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Illinois AAUP Newsletter – Issue 5, May 2022

Welcome. This newsletter goes out once each semester 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 and the many faculty who are not yet members but have met with us or participated in our programs this past year and would like to keep informed about our work and consider joining the AAUP. If you receive this newsletter and are not a member, then we probably sent it to you because you registered for one of our programs this past year or otherwise engaged in dialogue with us during 2021-2022. For more information about our activities, you can also see our fall 2021 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 things that they call critical race theory) and other controversial topics, challenging the value of science, and designing policies for the pandemic 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.

Teaching Critical Race Theory at UIUC

Recognizing academic freedom as a core value of the AAUP, in February we held a panel on teaching critical race theory, featuring Adrienne Dixson, Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership; Rodney Hopson, Professor of Educational Psychology; and Junaid Rana, Associate Professor and Head of Asian American Studies. 159 people attended.

Consultations with Faculty

As we do every year, the chapter leadership consulted with faculty members who have concerns about their relations with departmental or higher administration. If you or someone you know would like such a consultation, our AAUP chapter leadership would be happy to consult.

Dialogue With the UIUC Administration

Each year, our Policy Committee proposes a meeting with one or more leaders from the UIUC administration. This March, we met with Provost Andreas Cangellaris and held productive discussions about the national pattern of legislative attacks on universities, our chapter’s survey of shared governance on campus, the controversy over departmental political statements, and campus COVID policy.

Departmental Political Statements

The Policy Committee of our chapter held thoughtful discussions about the current controversy over whether individual academic departments should be allowed to issue political statements. Some of our members believe that departments, as opposed to individual faculty members and groups of faculty members, have no standing to issue political statements, and that such statements may constrain the academic freedom of department members who disagree with the statements. Others believe that such statements are themselves acts of academic freedom and are protected by the principle of academic freedom. Meanwhile, the UIUC Senate Committee on General University Policy has issued a draft of potential guidelines about departmental statements. While our Policy Committee has not reached a consensus on this controversy, we have learned from each other and will likely continue our discussions.

Workshop on Promotion and Tenure

Our annual workshop on promotion and tenure attracted 107 faculty and administrators. The workshop was organized by former chapter president Harry Hilton, our longest-serving member. Panelists at the workshop included Provost Cangellaris; Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs William Bernhard; Associate Professor Carol Tilley from the I-School, who chairs the Faculty Advisory Committee; and Andrew Suarez, Professor and Head of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior, who chaired the Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure the previous three years. Sadly, the workshop also provided an occasion to remember Harry Hilton publicly after the end of his remarkable life and distinguished career.

Annual Chapter Meeting

Each year, at our annual chapter meeting in May, we arrange programming that will bring the concerns of the AAUP to a larger campus audience. For our program this year, Policy Committee member Matthew W. Finkin spoke about contemporary challenges to academic freedom from outside the university and especially from inside the university, including the boycott of Israel, the reaction against the boycott, the controversy over academic departments’ political statements, and punishments for offensive speech in the classroom. A vigorous discussion followed, particularly about academic departments’ political statements.

More Information?

We hope you’ll join us as we support the UIUC faculty and advocate for academic freedom, tenure, and shared faculty governance. For more information about the chapter or its activities, please contact chapter President Robert Dale Parker at rparker1@illinois.edu or Vice President Richard Laugesen at laugesen@illinois.edu. See also our chapter website, maintained by former chapter president Leslie Struble.