James T. Richardson, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies
University of Nevada, Reno
I am deeply honored to have been elected President of the AAUP and to have served for two years.
My presidency had as its theme the related ideas of TRADITION, UNITY, INCLUSIVENESS, ACTION.
The AAUP has a venerable history of both developing and vigorously defending concepts that have made American higher education the envy of the world. It is no accident that people from all over the world want to come to America to seek higher education. And, the relationship between the concepts of academic freedom, tenure, and faculty governance and the quality of American higher education is not accidental. We have a strong system of quality higher education in America because of how we have built that system, and the AAUP has played a major role in the way higher education has been defined in this country.
Academic freedom is the cornerstone. Faculty members must be free to research topics of their choosing, and they must be allowed to teach those topics in an open and unfettered way. Faculty members also have a right to speak publicly without fear of reprisal. Only when academic freedom is protected is there a genuine accumulation of knowledge necessary for a free society. Citizens can make informed decisions only if they are allowed access to relevant knowledge. Academic freedom protects that precious knowledge and makes it available to inform the citizenry. Academic freedom must be protected!
Tenure is the best defender of academic freedom. AAUP has stood for decades behind the concept that faculty cannot be penalized for saying unpopular things as they practice their disciplinary craft in scholarly writings, teaching, and in civic participation. The importance of the 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure to the quality of American higher education cannot be overestimated. We also need to guarantee that faculty are treated fairly in all in personnel matters, and that the academic freedom protection provided by tenure not be undermined by arbitrary dismissal procedures. Administrators, trustees, politicians, and the general public all need to be reminded that the principles of the 1940 statement are the basis of American higher education.
We need only look at other countries' approach to higher education to be reminded of the value of protecting those who produce and disseminate new knowledge. The Lysenko affair in Russia is a case in point, where biology was stagnant for decades, ruining Russian agriculture, because of requiring a "party line" approach that claimed acquired characteristics in plants and animals could be inherited. Anyone who differed with this foolish idea was summarily dismissed or worse! Such experiences could be multiplied tenfold, and they all drive home the point of the importance of tenure to American higher education and indeed to America itself.
AAUP must continue to be bulwark against attacks on tenure, attacks which are mounting almost daily. We must find creative ways to protect that which is precious to us in academe and to American society, and we must find better ways of communicating to its detractors just how precious the concept of tenure is.
I have made the issue of defending and explaining tenure a top priority as president of AAUP, and I will continue to do so. (See one published statement on tenure on this website (buttons below).
The 1958 Statement on Procedural Standards for Faculty Dismissal Procedures is also essential to guaranteeing that faculty are treated fairly in all personnel proceedings. I support enforcement of those due process standards throughout academe, using creative and aggressive advocacy of those standards.
I also stress the importance of faculty involvement in governance of higher education institutions. Certainly AAUP supports firm and efficient leadership of higher education institutions, but only if that efficiency promotes as a major goal development and dissemination of knowledge essential to a democratic society.
We in AAUP, although interested in efficiency, do not think that the most important goal of higher education is that "the trains run on time." We believe in educating the citizenry to the highest level possible, a goal requiring that those with the disciplinary knowledge that is being disseminated should be involved in determining how that knowledge should be shared!
We need faculty members involved in the governing of institutions of higher learning. We need strong faculty senates and other faculty organizations, whose opinions are attended to by those in authority. And we need meaningful faculty representation on all bodies making decisions about higher education.
Coupled with this level of involvement, of course, is a pledge that faculty who are involved in governance will take their role seriously, and make sound recommendations, and that they will take responsibility for those recommendations. Faculty must be willing to "take the heat" when difficult decisions such as tenure and promotion recommendations must be made.
Implementation of this theme is essential to defending the traditions for which the AAUP stands. By unity I mean that the various constituencies of the AAUP must come together to work on defending the goals of the AAUP.
Unity means that we in AAUP must reach across natural boundaries of region, gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, institutional type, and even type of employment in order to accomplish the goal of continuing to develop and defend the best higher education system in history.
We must also realize that the major organizational segments of the AAUP must cooperate. Collective bargaining chapters and non-bargaining chapters must continue to work together, realizing that bargaining works in some situations well, and that it others we must continue to make use different options, including significant faculty involvement in governance.
