AAUP Principles Collide
Pan Papacosta President,
Of all the major
AAUP principles – academic freedom, tenure, due process, and
shared governance – I often wonder which one is the most important.
We may argue that all of them are interconnected in some way or
another and therefore they are all important. But what in if one
principle appears to be in conflict with another? How can we make
a judgment call in such a situation? This hypothetical question
was realized in the recent developments at DePaul University when
the Board of Trustees voted to close down its Barat campus.
promised to honor the tenure standards of its Barat campus tenured
faculty and help as much as possible those who were on tenure track.
This challenge was passed on to the various departments at the DePaul
main campus, which were now placed in the difficult situation of
“honoring tenure” by accepting tenured Barat faculty
amongst them as colleagues.
those departments wanted to have a say as to who their colleagues
would be and insisted on “admission criteria,” including
interviews, before accepting anyone from Barat College – even
if they had already earned tenure there. Such an expectation reflects
an important AAUP principle: faculty must set the standards and
methods of hiring their new colleagues. On the other hand, Barat
tenured faculty felt betrayed that their tenure, earned through
a legitimate process at Barat, was now coming under question by
colleagues in the same institution.
It is my understanding
that some of the Barat tenured faculty made a smooth transition
into the main campus departments and others, for a variety of reasons,
decided to take an early retirement. A few tenured Barat faculty
who were not hired in specific departments were to be housed under
the Vice President’s office in some strange capacity still
unclear to me and most certainly unorthodox in practice.
I wonder if
this difficult dilemma would have arisen if shared governance were
fully applied in this entire story. When DePaul was about to purchase
Barat College, the Faculty Senate voted against the idea. Yet the
Board of Trustees ignored the faculty’s concerns and went
ahead with the purchase. Despite major restructuring and the launching
of a more focused marketing for new students, Barat College was
hit with major repair costs that undermined its financial health.
The Board was contemplating closing it down, thereby cutting their
Senate of DePaul (which included elected representatives from Barat
College) met to discuss the pros and cons of closure. After a long
meeting and after hearing from administrators, faculty and students
at Barat and AAUP representatives, the Senate voted in favor of
continuing the operation of this 100-year-old historic institution.
Although the vote was close, it was nevertheless a Yes vote in favor
of preserving Barat.
and for the second time, the Board of Trustees did not concur with
the Faculty Senate vote and decided instead to close down the Barat
I do not propose
that the Board of Trustees was wrong in its decisions. All I am
suggesting is that the system of shared governance failed DePaul
University by not including faculty input in the early deliberations,
when contemplating the purchase of Barat College. As a result, faculty
were faced with difficult decisions in dealing with the aftermath
of the Barat closure. This is how two fundamental AAUP principles
came to collide. The big lesson from this sad story is this: institutions
that plan to merge or pursue the acquisition or integration of another
college must fully engage the faculty from the initial stages of
the process. Academic careers and principles are at stake and the
Trustees must be prudent to consider such faculty participation
as vital to the smooth operation of the institution and the morale
of the college community. Faculty concerns are just as important
to consider as the financial ramifications associated with a merger
As we witnessed
in the case at Barat College, sometimes these acquisitions do not
work. Safety nets that protect the faculty must be set in place
before the acquisition is made. Think of it as a prenuptial agreement
arranged prior to academic mergers, designed to protect faculty
rights and AAUP principles, regardless of the outcome of the merger.
It is extremely important that such mergers involve the faculty
from the onset if we are to avoid future situations where AAUP principles
collide, and faculty morale is injured.