Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Inside Higher Ed: Shared Crisis:
Citing a recent wave of unilateral moves to eliminate academic programs by university administrators claiming financial crisis, the American Association of University Professors today released new guidelines designed to tighten the definition of financial exigency and increase faculty participation in deciding whether to close programs. ...
AAUP accepts that academic programs may be cut due to true financial exigency or sound educational reasons, said Bérubé, professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and immediate past president of the Modern Language Association. But some of the cuts in recent years have not been based on a “you’re bankrupt and owe money to the mob tomorrow” imperative, but rather “festering” financial crises related to the greater economic climate in which administrations have looked to cut instructional costs before other, extracurricular priorities, such as athletics. ...
John Lombardi, a former president of the Louisiana State University and expert on institutional finance, said that financial exigency has historically been a point of contention between administrations and faculty precisely because it means different things to different groups at different levels of the institution. Union groups tend to hold that any available funds should be spent on keeping jobs, while administrators have to balance a wider variety of obligations.
American Association of University Professors, The Role of the Faculty in Conditions of Financial Exigency:
In recent years, American institutions of higher education have begun closing programs that should be part of any serious educational institution’s curricular portfolio and have been implementing policies that further erode the ranks and the discretionary power of the tenured professoriate. Program closures on the scale we have recently witnessed represent a massive transfer of power from the faculty to the administration over curricular matters that affect the educational missions of institutions, for which the faculty should always bear the primary responsibility. In most cases the decisions to close programs are made unilaterally and are driven by criteria that are not essentially educational in nature; they are therefore not only procedurally but also substantively illegitimate. Increasingly, administrators are making budgetary decisions that profoundly affect the curricula and the educational missions of their institutions; rarely are those decisions recognized as decisions about the curriculum, even though the elimination of entire programs of study (ostensibly for financial reasons) has obvious implications for the curricular range and the academic integrity of any university.
This report responds to this state of affairs in two ways: one, by making recommendations intended to strengthen shared governance and faculty consultation with regard to program closures and, two, by addressing the gap between Regulation 4c and Regulation 4d of the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Regulation 4c pertains to financial exigency, and Regulation 4d concerns program discontinuance based on educational considerations.
First, as to governance and consultation, this report insists that faculty members must be involved in consultation and deliberation at every stage of the process, beginning with a determination that a state of financial exigency exists. We offer specific recommendations for such faculty involvement. ...
Second, this report proposes a more detailed and specific definition of “financial exigency” that will extend the standard of exigency to situations not covered by our previous definition. As set forth in the introduction, our new definition names a condition that is less dramatic than that in which the very existence of the institution is immediately in jeopardy but is significantly more serious and threatening to the educational mission and academic integrity of the institution than ordinary (short- and long-term) attrition in operating budgets. Financial exigency can legitimately be declared only when substantial injury to the institution’s academic mission will result from prolonged and drastic reductions in funds available to the institution and only when the determination of the institution’s financial health is guided by generally accepted accounting principles. In proposing this new definition, however, we insist that financial exigency is not a plausible complaint from a campus that has shifted resources from its primary missions of teaching and research toward the employment of increasing numbers of administrators or toward unnecessary capital expenditures.
The AAUP has long acknowledged that a college or university can discontinue a program of instruction, but our standard has been that if the discontinuation is not undertaken for financial reasons, it must be shown to enhance the educational mission of the institution as a whole; we have long acknowledged that programs can be cut in times of financial exigency, but only if an appropriate faculty body is involved in the decision-making process, beginning with the determination of whether an institution is experiencing bona fide financial exigency. But by and large, the program closings of recent years do not meet any of these standards. They represent a violation of the principles on which American higher education should operate and must be contested by a vigorous, principled, and informed faculty.