I come from a state with some bargaining (one community college has a contract). I was involved in gaining the right to bargain and in bargaining that first contract. But, for most of our institutions bargaining is not a major option. Thus, we must find other ways to be effective, and we have through our strong state-wide organization, the Nevada Faculty Alliance, which combines bargaining and non-bargaining chapters. NFA members are heavily involved in faculty governance throughout the University and Community College System of Nevada, serving as senate chairs and in other capacities.
We of the AAUP must realize that we are all in this battle together, and that "if we do not hang together, we will hang separately." We must avoid falling for the tactic of "divide and conquer." We must work together in a co-operative fashion. Only if all elements of AAUP stand together can the principles outlined in the tradition section above be defended successfully.
I stand for equality of opportunity and fairness in treatment of all citizens. I teach my students the terrible costs of racism and sexism, and promote tolerance of different lifestyles and views. I also inform people that the original impetus for establishing the AAUP grew out of an egregious case in the far West, when a professor at Stanford, a private institution, was fired for professing unpopular views. This case reminds us that defending academic freedom and tenure is not confined to one type of institution or to one region of the country.
I strongly support improving the plight of part-time faculty, and we of the NFA have worked to that end in Nevada, seeking higher salaries for part-timers. At the same time we have tried successfully to limit growth of the use of part time faculty and move toward more full-time faculty. The latter is necessary for the integrity of our educational institutions, but at the same time, those part- time faculty who are employed deserve to be treated fairly and compensated as well as possible. Insisting on adequate pay and fair treatment of part-time faculty is the only way to reduce the incentive for institutions to replace full-time faculty with cheaper, exploited part-timers!
I and others in the Nevada Faculty Alliance (which is the AAUP State Conference in Nevada) have proved that university faculty and community college faculty can work together successfully for the common good of higher education. Our organization fully integrates these two types of institutions, allowing us to speak with one voice when dealing with governors, legislators, regents, or administrators. Through this unity we are effective as a faculty voice for quality education.
I believe this unified approach that combines constituencies will work in any higher education environment, public or private. We must all work together to improve higher education!
Inclusiveness is my personal philosophy of how best to work with the various parts of any higher education system. AAUP must be inclusive of all interest groups within academe, learning how to work with ostensibly diverse groups in ways that highlight areas of common interest for all those groups. I also strongly believe in trying to work together with boards of trustees or regents and with administrators where possible. I do not believe that we must always be adversaries with such groups. Indeed, I think that we often have more in common with such organizational entities than we have differences. We need to "offer an olive branch" and take the lead in pointing out areas of common interest, and work toward common goals, unless we are completely rebuffed.
Only if faculty involvement in governance is absolutely refused should we adopt an adversarial stance ourselves. When we are forced to that stance, however, we need to be firm in our resolve to defend our principles and our members, and use all means at our disposal to affirm our values. The respect we earn for reasoned firmness of resolve will gain us more supporters and allies.
I believe the same inclusive approach will usually work when dealing with governors, state budget directors, and legislators, and even members of Congress, the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, and the media. Such important people and groups must be made to understand that they have an interest in supporting a sound system of higher education. They must be included as defenders of higher education. And we as faculty need to take the initiative to make this understood by these key decision makers.
I am a very action-oriented person who does not easily come to a feeling of helplessness. When I encounter a problem, I immediately start looking for ways to solve the problem. I seek to understand the difficulty, and then focus on key groups or persons who can help rectify the situation.
This personal philosophy meshes well with what I have seen over the many years of my involvement in the AAUP. AAUP means action! That action may be defending academic freedom and due process rights for an individual faculty member, or it may mean making sophisticated presentations to Congressional committees on issues of import to higher education, such as student aid or defending funding for controversial research. It means forming coalitions with groups that share common interests, such as we have done in defending student aid and working to fight the onerous TEAM Act that would have destroyed effective collective bargaining, in overcoming FOIA attacks on the integrity of research data, or in defending intellectual property rights of faculty.
We in Nevada have structured the Nevada Faculty Alliance as an action organization. We vigorously defend faculty rights through our legal defense policy and Committee A work. (See details on our website.) We work within the higher education system to make faculty governance a reality, not just a myth. Our opinions are taken seriously when crucial decisions are to be made. And we act responsibly, not ducking tough decisions when they have to be made.
We also are heavily involved in government relations (lobbying) at every level of decision making that affects higher education, including levels outside the campuses. Indeed, my favorite definition of lobbying is that "lobbying is faculty governance writ large." Faculty must be involved in the political process both on and off campus in order to help determine what happens on their campuses. Often, in both private and public higher education, the largest decisions about what happens on campus are made off campus. Faculty need to be respected in all such forums!