American Association of University Professors
University of Delaware Chapter

301 McDowell Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE  19716
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January 2003 aaUPBEAT

Concluding My Term as AAUP President
Higher Education's Periolous Times


Serving as president of our AAUP Chapter for the past six years has been deeply gratifying. I have had the pleasure of working with dedicated colleagues on the AAUP Executive Council and the AAUP Steering Committee. They have demonstrated their commitments to enhancing the faculty's working conditions in order to improve the quality of education and scholarship at the university. More generally, I have come to know the personal circumstances, concerns and views of faculty colleagues across the University. In light of all this, I thank the AAUP membership for providing me with this opportunity for service. As past president, I will be a member of the AAUP Executive Council. I look forward to working with Linda Bucher, our chapter president, and my other colleagues on the Executive Council as the AAUP builds on past accomplishments to face the perilous environment and new challenges that we face as faculty.

Our Changing Bargaining Unit

The full-time faculty represented by the AAUP has undergone significant changes over the past six years. The faculty has grown from 920 to 1,073. With changes that have been implemented in the nontenure track policy to include clinical and public service faculty, the nontenure track faculty has grown from 142 to 253, an increase from about 15% to about 24% of the current bargaining unit. With the addition of 42 new tenure track faculty and the continuing turnover of faculty, overwhelmingly by retirements, almost 25% of the faculty now employed at the University were not here six years ago. Through all of these changes, the AAUP membership has stayed over 50% and our chapter's finances have remained strong.

AAUP Accomplishments

With these changes in mind, I'd like to highlight some of the AAUP's accomplishments in recent years. As a result of our Collective Bargaining Agreements, salaries at the University of Delaware are slightly higher than the median for comparable institutions in our region. Faculty salaries at the University of Delaware are ranked just below Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pennsylvania and one or two other Category I institutions in our region. Our benefits package, including the University's contribution to TIAA-CREFF, is among the best provided nationally. Faculty now have the opportunity to take a year's sabbatical at 75% of their salary. Tenure track faculty have the option of taking a Research Semester free from teaching and service responsibilities before they apply for tenure.

In addition to enhancing faculty's economic status and working conditions, recent Collective Bargaining Agreements also have provided the faculty with rights and opportunities for governance. A faculty vote is now required for appointment and reappointment of department chairs. Faculty must ratify departmental policies for the allocation of merit pay. The development of workload policies is largely the responsibility of faculty and must be established according to departmental bylaws determined by the faculty.

In addition to improving faculty compensation, working conditions, and rights in governance, the AAUP has also sought to enhance community ties on campus. In a joint effort with AFSCME's leadership, we worked with the administration to provide tuition remission for employees in food services and in the bookstore who no longer have University employee status since, as the result of outsourcing, they now work for outside vendors. Also, the AAUP has vigorously supported the academic freedom of part-time faculty in the belief that attacks on the academic freedom of anyone teaching at the University of Delaware presents a danger to all faculty. We have been advocates of racial and cultural diversity, especially in the employment of faculty. We have created an Undergraduate Student Award of $2,000 that is made to a worthy graduating senior planning an academic career. We have established excellent working relations with our colleagues in the administration. The AAUP additionally has built ties with legislators, informing them of our concerns and our vision of higher education in our state.

Perilous Challenges

While we have accomplished a great deal, the current climate for higher education demands that we be vigilant and engaged across a range of issues that affect higher education faculty. In the January 2002 issue of AAUPBEAT, written as we were entering into negotiations for our current contract, I said we were in "challenging times" as a result of the mobilization against terrorism, the weak economy and declining stock market, and threats to academic freedom. In the face of difficult circumstances, we negotiated and the faculty ratified a strong contract last spring. Still, due to developments over the past year, higher education conditions nationally have markedly deteriorated. Unless faculty at the University of Delaware and, indeed, across the country become more engaged and more mobilized around issues of higher education funding and quality, the values of academic freedom, and the central role that colleges, universities and faculty play in a democratic society, conditions for the academic profession will be seriously imperiled.

