New AAUP chapter to push shared governance

Discontented with what they perceive to be increasingly top- down decision-making at Yale, several professors are teaming up with a national organization in an effort to promote shared governance at the University.

The professors are working to reinstate a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, a national organization that represents professors in promoting academic freedom and shared governance at universities nationwide. At a Sept. 26 organizational meeting on campus, roughly a dozen faculty members appointed officers — including East Asian languages & literatures professor John Treat as president — and approved bylaws for the new chapter. Their next step will be to notify the Yale administration of the group’s formation and attempt to expand membership, according to a Sept. 27 email Treat sent to prospective members.

Professors involved in the group said they are skeptical that the Yale chapter, which existed previously but became inactive over 10 years ago, would have any foreseeable impact on University governance, but they said the national organization’s name and underlying principles could help further their cause.

“Faculty at an institution have a fundamental responsibility to take part in the governance of their institution,” Irene Mulvey, a professor at Fairfield University who serves as president of the AAUP’s Connecticut State Conference, said in a Thursday email. Mulvey was present at the Sept. 26 organizational meeting.

University President Richard Levin said Thursday that he has not been informed of any efforts to launch an AAUP chapter at Yale. Provost Peter Salovey declined to comment on the formation of the chapter, adding that he has yet to be contacted by its officers.

The AAUP, which has chapters at over 300 universities, assists faculty members in the event that their academic freedoms are violated and also represents professors in promoting higher education legislation. Yale once had an active chapter of the AAUP, but it allegedly “lapsed” in the 1990s, English professor and secretary-treasurer of the new chapter Jill Campbell said.

Prospective chapter members interviewed said the group will provide a forum for discussion on issues such as Yale’s partnership with the National University of Singapore in the creation of a liberal arts college and the search for a new University president. Art history professor David Joselit said the Yale chapter could serve as a nationally sanctioned lobbying group within the University.

Many of the professors pushing the proposed AAUP chapter are the same faculty who expressed concern with University governance at multiple Yale College faculty meetings last spring. They have argued that the administration has pursued an increasingly top-down approach to decision-making in recent years, pointing to the faculty’s alleged lack of involvement in projects such as Yale-NUS and contentious changes to departmental staffing.

Though the new group has yet to set any concrete goals, prospective members said it has the potential to give the faculty more sway in University governance.

English and American studies professor Wai Chee Dimock, a prospective member of the new chapter, said the AAUP chapter is likely to “foster a participatory culture and strengthen faculty input into the decision-making process” in the long run but is unlikely to have an immediate impact at Yale.

English professor Katie Trumpener said the mechanisms of faculty governance at Yale are weaker and more informal than those at many other universities.

“We are — or should be — very important stakeholders in the University, and the [faculty] ought to have not only consultative but legislative powers,” she said in a Tuesday email, adding that recent University decisions, including the founding of Yale-NUS, have made issues of faculty governance more pressing.

Dimock said Yale’s affiliation with the national organization could help keep professors informed about challenges that faculty at other colleges and universities are facing. She added that understanding national problems in higher education, such as funding cuts to humanities programs, will help Yale’s faculty evaluate how to approach similar issues at the University.

Campbell said the AAUP’s official stances on “shared governance” between faculty and administrators will help guide professors at Yale in expressing their own concerns — a particularly important matter as the University appoints a new president.

“We need guidance from the fundamental principles that the AAUP has articulated and defended for close to 100 years,” Campbell said in a Wednesday email.

The AAUP was founded in 1915 with the intent of upholding the faculty’s role in university governance.

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