AAUP, AUC Chapter – Statement on the 2016 Crisis at AUC

Ray Langsten, president, AAUP AUC, langsten@aucegypt.edu

AAUP, AUC Chapter – Statement on the 2016 Crisis at AUC

Cairo, Egypt (December 5, 2016)

Founded in 1919, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) works to advance academic freedom, shared governance and promote economic security for faculty and graduate students. The AAUP chapter at AUC is one of over 450 campus chapters in the United States and in the Middle East. Since the inception of our chapter in May 2013, we have advocated for a meaningful faculty role in AUC’s governance and direction. We have responded to adverse personnel actions by supporting faculty members on tenure-related issues. We have sought to protect contractual rights of faculty by alerting the administration to policies incompatible with the Faculty Handbook and decision-making procedures.

Shared Governance, university focus

First, in our experience of attempting to engage with the administration in the last three and half years, we have demonstrated as an organization and as individual faculty members that we take shared responsibility as part of shared governance very seriously. We have participated in important and often time consuming activities such as task forces for the University’s Strategic Plan, the Task Force on the Faculty Handbook, Task Force on Faculty Compensation and currently in the working groups preparing reports for AUC’s institutional reaccreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  Our participation in such activities was in good faith that the faculty’s recommendations and reports would be taken seriously by the administration.  Instead, recommendations in the task force reports were ignored in the University’s Strategic Plan that was made public in Fall 2014. The recommendations by the Task Force on the Faculty Handbook were rejected and the task force was disbanded by the previous president. The Task Force on Faculty Compensation is in limbo because the consultant hired by the administration has not submitted his report. Instead of recognizing the longstanding and crucial role faculty has taken in shared responsibility, the current president in the November 29, 2016 Senate meeting accused the faculty and other members of the AUC community of not taking shared responsibility seriously, thus discounting the faculty as key partners in the shared governance of the university.

Shared Governance, faculty focus

Second, according to the national AAUP’s statement in 1966 about shared governance at the university between the governing board/board of trustees, university administration and the faculty: “The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.” In these areas the “governing board and president should . . . concur with the faculty judgment except in rare instances and for compelling reasons which should be stated in detail.”  Included in “faculty status” is faculty’s primary responsibility for making decisions in hiring, renewing, promoting and tenuring fellow faculty members.  We are alarmed at the level of intervention that the administration and BOT are taking in tenure cases, in general, and particularly in a tenure case that had clear support by all levels of faculty committees at AUC, as well as support from external reviewers.  This disregard of faculty recommendations in our primary area of responsibility is a clear violation of the role faculty traditionally play in shared governance and it is an indication of a lack of respect for faculty expertise.

AUC Faculty Handbook

Third, the status of Faculty Handbook that was produced through a process of shared governance by the then provost, individual faculty members, the Faculty Affairs Committee of the University Senate and approved by the Senate and then President, is being threatened. While there are references in several places—faculty members’ contracts, the Faculty Handbook itself on p. 4 of the 2015 version as well as all previous versions, the AUC website—that the Faculty Handbook is an integral part of faculty contracts, the current administration now claims it is not part of faculty contracts because the Board of Trustees has not formally approved it. We are very concerned that statements in the Faculty Handbook and AUC website that refer to AUC as “an equal opportunity employer” and “The University does not differentiate in its faculty compensation policies on the basis of nationality or location of hire for full­ time faculty members” are ignored. Also based on the AAUP chapter’s experiences with alerting the administration to policies incompatible with the Faculty Handbook and decision-making procedures, we find that the administration picks and chooses which parts of the Handbook will be implemented and enforced and is not transparent in general about decisions that are made unilaterally, violating the spirit of shared governance.  The chapter’s experience has been that the administration implements and enforces the relevant parts of the Handbook when faculty are disciplined but ignores the parts of the Handbook that protects rights for faculty members who are undergoing disciplinary investigations and procedures.  It is creating a situation of faculty insecurity because an integral part of our contracts with the university is not recognized as such and, when it is used by the university administration, it is done to the detriment of faculty rights and protections.

In order for the current administration to demonstrate that they will enter into good faith negotiations about the current crises AUC faces with faculty and other community members, we need more than reassurances that “advice will be taken seriously” by the current president.  The experiences of the last few years have created a toxic atmosphere of mistrust that needs to be broken.  Thus we support the two statements of the Concerned Faculty in the important issues they raise about academic freedom and freedom of expression.  Specifically, we support the concrete recommendations for how trust and shared governance can be restored:

1) The formation of a crisis management group with decision-making powers in which faculty, staff and students are represented.

2) The administration must commit in writing that no decision will be taken about how to handle the financial implications of the devaluations or any other issue that affects the financial future of the university and its faculty without genuine negotiations in good faith with the different stakeholders.

3) The administration must commit in writing to the following guiding principles to any joint efforts to manage and resolve the current crisis:

  • Respect of academic freedom, and freedom of thought, expression and assembly;
  • Effective shared governance;
  • Protection of acquired rights of faculty and staff, and commitment not to discriminate between faculty on any basis;
  • Equal weights to the rights of faculty, staff and the legitimate concerns of the students.  

4) The administration must release to the community the end-of-the-year financial statements since FY2011 as presented to the Board of Trustees and approved by the External Auditor of the university, with a detailed account of what happened to the surpluses accumulated at the end of those years and how these surpluses are currently being used.  

Support from Concerned Faculty at AUC

November 21, 2016 Letter

December 1, 2016 Letter