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  • JUKO ry
    The American Associantion of University Professors -järjestön
    varapuheenjohtaja Larry Gerber oli käymässä Joensuun
    yliopistossa viime joulukuussa.

    The American Association of University Professors
    and the State of Higher Education in the United States

    The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), founded in 1915, is the oldest professional organization in the United States for faculty across all disciplines and has long been recognized as having played the central role in the development of the American conceptions of academic freedom and shared governance. Today it has approximately 45,000 members, approximately sixty percent of whom are in AAUP chapters that engage in collective bargaining at their individual institutions.

    Although the AAUP is still widely regarded as the principal faculty voice in higher education, over the last three decades, as unionization slowly spread among American colleges and universities, other unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association (which focus on primary and secondary school teachers), have also begun to organize faculty. Although overall union membership among faculty has grown, court interpretations of the country’s labor laws and the hostile stance of many state governments have made unionization a virtual impossibility for faculty at most American colleges and universities.

    One million teachers and researchers

    Among the most striking characteristics of American higher education today are its remarkable diversity and immense scale. There are over four thousand colleges and universities, employing approximately one million teachers and researchers. Approximately forty percent of these schools are two-year junior or community colleges that do not offer the baccalaureate degree. Four-year institutions include small liberal arts colleges with fewer than a thousand students and large research universities with fifty thousand or more students. More than half of American colleges and universities are so-called “private” institutions with governing boards that are independent of government. However, approximately seventy-five percent of America’s seventeen million students attend public institutions under the control of state or local governments (the federal government does not directly authorize or control institutions of higher learning). Historically, private colleges and universities, whether large universities or small liberal arts colleges, were organized as non-profit institutions, but in recent decades, for-profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix, which claims the largest student body (71,000) of any single institution in the country, have gained prominence.

    Students as “customers” and faculty as “employees”

    Ever since the modern American university emerged in the late nineteenth century, there have been politicians and businessmen who have pressured American institutions of higher learning to adopt business models of organization and “efficiency.” Such pressures have become increasingly intense over the last twenty years, so that today the greatest problem confronting the AAUP and the American professoriate, as a whole, are the pressures coming from governing boards and legislatures to have American colleges and universities follow a corporate model that sees students as “customers,” faculty as “employees” who should follow directives from their superiors in a hierarchical chain of command, and “productivity” as being measured in simple statistical terms.

    Growing use of contingent labor

    One of most disturbing trends in American higher education that stems from this effort to apply a corporate model has been the rapidly growing use of contingent labor as a cost-cutting device. In 1975, the majority of faculty (fifty-seven percent) had full-time tenure or tenure-track status. Of the remaining nontenure track faculty, thirty percent worked on a parttime basis. By 2003, over forty-six percent of faculty worked only part-time, and the percentage of faculty with tenure or tenure-track status had fallen to thirty- five.

    One of the great successes of the AAUP in its first half-century of existence had been its ability to gain widespread acceptance of the institution of tenure in American colleges and universities, largely as a means of protecting academic freedom. In this same period, the AAUP was also instrumental in gaining widespread acceptance of the principle of shared governance, which in the American context meant assigning primary responsibility for determining educational policy, including curriculum and hiring decisions, to those who had academic expertise, that is, the faculty.

    The number of administrators has increased

    The move toward a more corporate model of organization has, in essence, represented an effort to deprofessionalize the professoriate. The use of contingent faculty with no job security has undermined academic freedom, because many faculty are no longer in a position to determine the content of their own teaching and research. Moreover, the rapid decline in the number of full-time tenure or tenure-track faculty has also been accompanied by a substantial increase in the number of administrators who are increasingly assuming a larger role in setting educational policy.

    The logical culmination of this trend is the situation at the University of Phoenix, which employs virtually no full-time faculty, and teachers are hired simply to follow administratively determined course plans with the goal of making profits for the entrepreneurs who own the so-called university.

    Pressures to be more business-like

    Pressures to be more business-like are affecting colleges and universities in other ways, as well. Even in the public sector, access to higher education is becoming more difficult as states cut back on funding and insist that public institutions generate more of their own revenues, either by engaging in externally funded (corporate or federal government) research or by increasing tuition for students. Not only is the cost of education for students rising rapidly, but there is also increasing pressure on administrations to cut back or eliminate programs, typically in the humanities, that cannot generate external funds.

    Thus, taken as a whole, the trend toward corporatization endangers the democratic basis of American higher education both by limiting access to those who can afford the higher costs and by eroding the place of those disciplines that have traditionally been associated with a liberal, humane education that equips students to act as informed citizens.

    AAUP defends the principles of academic freedom

    While it is hard to be optimistic about current trends in American higher education, the AAUP continues to be a leader in the fight to defend the principles of academic freedom and shared governance, and in the effort to rebut the notion that education is just an “industry” like any other industry. The AAUP has, however, had to adapt new strategies in this fight. Before the 1970s, the AAUP was exclusively a professional association of full-time faculty, most of whom regarded unionization as an inappropriate option for the professoriate. Since that time, the AAUP has come to affirm the value of unionization as a means of defending the values of the profession and the quality of higher education, and though many faculty in the United States still do not have the practical option of engaging in collective bargaining, over sixty percent of AAUP members are now in collective bargaining chapters. Moreover, with the growth of non-tenure track faculty, the AAUP has increasingly begun to reach out to part-time and contingent faculty and has developed recommended institutional guidelines for their treatment.

    Although the process of corporatization of higher education may be further advanced in the United States than elsewhere, America is not alone in facing many of the challenges posed by this process. Those in other countries who study the current battles over the future of higher education in the United States may well be able to learn some important lessons.

    Larry Gerber
    Professor of History, Auburn University
    First Vice President, American Association of University

    The American Association of
    University Professors (AAUP)

    • perustettu 1915
    • vanhin yliopistoalan järjestö USA:ssa
    • noin 45 000 jäsentä
    • USA:ssa yhteensä yli 4000 collegea ja yliopistoa
    • näissä noin miljoona opettajaa ja tutkijaa