7/19/17: Regents Action May Significantly Increase Retiree Health Premiums

Members of the UCLA Emerti Association and the UCLA Retirees’ Association were notified today that a budget agenda item that could affect all present and past UCLA employees was being considered.

The UCLA chapter of the AAUP urges all members to read the information below and to make your opinions known to the Regents.

 

The UCLA Emeriti Association and the UCLA Retirees’ Association recently became aware that the Regents are considering an action that could significantly increase health care premiums for UC emeriti and retirees. Retiree, emeriti, faculty and staff organizations have quickly mobilized to respond to this issue but further action is required and your help is needed.

UCLA Professor Emeritus Dan Mitchell, past president of the UCLA Emeriti Association, noticed an item on the July 12, 2017 agenda for the Regents Finance and Capital Strategies Committee to “Rescind the 70 percent Floor for the University’s Aggregate Annual Contribution to the Retiree Health Benefit Program.”

Through swift action, retiree, faculty and staff representatives from across the UC campuses objected vociferously to this agenda item, which was added without any discussion or prior notice. The Council of UC Retiree Associations (CUCRA), The Council of UC Emeriti Associations (CUCEA), the UC system-wide Academic Council and the retiree and emeriti associations on several UC campuses, including our own, joined in the effort to protest this action item.

This prompt outcry resulted in the removal of the item from the July meeting agenda and a rescheduling to September to allow more time for consultation and analysis.

As background, in 2011, UC paid, on average, 86 percent of retiree health care premiums. At that time, in an effort to contain costs for retiree health care and after much discussion and consultation with staff, faculty and retiree representatives, the Regents approved a plan that gradually reduced that amount over several years to a floor of 70 percent. That current cost-sharing formula, whereby the University pays an average of 70 percent of retiree healthcare premiums and retirees pay 30 percent, is in place today.

This action is an erosion of the University’s long history and tradition of shared governance whereby major policy decisions such as this are made only after representatives of the affected parties have been involved in discussions and given the opportunity to analyze the effect of such a change.

You are encouraged to action by emailing or writing to the Regents about this matter.

We will continue to work with our colleagues at all of the UC campuses to respond to this issue, but many voices may be more effective than just a few. A “letter writing” campaign may make the Regents realize the importance of this matter to all of us.

If you contact the Regents, consider the following talking points (use your own words):

• Employees in the University of California system have regularly worked for “under-market” compensation, based on their belief that their pension and health benefits would be there for them in retirement.

• The 70 percent floor for UC’s contribution to emeriti health benefits was adopted to provide some stability to emeriti and retiree health care costs.
Except for the annual COLA, retirees and emeriti have no way to increase their income to fund the increased cost of healthcare.

• Although emeriti and retiree health benefits have never been guaranteed and are not “vested” in the same way pension benefits are, UC needs to maintain the 70% floor of healthcare benefits because of their importance for recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.

• Removing the 70 percent floor could be the first step toward eliminating this key retirement benefit that retirees and emeriti counted on during their long careers at the University.

Whom to contact:

By email (use the subject line “Retiree health care–rescinding of 70% floor): regentsoffice@ucop.edu

By mail: Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents

1111 Franklin St., 12th floorOakland, CA 94607

Oakland, CA 94607

7/13/17: AAUP Fights Harassment of Climatologists

The AAUP submitted an amicus brief on 7-12-17  in support of faculty members who have been subjected to intrusive public records requests for e-mails related to their climate-science research. The AAUP brief, filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, argues that the academic freedom to conduct research is essential to a vital university system and to the common good, and that this warrants protecting certain research records from disclosure.

The case arose from an extensive public records request that was made by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, which uses public records requests in a campaign against climate science. In similar past cases, AAUP briefs have been key to court decisions rejecting the requests.

In this case, E & E submitted public records requests that targeted two University of Arizona faculty members, climate researchers Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck. E & E counsel said the suit was intended to “put false science on trial” and E & E vowed to “keep peppering universities around the country with similar requests under state open records laws.”

The current brief urges courts to “consider the best interests of the state to maintain a free and vital university system, which depends on the protection of academic freedom to engage in the free and open scientific debate necessary to create high-quality academic research. Where the requests seek prepublication communications and other unpublished academic research materials, as in the case at bar, compelled disclosure would have a severe chilling effect on intellectual debate among researchers and scientists.”

5-24-17: “President Trump’s Budget Proposal Calls For Deep Cuts To Education”

The title of this post is not mine. It’s NPR’s. It is but one of a huge number of media reports decrying the reckless, thoughtless, catastrophic budget proposed by the Trump administration. This budget proposes cuts that would have far-reaching damaging effects to almost all sectors of our society, except of course to the business sector. Other media reports concerning the Trump budget include:

The Washington Post: “Trump budget seeks huge cuts to science and medical research, disease prevention.”

The New York Times: “Trump’s Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts.”

ABCNews: “Trump’s budget cuts funding for Superfund sites, clean air and water programs.”

The academic community must work together with all concerned Americans who value knowledge, truth (not “alternative truth”), thoughtfulness, health, and concern for humanity and the earth to make its voice heard where it will do the best, namely in Congress. Please contact your representatives and senators and let them know how steadfast you are in opposition to the Trump budget.

The Coalition for Life Sciences has set up an automated system enabling those concerned about the cuts to science funding to express themselves.

Regardless of your field, please do make your voices heard. The consequences of not doing so endanger academia as never before.

 

3/29/17: Open letter from AAUP on contingent faculty

70.4%.

