This newsletter goes out to members and friends of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tenure-stream faculty chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). We especially welcome our new members. We look forward to the broader communication with our colleagues that this newsletter can provide and welcome suggestions for additional coverage in future newsletters or for additional activities by our chapter. Thank you to immediate past president of the chapter David O’Brien for beginning the tradition of this newsletter.
In this time when AAUP concerns are much in the news, with some states putting limits on tenure and academic freedom, banning or considering banning the teaching of critical race theory (and of other things that they call critical race theory) and other controversial topics from K-12 and sometimes from college and university classrooms, surveying faculty for their political opinions, restricting which speakers can visit campus, and designing policies for the pandemic without shared governance (that is, without including faculty in policy decisions), we hope that you will see the value of your active participation in the AAUP. If you’re not a member yet, or would like to renew your membership, please join us to support academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance. The principles of the AAUP need your support now as much as ever.
For information about joining the national organization, go here. For information about joining our own chapter, please contact our chapter secretary, Bill Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Faculty Orientation
Chapter Vice President Richard Laugesen attended the new faculty orientation in August and made contact with a good many new faculty. We will occasionally send emails or this newsletter to interested faculty members who have not yet joined, including the faculty who expressed interest at orientation.
Critical Race Theory in the Classroom at UIUC
Amid the national controversy over critical race theory in the classroom, we are organizing a panel of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty to discuss teaching critical race theory. Watch for more information to reach your mailbox soon as plans firm up. We expect to hold the event over Zoom, and we hope to see you there.
Can Zoom Censor Academic Events?
In response to the news reports that Zoom had censored several academic events at other universities, chapter leaders met with campus leaders to prepare the administration for the possibility that Zoom might censor academic events on our campus. We were pleased to see that they seemed interested and alert to our concerns.
Academic Freedom in Europe
Please note this program on Academic Freedom in Europe, brought to our attention by chapter Policy Committee member Carol Tilley: 20th European Union Day Keynote: “Academic Freedom in Europe: Threats Within and Without”: Thursday, Nov. 18 at 12 pm CST (U.S.) / 19.00 CET (Europe). Register here.
University autonomy and freedom of thought are under attack from the authoritarian resurgence in Eastern Europe, but free thinking is also under pressure within the universities in Western Europe. What lessons do these stories have for the United States? Please join the European Union Center for its 20th EU Day keynote, which will be given by Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian historian, writer, and former politician. Dr. Ignatieff is Rector Emeritus of Central European University, Budapest and Vienna, professor of history and author of On Consolation: Finding Solace in Hard Times.
Promotion and Tenure Workshop
Former chapter president Harry Hilton is organizing our annual program on the tenure and promotion process. This event has proved extremely popular, even more as we have moved it to Zoom, making it easier for more faculty and administrators to attend. We use this event to help make the process of tenure and promotion more transparent for faculty across the campus.
Social Media and Academic Freedom
We recommend this article on “How to Deal with the Dark Side of Social Media” by former UIUC colleague Michael Bérubé.
Academic Departments and Political Statements
Some members of the chapter’s Policy Committee have raised questions about the recently expanding practice of academic departments issuing political statements. They fear that such statements will constrain the academic freedom of department members who disagree with the statements. The Policy Committee has discussed the practice and the pros and cons of universities forbidding such statements, without reaching any conclusions, but discussions will continue.
Chapter leaders met with Executive Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity Gioconda Guerra Pérez, who leads the Campus Belonging initiative designed to help educate members of the campus community who may benefit from learning more about how to foster a campus culture of diversity. Pérez sought our assistance to help the Campus Belonging program proceed with respect for both freedom of speech and academic freedom. Any faculty interested in learning more about how to foster campus diversity in their own practices may reach out to Associate Vice Chancellor Pérez.
COVID-19 on Campus
Led by the watchdog work of chapter Policy Committee member Bruce Rosenstock, the Policy Committee has kept a steady eye on campus COVID policies. Early in the pandemic, chapter leaders met with the university president and shared faculty perspectives. In the fall of 2021, concerns often center on responses when students test positive and on whether instructors can move in-person classes online, as well as the role of shared governance in determining such policies. Appreciation for the campus’s successes sometimes comes mixed with concern about what we might do better. On Oct. 5, the Campus Faculty Association, Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, and Graduate Employees Organization jointly sponsored a “People’s COVID-19” briefing as an alternative to the campus administration’s briefings. You can watch a recording of that event here. As many of you will know, the campus maintains a website for COVID matters with daily tracking of test results. (See the link to the testing data dashboard at the bottom of the COVID website.)
For more information about the chapter or any of its activities, please feel welcome to contact chapter President Robert Dale Parker at email@example.com and Vice President Richard Laugesen at firstname.lastname@example.org. See also our chapter website, maintained by former chapter president Leslie Struble.