Monday, February 18th, 2019

Flanagan responds to AAUP

Posted on December 10, 2014 in News
By Emma James

On Nov. 14, USM received a letter from The American Association for University Professors (AAUP), an organization dedicated to advancing academic freedom and shared governance, defined fundamental professional values and standards for higher education and ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good, in opposition to recent cuts. The university is now under investigation as a result of a noncompliance in responding on time.

The association legally has no standing in regards to what happens at USM, but due to national credibility and respect in the educational world altogether, USM’s unwillingness to comply with AAUP standards may affect its success as an institution down the road.

President David Flanagan responded to the initial letter on Dec. 3, a week after the given deadline as given by the AAUP, indicating that, while USM has not followed AAUP standards, it has been in compliance with contracts.

“The University has undertaken retrenchment pursuant to the contract in order to address what are real and demonstrable financial needs present at the University of Southern Maine,” Flanagan wrote.

The AAUP argued that USM had to file “financial exigency” to cut staff and programs in the way that it is, but Flanagan argued that this is not the case.

“You are correct when you state the University of Maine System has not declared a condition of financial exigency,” Flanagan wrote. “In fact, it is under no obligation to do so based on the negotiated terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University of Maine System faculty and applicable Trustee policy.”

The AAUP did send a second letter, indicating its future plans for USM, which was sent before Flanagan initially responded.

They explained that the actions of USM have raised significant issues of academic freedom, tenure and due process, that they describe as basic concerns” the academic community.

“In situations of this kind, our experience has indicated that it is desirable, in fairness to the institutional administration, to the affected faculty members, and to the institution as a whole, to establish an ad hoc committee composed of professors from other academic institutions, to conduct its own full inquiry without prejudgment of any kind,” wrote Anita Levy, senior program officer of the AAUP.

The executive directors has authorized the appointment of members to fill this ad-hoc committee to investigate USM.

The committee, according to Levy, will be provided with relevant available information for its examination and will arrange for a site visit, expected in January, in order to consult in full measure with the chief administrative officers, affected professors, and such other members of the faculty and administrations, to ensure that the university will have a full opportunity to present its position.

The letter ends with indicating the AAUP’s receptivity to resolve concerns without the necessity of an investigation.

Flanagan continued to stress that USM had followed all protocols, and the AAUP has no standing in matters at the university.

Although the AAUP Recommended Institutional Regulation on academic Freedom and Tenure, is not a part of the University of Maine System’s governing policies and has never been adopted as such, both the trustees and decision makers at USM working together have followed all applicable university policies and procedures,” concluded Flanagan. “The role of the faculty has been fully respected in this process.”


Due to a copyediting mistaking, a previous version of this story incorrectly quoted President David Flanagan as saying the UMaine System was obligated to act on complaints made by the AAUP.

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