April 2001 aaUPBEAT
UD's Financial Condition & Academic Freedom
UD's Financial Condition
On March 2, Richard E. Weber and Mary A. Beebe completed their annual AAUP-sponsored analysis of the University's financial condition. The report indicated a marked "improvement in its already excellent financial health" over the last two years.
The University's net assets rose by $520 million since 1995 and now stand at $1.4 billion. This rise includes an almost $200 million increase since 1998. Of the University's net assets, $381 million are expendable net assets, "enough to pay 336% of long-term." The institution's net assets also included endowments equaling $602 million.
Although the Administration and Board of Trustees frequently depict the University as money-short when it comes to its capacity to increase faculty salary and benefits or to fund an aggressive program to implement greater faculty diversity, the numbers show otherwise. Weber and Beebe, whose predictions have been accurate in the past, estimate that the University will experience an average annual increase in net assets of approximately $99 million.
Such numbers are part of the context in which the AAUP will enter into contract negotiations next year with the Administration. The key to keeping current faculty and attracting dynamic new faculty is spending the necessary moneys, particularly since those moneys are available to the Administration. By available, we don't just mean that the money exists physically in an account; we mean that, given (in Weber's and Beebe's words) the University's "excellent" and "improving" financial health, the funds are available to be spent without jeopardizing the University's financial condition in any way.
Although bread and butter salary and benefits issues are a top AAUP priority, we also recognize that there are other areas in which the Administration can employ available funds to improve UD life. The "Miles to Go" report, published by the Southern Education Foundation at the end of the 1990s, cited UD as still being, in many ways, "segregated in practice." This finding is particularly embarrassing given the University's censure, for similar reasons, by the U.S. Department of Education in the early 1980s. As the AAUP has stated previously, the time has come for the Administration to move more aggressively on this issue. This aggressiveness must include increasing the number of African-American faculty, who now make up only a pitiful 3% of the UD faculty. There is no financial reason why the Administration can't use some of its almost $200 million in quasi-endowment funds to deal with this matter by setting up a procedure that will prioritize the taking of specific steps to remedy this problem.
After all, the Administration certainly knows how to be aggressive in other areas. In 1999, the Administration informed Dover legislators that UD wanted additional funds in order to develop its biotechnology resources in order to work closely with the DuPont Co. as the company banks a mounting percent of its hopes for the future on its growing Life Sciences department. It is certainly proper for the Administration to lobby for additional moneys to fund University educational efforts that will help the state's industries. However, the Administration must also be equally aggressive in supporting faculty-level issues like diversity and adequate salary/benefits.
It is the faculty, after all, who teach the courses and do the research that make it possible for the Administration to talk about developing resources like UD's growing interest in biotechnology.
Matthew P. Huenerfauth Receives AAUP's 2000 Undergraduate Stundent Award
On April 4, 2001, Dr. Frederick M. Stiner, chair of the AAUP's Student Award Committee, announced that Matthew P. Huenerfauth is this year's winner of the chapter's Undergraduate Student Award. Mr. Huenerfauth, who is a senior in Computer and Information Science, will graduate with a B.S. and M.S. in May. His research interest is Natural Language Processing.
Mr. Huenerfauth has a 4.00 GPA. As well as having been a lab instructor and research coordinator, he has won numerous awards and scholarships. He also has been active in service activities, including faculty senator, spirit ambassador, and actor in E-52.
It was the recommending committee's opinion that Mr. Huenerfauth "shows every promise of an outstanding career in academia."
In 1967 the AAUP in coalition with other faculty, administrative and student groups produced a policy statement entitled "Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students.." In its Preamble, the document stressed a principle that is fundamental to all academic freedom discussions: "Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom."
Most faculty members understand this principle's importance. Such understanding doesn't mean, however, that we don't also sometimes take the academic freedom issue for granted. There are faculty members who think, "Nobody's trying to stop me from teaching what I want to teach. Academic freedom's a reality throughout the nation's higher education institutions."
We should not get so overconfident.
Academic freedom exists, but it exists within constantly changing political, technological and cultural contexts that regularly redefine how we look at academic freedom and how it is necessary to develop ways to confront new assaults on it and to rectify old wrongs. The emergence, in the 1970s and 1980s, of Women's and African-American Studies departments in higher education is an example of transformations in higher education's views of history and information organization. These transformations were traceable in good part to an updated view of academic freedom which mandated that historically valid, but previously ignored, perspectives on history must be incorporated into academic life. This was not just a "political" debate; it was a debate, at a fundamental level, about freedom of expression within academe.
There are also more recent examples of the way in which the academic freedom battle regularly takes on new form.
This was made clear during a speech given at UD on March 2, 2001 by Donna R. Euben, a counsel for the national AAUP. Euben stressed that the issue of academic freedom is not reducible to a question of First Amendment rights, which is why, she argued, that "in addition to the First Amendment and some state laws, academic freedom has also been recognized and protected in higher education by academic policy, practice, and contracts." These policies, practices and contracts exist in order to spell out with greater specificity than the First Amendment the nuances of the academic freedom issue.
