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.

Of interest to chapters may be the AAUP’s proposal of and support for student debt clinics, as organizing events. Please see the closing portion of this post for information. Our January meeting of the general membership will be by Zoom; at it, a nominations committee will be formed for April elections. This is 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.

1. Sudhir is drafting a proposed statement on COVID and teaching, for review and discussion at the January 29/April 23 meetings.
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/April 23 meetings.

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?

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?

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 29 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,

In Solidarity,
2020-2022 President
Louisiana Conference AAUP