The financial supports for colleges and universities have been deteriorating. As a result of fiscal crises affecting state governments and the relatively low priority given to higher education in spite of much government talk to the contrary, average state appropriations for higher education increased by only 1.2% for 2002-2003 (Chronicle of Higher Education, December 13, 2002: A28-29). This is the lowest level of increase in ten years and is below the rate of inflation. Delaware's appropriation to the University of Delaware increased by about 2.7% over this year, but the state faces growing fiscal problems. In addition, largely as a result of declining stock prices, the market value of university and college endowments have deteriorated. The University of Delaware's endowment has declined by about 6.5%. While federal funding for higher education through Pell grants and student loans has increased, there are efforts on the part of Congressional leaders and the Bush administration to make more institutions eligible for these funds. As a result, federal funding for higher education may be seriously diluted as it is diverted to "online universities" and for-profit institutions.

These deteriorating financial supports for colleges and universities heighten the trend of shifting the costs of higher education to students, their families, and higher education employees. The average student who borrows to finance an education accumulates a debt of $27,600. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of students borrowing money increased from 46% in 1990 to 70% in 2000. According to surveys reported in The New York Times (January 28, 2003), students have become more skeptical about whether they should have gotten into such deep debt to finance their educations. This may lead to greater public cynicism toward the value of a higher education degree. Increasing financial burdens are shaping student career goals and expectations about their future material well-being.

The deepening financial problems facing colleges and universities are occurring during a time when the professional status of faculty is being broadly challenged. In 1969, only 3% of the nation's faculty were neither tenured nor on tenure tracks. Now, tenured faculty constitute a minority of full-time faculty members. In addition, the number of courses taught by part-timers continues to increase across the country. In such states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, legislators have been demanding that teaching loads of faculty be increased as a condition for state funding. The boards of trustees of many private and public institutions of higher education have members who increasingly want to intervene in curriculum matters, faculty hiring decisions, and academic planning. These interventions, presented in terms of efficiency and accountability, are part of a broader effort to model the university on corporate business practices.

In addition to these challenges, the mobilization against terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks are posing serious issues to our values of academic freedom, sharing knowledge, and the integrity of our professional relationships and relationships with students. As in previous times of national crisis, issues of dissent on campus, the rights of faculty and students to speak freely and engage in analyses of policy issues, and the university's role as an area of public discussion have been emerging across the country. At the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas, and City University of New York, troubling questions have been raised about the academic freedom of faculty and students engaged in either dissent from government policies, analyses of terrorism, or specific remarks taken to be offensive by students, faculty, administrators or politicians (Kenton Bird and Elizabeth Barker Brandt, "Academic Freedom and 9/11: How the War on Terrorism Threatens Free Speech on Campus," 7 Comm. L. & Pol'y 431-459).

Just to give one example of how laws are changing, The USA PATRIOT ACT of 2001 has provided government investigators with new discretionary powers for gathering information. Justice department officials may seek authorization to collect educational records about students, for example, if they "are likely to contain" information relevant to the prosecution or investigation of domestic or international terrorism. This is a lower standard than the "reasonable suspicion" standard that previously had been in effect. Disclosure of this information by the educational institution does not require the student's or parents' consent, the student or parent does not have to be notified that the disclosure has occurred, and no records of disclosure must be kept. Increasingly, higher education is being drawn into the surveillance functions of the national security state.

We Must All Get Involved

The issues that I have raised in this overview are indicative of the kinds of problems higher education faculty are now confronting. To some extent, faculty at the University of Delaware have been relatively insulated from these forces. We have a long tradition of collective bargaining and a demonstrated ability to act when our interests and values are threatened. Our past accomplishments have minimized the number of part-timers and strengthened the economic and governance status of the faculty. The financial condition of the University of Delaware is solid, and both the faculty and the University have the respect and affection of many leaders and communities in our state. We have an ongoing dialogue with our colleagues in the administration about the issues facing the faculty and our campus. There is every reason to believe that these conditions will continue.

Still, the general climate of the country and the crises confronting higher education nationally can't be ignored since they will have important effects on the contexts in which we teach, do our research, participate in governance, and bargain in future contracts. As professors, I believe that we have individual and collective responsibilities to shape the conditions of our work so that the values of education, scholarship and shared governance can be continued for ourselves and for future generations of scholars. As a profession, we are at a decisive moment in our history. As scholars and teachers, we love to get lost in our work. Our work is often individual, creative and deeply engaging. As we pursue our work, we must be mindful of the political storms and cultural currents that shape our institutions and determine our resources. Through active memberships in the AAUP and our professional associations and as individual citizens, we must participate in making the world that we live in. We must profess not only the knowledge and ethics of our disciplines, but also the values and interests of our profession.