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2014 Bulletin of the AAUP

The 2014 issue of the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, the Association’s journal of record, is in the mail. In addition to several annual reports, updated lists of officers and members of the AAUP’s many committees, and other business documents, this year’s Bulletin reprints a case report of an investigation into violations of academic freedom and tenure that led to censure, as well as four new or revised policy documents: one on electronic communications, two on intellectual property, and the remaining one on faculty communication with governing boards.

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Northeastern Illinois University recounts how an assistant professor of linguistics, the only untenured member of an anti-administration faculty group, was denied tenure by the university’s president, despite having received favorable recommendations from his department colleagues, his chair, his dean, and the university-wide faculty personnel committee. Of sixteen tenure candidates reviewed that year by the president, the linguistics professor’s candidacy was the only one the president declined to recommend for action by the governing board. The investigating committee found that the president had failed to provide a credible reason for her decision, leaving unrebutted the widely held opinion that she denied him tenure because he was the dissenting group’s only vulnerable member. The investigating committee’s conclusion that the NEIU administration’s actions against the assistant professor violated principles of academic freedom and due process formed the basis of a recommendation by Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure that the AAUP’s 2014 annual meeting add Northeastern Illinois University to the Association’s list of censured administrations, a recommendation that the annual meeting approved by unanimous vote.

In 2012, a subcommittee of Committee A was charged with revising and expanding Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, a landmark report first issued in 2004. In making its revisions, the subcommittee adhered to the original’s “overriding principle”: “Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in print, save for the most unusual situation where the very nature of the medium itself might warrant unusual restrictions.” But the subcommittee applied that principle to realities in electronic communications that did not exist a decade ago and formulated a number of useful policy recommendations for protecting academic freedom and promoting faculty governance in such matters.

The Statement on Intellectual Property and Defending the Freedom to Innovate: Faculty Intellectual Property Rights after Stanford v. Roche, both produced by a subcommittee of Committee A, address the increasing tendency of university administrations to illegitimately claim ownership of the products of faculty research and teaching. The second document is a lengthy report on the issue, with particular focus on faculty patent rights, as reasserted in the US Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Stanford v. Roche. In its final section, it sets forth recommended principles on intellectual property designed for incorporation into institutional regulations and collective bargaining agreements. The much briefer Statement on Intellectual Property distills the key points of Defending the Freedom to Innovate.

In Faculty Communication with Governing Boards: Best Practices, a subcommittee of the Association’s Committee on College and University Governance outlines the current deplorable state of faculty-board communication, surveys the AAUP’s previous recommendations on the subject, and sets forth a series of conclusions and guidelines, foremost among them that “every standing committee of the governing board, including the executive committee, should include a faculty representative,” and that “direct communication between the faculty and the governing board should occur through a liaison or conference committee consisting only of faculty members and trustees and meeting regularly to discuss topics of mutual interest.”