of a faculty senate should not be dependent on administrative
    permission.  You should not ask the Provost or the President for their
    opinions.  You should act, and you should make it clear that you are going
    to continue to act.  A faculty senate is a check and a balance against the
    administration.  It is not something that operates as a favor granted by the
    administration, to which administration it stands in a collegial but still contrary, regulating relationship.  Cooperation is possible and should be encouraged, but it should never be forgotten that a faculty senate represents the interests and prerogatives of the faculty, which differ from those of the administration.
  • Although I know that you are chagrined about many past, adverse actions,
    ballots, and events, I would not waste time checking to see who voted
    which way on what.  You need to create and build a senate that will
    constructively advance faculty goals.  You may assume that there are some
    who have previously voted against you.  Your goal is not to coddle those
    folks, but to do what you need to do in order to make faculty life better.
  • Regarding one of the most important entities in any faculty senate, the
    grievance committee, and the question of who has the “final say” in
    conflicts:  The normal arrangement is for the grievance committee to make
    a recommendation to the Provost, who in turn, advised by that
    recommendation, makes a recommendation to the President. That would
    seem to suggest that the President has the final say, but there are
    qualifications.  First, the faculty senate and its grievance committee should
    establish a tradition of robust action such that the President is afraid to go
    against recommendations. Second, the faculty senate and its committees
    should develop a relationship with the management board so that it can go
    around the President and complain, thereby, again, making the President
    reluctant to decline grievance committee recommendations.  Third, the
    faculty senate and the grievance committee should develop appeal
    procedures so that the grievant may appeal beyond the President, for
    example to the management board.
  • You should also try to develop a relationship with the press so that, if it is
    necessary to criticize the President in public, it can be readily done.
    Administrators are afraid of periodicals such as The Chronicle of Higher
    Education because they know that bad press will impair their chances of
    getting the next job.
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