November 9, 2005
Good afternoon, my name is Robert Moore and I am an assistant professor of sociology at St. Josephs University in Philadelphia, and president-elect of the Pennsylvania Division of the American Association of University Professors. I have served as a member of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on College and University Governance 1997 through 2002. I currently serve as a consultant to the committee, and the issues of governance remain central to my professional work. I would also like to add that I am a Pennsylvania native and a proud graduate of the State System. I earned both my bachelors and masters degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
I appreciate the opportunity this committee has given me today to present the AAUP’s viewpoint on the important issues this committee is considering.
I’d like to follow up Joan’s comments about the specific questions that HR 177 spells out for the committee, and then discuss the larger context that they play out within. The resolution questions (1) how faculty are hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure? (2) how open is the campus environment? and (3) how students are evaluated and graded? You have the AAUP policy statements that speak to these issues, and Joan has detailed her take on these matters. I’d like to discuss them in terms of the faculty’s governance responsibilities. In 1966, the AAUP adopted the widely endorsed Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities. This statement, with its call for shared responsibility among the different components of institutional government and its specification of areas of primary responsibility for governing boards, administrations, and faculties, remains the Association's central policy document relating to academic governance.
The Association's first statement on governance, formulated by Committee T on College and University Government in 1920, emphasized the importance of faculty involvement in personnel decisions and determination of educational policies. The 1966 Statement continues that concern:
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.
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The faculty sets the requirements for the degrees offered in course, determines when the requirementshave been met, and authorizes the president and board to grant the degrees thus achieved.
Faculty status and related matters are primarily a faculty responsibility; this area includes appointments, reappointments, decisions not to reappoint, promotions, the granting of tenure, and dismissal. The primary responsibility of the faculty for such matters is based upon the fact that its judgment is central to general educational policy.
And this judgment is based on the presumption that faculty knowledge and expertise in the various disciplines is the central foundation for sound educational policy.
We have heard how the so-called Academic Bill of Rights impacts issues of academic freedom. I fully support Joan’s articulation of these issues. And I want to repeat the Association’s fundamental point on this proposal. Where there are legitimate student rights to protect, the Academic Bill of Rights is redundant. There are already protections in place to protect students from arbitrary grading and outright discrimination based on political or ideological differences. And I would also like to remind the committee, but more relevantly the larger audience – Disagreement is not Discrimination.
I’m going to focus my remarks on the impact of these proposals on faculty governance, and look at some of the existing policies in Pennsylvania that speak to the quality of education for all students in the commonwealth.
In the well functioning university, the board, the administration, and the faculty work together to govern the university. Each has its own appropriate role, and the 1966 Statement on the Government of Colleges and Universities has separate sections outline the key aspects of each of the roles.
The faculty primacy in educational matters is fundamental to the proper functioning of an institution of higher learning. In the words of our 2004 statement on the Academic Bill of Rights:
A basic purpose of higher education is to endow students with the knowledge and capacity to exercise responsible and independent judgment. Faculty can fulfill this objective only if they possess the authority to guide and instruct students. AAUP policies have long justified this authority by reference to the scholarly expertise and professional training of faculty. College and university professors exercise this authority every time they grade or evaluate students. Although faculty would violate the indoctrination principle were they to evaluate their students in ways not justified by the scholarly and ethical standards of the profession, faculty could not teach at all if they were utterly denied the ability to exercise this authority.
In short government intervention as envisioned in the so-called Academic Bill of Rights presents a severe intrusion on the professional autonomy of faculty governance. What’s more, is that such intervention is not necessary. Both AAUP policies and existing standards at Pennsylvania institutions are sufficient to address the few cases that do arise.
The Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities also has a section entitled On Student Status which raises some questions on the role students play in the government of colleges and universities. Many of these matters were addressed in the subsequent issue of the Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students. This concern makes clear the Association’s commitment to the rights of students.
The respect of students for their college or university can be enhanced if they are given at least these opportunities: (1) to be listened to in the classroom without fear of institutional reprisal for the substance of their views, (2) freedom to discuss questions of institutional policy and operation, (3) the right to academic due process when charged with serious violations of institutional regulations, and (4) the same right to hear speakers of their own choice as is enjoyed by other components of the institution.
Academic Freedom for faculty does not include the right to indoctrinate students. The AAUP’sStatement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure does address the nature of controversy in the classroom, although our position is not always clearly understood. We do want to emphasize that controversy is often an important pedagogical tool, although again I want to make it clear we are not advocating indoctrination of students:
Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.(2)
The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is "controversial." Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has no relation to their subject.
Not only are we not advocating indoctrination in the classroom, there are several institutional policies within Pennsylvania that specifically address the topic. For example, the PennState University Policy Manual policy HR 64 on Academic Freedom provides that “IN THE CLASSROOM”
The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject. The faculty member is, however, responsible for the maintenance of appropriate standards of scholarship and teaching ability. It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects. The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves, and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently. Hence, in giving instruction upon controversial matters the faculty member is expected to be of a fair and judicial mind, and to set forth justly, without supersession or innuendo, the divergent opinions of other investigators.