Euben cited a number of current/recent court cases that signify new trends in how freedom of expression is being debated within higher education.
The impetus for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Louisiana Supreme Court case began when Tulane University's Environmental Law Clinic helped community organizations fight the construction of a plastics manufacturing site in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, which was already plagued by a history of environmental hazards. When the plastics company finally capitulated to pressure and dropped its construction plans, the Louisiana business community, not liking this precedent, launched an eventually successful campaign successfully applied pressure to state legislators to restrict the ways in which faculty and students could intervene in community life. In 1999, the Louisiana Supreme Court placed limits on those who were eligible to receive assistance from university law clinics. The new criteria eliminated from eligibility organizations like the community-based groups that had received assistance from Tulane's Environmental Law clinic in the battle against the plastics company.
In response to the decision, a number of plaintiffs, including students and faculty, challenged the new rules on the basis of the rules' violation of professors' right to teach and students' right to learn. The AAUP, in concert with other higher education organizations, has filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the principle of academic freedom has indeed been violated in the case.
The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case this past November.
Another, related example cited by Euben is the case of David Kern, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University. Kern was dismissed as the director of Brown's occupational health clinic after Kern released information - in spite of objections from both the hospital where his clinic was housed and a local textile manufacturer, Microfibers, Inc. - about lung disease levels among the company's workers. Microfibers, for whom Kern had done some consulting, argued that Kern violated his confidentiality agreement with them by revealing his research's findings. Kern, his medical colleagues at Brown, and supporters around the nation say that his community health responsibilities override the confidentiality agreement, and that the denial of his community health responsibilities is a denial of his academic freedom of expression.
Beyond the examples given by Euben, many other cases of disturbing violations of academic freedom exist. Sometimes they entail, not only the power of outside influence, but conflicts within a particular higher education institution.
In the early 1990s, Michelle Rennie was dismissed from her research assistant position at the University of Minnesota. The dismissal followed her alleged attempt to slander Dr. Barry Garfinkle, the chief of child psychology at the university's medical school. She accused Garfinkle of providing misleading information in a study of the effects of Anafranil, an anti-depressant, on children with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The study was sponsored by Ciba-Geiga, the drug company that manufactured the medication and which was trying to secure FDA approval. Rennie was dismissed after a closed-door university committee exonerated Garfinkle and discredited the research assistant. Garfinkle's vindication saved the study and also saved the university $250,000 in funding from Ciba-Geiga. However, this was not the story's end. Eventually, the courts became involved and Garfinkle was found guilty on felony charges related to his falsification of data in the anti-depressant study. As it turned out, Rennie had not slandered Garfinkle. Instead, she herself had been slandered, as part of a university cover-up intended to help Ciba-Geiga market Anafranil while simultaneously preserving the university's financial relationship with the company.
Garfinkle and his colleagues were not interested in arriving at the truth. They were interested in arriving at the bank on time.
The problem of non-higher educational organizations negatively impacting on academic freedom issues is a serious concern. At a time when the economy is rapidly changing and corporations and political formations vie for ways to secure a toehold in the nation's future, much pressure is applied to campuses in an effort to make campuses, not independent institutions of higher education, but adjuncts to those economic and political forces that hope to shape the future.
For academic freedom to be academic freedom, it cannot be an adjunct to those forces.
Temple Graduate Students Win Unionization Drive
Last month we ran a story on graduate student unionization drives. As we pointed out, many university administrators oppose teaching assistant unions on the grounds that graduate student attempts to win collective bargaining rights threaten the "special" way in which higher education operates. Such administrators argue that the introduction of an industrial model for solving administration-T.A. problems hurts the cooperative spirit which traditionally has characterized campus life.
Of course, as higher education increasingly follows a corporate model for structuring university operations, graduate students have mobilized themselves in response to their concerns about overwork, low pay, lack of benefits, and administrations' general refusal to deal with them in a spirit of academic collegiality.
One of the examples we used last month of graduate student unionization drives was the Temple University Graduate Student Association (TUGSA), which has led the unionization battle at Temple.
At the end of March, TUGSA concluded its unionization campaign with a Labor Board mandated Temple University vote that the pro-union forces won by a 95%-5% margin.
Richard Klimmer, the American Federation of Teachers national representative who worked with TUGSA, commented that in thirty years of union work he had never seen a more convincing union victory.
Temple graduate students are now the 29th recognized graduate assistant union in the United States.
The prelude to TUGSA's March victory was a conflict between TUGSA and the Temple administration before the Pennsylvania Labor Board. The disagreement stemmed from Temple's position that the graduate assistants had no right to unionize since they were not really workers, but rather students. This discord stretched back to the late 1990s and was not resolved until last October 18, when, as the result of TUGSA's organizing efforts, the Labor Board declared Temple's graduate students to be official university employees and therefore entitled to collective bargaining rights if they chose to seek those rights.
This decision provided the basis for holding the March unionization vote.