presidential candidates for the AAUP debated at Bradley University
on Saturday, February 11. The event turned out to be the only
scheduled forum in which both candidates shared the stage.
The agreed-upon format of the event is for both candidates to
make opening statements, then for the audience to alternately
direct questions to each candidate, with time for the other to
respond. The debate would conclude with closing statements by
both candidates. All statements, answers, and responses are time-limited.
The order of the opening statements would be decided by the winner
of a coin-toss, and the order of the closing statements would
be also be decided by the winner of a coin toss.
Due to severe weather, one candidate was delayed in his travels.
Light entertainment was provided in the interim.
The candidates are Tom Guild, who teaches courses in legal studies
at the University of Central Oklahoma, and Cary Nelson, who teaches
English at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. Guild
won the coin-toss, but deferred to Nelson to make the opening
In his opening statement Cary Nelson alluded to the AAUP-organized
conference at Bellagio, Italy, which was cancelled shortly before
the conference was to begin, in response to protests and calls
for boycott resulting from (presumably) inadvertent distribution
of anti-Semitic literature denying the Holocaust by the organizers.
A crisis of this type necessitates the executive committee to
work closely with each other as well as the national staff, and
that hostility to those involved would not be helpful.
He accepted the nomination to be president because it is important
to save the AAUP. He would help to resist the present destructive
forces which are numerous and serious. He stressed his long history
of national service for the AAUP, and his proven close working
relationship with its leaders. He also stated he has institutional
support to carry out AAUP work and has written extensively on
issues affecting higher education. He felt that his credibility
as a widely known scholar will be important and the AAUP must
defend the importance of research.
Nelson said he supports collective bargaining and led such an
effort at the University of Illinois in 1971. His priorities are:
1. AAUP must communicate more effectively.
2. Strengthen both the collective bargaining and traditional memberships.
3. Enlarge the endowment.
He noted that he has been quite successful in raising funds for
He noted that all 13 past presidents of the AAUP have endorsed
him. (Editor’s Note: “The organizational affiliations
are listed for identification purposes only and do not imply any
endorsement by the organization.”) In closing, he said that
the AAUP must be an activist organization which can marshal its
members for change.
Tom Guild also referred to the cancellation of the Bellagio conference
in his opening remarks. He stated that the “fiasco”
was planned by the AAUP Executive Committee without input from
He distinguished himself from his opponent for president by his
unique experiences as a chapter president, a state conference
president, and extensive experience in the legislative process.
He emphasized his record on diversity, recruiting three African-Americans
to serve on the Oklahoma AAUP Executive Committee, authoring a
chapter on the Oklahoma gay rights movement, and serving as an
officer of the Oklahoma Division of the American Association of
University Women. He was instrumental in helping a contingent
faculty member to become president of the Oklahoma State AAUP.
Guild reported that he had organized six regional AAUP conferences
and six state-wide conferences. He stressed the need for the AAUP
to keep more accurate membership records while limiting its dues
He closed by saying, “It is time for a new generation of
Question and Answer Period:
Despite an audience decimated by severe weather, the question
period was lively. The audience took care to ask questions that
were appropriate for both candidates, with the topics ranging
from Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights”, imposition
of faculty members’ personal beliefs on students, threat
to tenure, contingent faculty’s plight, de facto tenure,
AAUP involvement in the rights of graduate assistants, to the
balance between AAUP collective bargaining and advocacy units.
In general, Guild favors working through problems by developing
strong presences in State and National legislatures, citing instances
when he and AAUP were successful in Oklahoma, while Nelson would
rely on AAUP lobbyists in Washington to work with the various
states, and largely agree with current AAUP approaches, highlighting
instances when he led the group towards those approaches.
Nelson was generally supportive of AAUP positions and solutions
on graduate assistants, imposition of beliefs, and general growth
of activities; he also suggested that collective bargaining might
be the best way to stem the flow of power to the administration.
Guild was not in favor of embarking upon new programs before adequate
resources to ensure programmatic success were identified, but
thought that advocacy chapters can have success equal to that
of collective bargaining chapters, with the right effort. (Both
were in agreement that fund raising must be a priority in the
Some of the poignant moments included:
Cary Nelson stating that the Executive Committee of the National
Council had not been informed of changes in the Bellagio conference.
Guild viewing AAUP collective bargaining and advocacy units as
fraternal twins, and continuing that twins should not be divided
Nelson asserting that “the struggle to protect tenure is
lost”, as evidenced by 63% of college faculty now being
hired as tenure-ineligible.
In his closing remarks, Cary Nelson said the AAUP must continue
to be the source of sound educational policy. The AAUP must educate
its own membership of association activities, so that they can
persuade others to join us. It must continue to isolate institutions
that infringes on faculty rights, and continue to be the core
of idealism in academia. He said “without us, … higher
education will cease to be …”.
Tom Guild, in closing, said he did not agree with those who want
the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress to become part of the
AFL-CIO. He felt AAUP must be able to confront the issues that
face higher education. He stressed the need to have strong local
membership, giving the instance that he was instrumental in growing
membership at the University of Central Oklahoma from seven to
seventy. He reiterated, “It is time for a new generation
As Tom Guild assessed in his closing statement, while the atmosphere
of the session was tense, the candidates behaved honorably. No
direct ad hominem attacks were readily detectable.