Academe (Magazine published by AAUP National)
by Michael Bérubé
I drafted this article in response to a mischaracterization of the AAUP’s policy on financial exigency made in February, before the spread of the coronavirus had shuttered campuses and moved all instruction online. Now, as we face a global pandemic that may drastically affect enrollments in fall 2020 and lead many institutions—primarily small private colleges—to close their doors altogether, it is even more imperative that people understand what the AAUP policy on financial exigency does and does not say.
On February 16, 2020, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a compelling account of the dismissal of history professor James Patterson at Centenary University—and, more broadly, of the phenomenon of colleges and universities declaring (or not declaring) “near exigency” as a rationale for terminating appointments with continuous tenure. Although Megan Zahneis’s article, “The Latest Assault on Tenure,” was smart and timely, it unfortunately suggested that the American Association of University Professors had paved the way for the last round of assaults on tenure.