No faculty member may claim as a right the privilege of discussing in the classroom controversial topics outside his/her own field of study. The faculty member is normally bound not to take advantage of his/her position by introducing into the classroom provocative discussions of irrelevant subjects not within the field of his/her study.
Thus, students are already protected against arbitrary grading procedures at reputable institutions across the country. The AAUP has adopted a policy statement on The Assignment of Course Grades and Student Appeals:
THE RIGHT OF A STUDENT TO APPEAL
According to the Association’s Statement on Professional Ethics, “professors make every reasonable effort . . . to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.”3 The academic community proceeds under the strong presumption that the instructor’s evaluations are authoritative. At the same time, of course, situations do arise in which a student alleges that a grade he or she has received is wrong, and the Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students provides that “students should have protection through orderly procedures against prejudiced or capricious academic evaluation.”4 A suitable mechanism for appeal, one which respects both the prerogatives of instructors and the rights of students in this regard, should thus be available for reviewing allegations that inappropriate criteria were used in determining the grade or that the instructor did not adhere to stated procedures or grading standards.5
At my own alma matter, Indiana University of Pennsylvania the Student Grade Appeal Policy provides that students can appeal their grade on several formal grounds:
Discrimination: On the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, handicapped status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.
Capricious Evaluation: Significant and unwarranted deviation from grading procedures and course outlines set at the beginning of the course (ordinarily in a written statement during the first week of the course) or grade assigned arbitrarily on the basis of whim or impulse. The student may not claim capriciousness if he or she disagrees with the subjective professional evaluation of the instructor.
Error: Demonstrable, objective determination that a mathematical or clerical error resulted in the entry of an incorrect grade.
The same policy also provides that
If a student disagrees with the evaluation of his/her work by the instructor but has no basis for a charge of “discrimination” or “capricious evaluation” or “error,” the student should discuss the matter directly with the instructor, and if unsatisfied, with the chairperson of the department in which the course was offered, and if still unsatisfied, with the dean of the college in which the course was offered. In such cases, the decision of the instructor shall be final.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academic Policies
I know that tomorrow the committee will be focusing in detail on provisions of the University of Pittsburgh policies and I’d just like to highlight a couple of those in this area.
The General Academic Regulations provide that faculty must treat students “in a fair and conscientious manner in accordance with the ethical standards general recognized within the academic community (as well as those recognized within the profession.)
In several different individual school codes of faculty conduct, the faculty are obligated to:
6. To base all academic evaluations upon good faith professional judgment;
7. Not to consider, in academic evaluation, such factors as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, and political or cultural affiliation, and life style, activities, or behavior outside the classroom unrelated to academic achievement;
The same policies provide for elaborate grievance procedures if students feel that they have not been treated according to the norm. I won’t go into more detail because I know the committee is examining these questions in detail tomorrow, but I believe these examples prove my essential point. To the extent that there are legitimate student rights to protect, existing policies of the AAUP and institutions of higher education already protect those rights.
What is not protected, and in our view should not be protected is government directives to protect students from views that challenge their pre-existing views, or that protect a student’s academic freedom in the same way as a faculty member’s. All views on a subject are not of equal standing, and it is the professional judgments of trained faculty operating within the professional standards of their disciplines that determine the academic standards of the instruction. That is fundamental.
I’d like to reiterate the distinction between academic freedom and freedom of expression stressed by many others. The AAUP Statement on the Academic Bill of Rights emphasizes
A fundamental premise of academic freedom is that decisions concerning the quality of scholarship and teaching are to be made by reference to the standards of the academic profession, as interpreted and applied by the community of scholars who are qualified by expertise and training to establish such standards.
Students have important freedom of expression rights, and those must be respected. The Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students specifically cites the “Protection of Freedom of Expression” as one of those rights:
Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion.
But the rest of the sentence makes it clear that the student does not control the academic content of the course. It reads
but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.
And that is the point. For example, if I were teaching an Economics course, I would assign Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” Now a student might not agree with everything in that book, but to be educated in the discipline of Economics requires an understanding of Adam Smith and “The Wealth of Nations.” The student does not have to agree with it, but has to understand it.
In conclusion, I would like to very briefly respond to Dr. Balch’s testimony. The assumption that political affiliation, either on the left or the right, automatically leads to the suppression of thought in the classroom, is offensive to professors across the board. Merely establishing political party affiliation, donations, and self-described political labels does nothing more than establish political party affiliation, donations, and self-described political labels. As a question of proof of advocacy or activism, or suppression of alternative viewpoints on campus, merely asserting something repeatedly does not make it so. To assume that a professor is unable to separate political views from professional responsibilities is an insult to all professors, right or left, in the academy.
Finally, I am struck by the prospect, that in an attempt to promote academic freedom, we will do more harm than good. As happened in the Vietnam War, in the words of a soldier, “in order to save the village, we had to destroy the village.” I believe the recommendations outlined in Dr. Balch’s testimony and in David Horowitz’s so-called Academic Bill of Rights lead us down a slippery slope of government intervention that is unwise and unnecessary.
I would like to thank the committee for allowing me the privilege of speaking with you this afternoon.