The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Megan Zahneis
May 26, 2021
Among the many higher-ed trends being amplified by Covid-19? The downfall of shared governance, according to a new report from the American Association of University Professors.
The report, commissioned in September, examines Covid-era decisions — which faculty members and the AAUP determined were unilateral actions taken by governing boards and university administrations — at eight institutions, seven of them private. Those examples, the report says, are illustrative of a larger trend in academe, “the gradual erosion of shared governance on some campuses into a landslide,” and prove the pandemic to be the most serious challenge to shared governance in the past 50 years.
Here are four key takeaways from the report.
1. The language being used to threaten tenure is changing, but the message is clear.
Tenured faculty members, longstanding AAUP guidance suggests, can be fired only for cause related to performance or conduct, or “under extraordinary circumstances” like financial exigency — a declaration that a college faces a crisis threatening its core educational mission — or the discontinuation of an academic program. But none of the eight institutions the AAUP investigated declared financial exigency. In fact, only one institution, Lincoln University of Missouri, appears to have declared financial exigency because of the pandemic, the report notes.