AAUP Presidential Candidates Speak at Bradley University
Authors: Sam Fan and John Haverhals, Bradley University


The 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 statement.

Opening Statements:
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 the AAUP.

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 the Council.

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 increases.

He closed by saying, “It is time for a new generation of leadership.”

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 near term.)

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 into factions.
Nelson asserting that “the struggle to protect tenure is lost”, as evidenced by 63% of college faculty now being hired as tenure-ineligible.

Closing Remarks:
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 of leadership.”

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.