That’s the latest AAUP data on the percentage of faculty jobs that are contingent. It’s a trend that over the past forty years has only gone in one direction: up.

Related to contingency are a host of issues — a lack of due process that protects academic freedom, exploitative pay and working conditions, and, frequently, no provisions for participation in the governance of institutions of higher education.

This week, the AAUP released a report on the investigation of the case of Nathanial Bork, an adjunct faculty member dismissed from the Community College of Aurora (CCA) in the fall semester of 2016.

Read the report now.

Bork’s case offers unvarnished insight into the conditions of contingency. He was summarily dismissed after six years of teaching philosophy and related courses–with positive reviews. The administration alleged that he was dismissed because he had failed to adequately implement a curriculum redesign mandated by CCA. But Bork, an active advocate for adjunct rights, alerted the AAUP, because he believed his dismissal was in fact due to his having written a report to the Higher Learning Commission about what he saw as CCA’s efforts to raise course completion rates by lowering standards. Specifically, he asserted that CCA had modified certain entry-level liberal arts courses, like the courses he taught, in an effort to improve their pass rates.

Our investigation found strong evidence to suggest that by dismissing Bork the administration “violated basic tenets of academic freedom, as set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles and derivative AAUP policy documents.” The report further noted that at CCA, the academic freedom of adjunct faculty members “is not universally guaranteed as a matter of institutional policy but selectively bestowed as a function of administrative benevolence.”

The result? The loss of true academic freedom: As the proportion of the faculty employed in adjunct and other contingent positions grows, protections for academic freedom dwindle. Through our chapters and our national organization, the AAUP will continue to advocate for rights and protections that should be afforded to all faculty, tenured or not.

Read the report here.

Nicholas Fleisher

University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Chair of the Investigating Committee

3/18/17: Trump Budget Undermines Education & Public Good

A letter from the AAUP national office:

President Trump released an initial budget proposal Thursday containing deep cuts that would severely damage scientific research, the arts and humanities, and access to higher education.

The budget proposal includes a cut of nearly 20 percent to National Institutes of Health funding and deep cuts to research programs at the Department of Energy, Department of Education, and other government agencies. It decimates funding for climate change research and programs within the Environmental Protection Agency and completely eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The repercussions of these cuts, if enacted, would be very serious for faculty, our students, and the public.

Add your name to an open letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Budget committees calling on them to oppose the proposed cuts.

Cuts to student aid are also severe, and disproportionately affect students of color and working class students. The proposal slashes work-study programs, grants for low-income college students, and programs that prepare disadvantaged students for college. It robs Peter to pay Paul by moving $3.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant funds to noneducational uses.

While we aren’t surprised by this proposal–just one in a string of politically motivated attacks on higher education–we are dismayed by it. This is not a design for the world class system of higher education that Americans have come to expect. It is, instead, a design that will undermine the world’s finest system of higher education and further harm low-income college students. It is not in the interest of the American people.
The AAUP has long supported teaching, research, and student access to higher education, including expanding opportunities for students of color. We believe that colleges and universities are a public good and learning and the search for truth are vital for a functioning democracy.

We will continue to fight for these programs, and we rely on you, our members, for support.

Sign the open letter now.

In solidarity,

The American Association of University Professors]

2/7/17: Fight against nationwide threats to academia


From efforts to eliminate tenure to the online intimidation of faculty, higher education is under attack across the country. The AAUP’s work to confront these challenges and to strengthen the core values of higher education have never been more vital.

Tenure, which is integral to academic freedom, has been the most recent target of concerted, state-level attacks. In Iowa, a bill would eliminate tenure at public institutions, even for faculty who already have it. A Missouri bill would end tenure for all new hires by 2018. In North Dakota, the state university system is considering a significant reduction in the termination notice given to tenured faculty members.

Attempts to destroy tenure are just one part of widespread attacks on higher education. Professors are being targeted with online harassment through watchlists and other means. The Trump administration wants to ban faculty, researchers, and students from certain countries from entering the US. The recently confirmed Secretary of Education is unqualified and hostile to public education. The US president attacks climate science, while seeking to dramatically reduce vital funding for research. State and national officials are taking square aim at collective bargaining and seeking to sap the power of public sector unions, which provide a voice to faculty and academic professionals.

Here’s what the AAUP is doing to protect academic freedom and tenure across the country:

  • We’ll be holding a webinar on February 28 entitled Academic Freedom in the Age of Trump. It will provide an overview of the concept of academic freedom, describe recent attacks on it, and tell you how to defend it. RSVP here (you’ll need to login with your member credentials).
  • We’ve released a statement on the targeted online harassment of faculty, addressing increasing concerns about efforts to intimidate and harass faculty. Read that here.
  • We’ve also created an FAQ with the American Federation of Teachers addressing frequently asked questions about discussing the 2016 election in the classroom, responding to intimidation and threats, and other issues. Here is the FAQ.

Our work on these issues is not new. For over 100 years, the AAUP has been on the front lines advocating for academic freedom and protecting the work of faculty and academic professionals to benefit society. These are challenging times, but the AAUP will continue to fight for conditions that support quality education. Stay tuned for more updates and more resources soon.

Thank you,

Hans-Joerg Tiede

Senior Program Officer

Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance

1/30/17: Stand against the immigration ban-Make your voice heard

This morning, AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum sent the attached email to members asking them to affix their names to a document condemning the immigration actions of President Trump and affirming that America’s universities will not be compromised by the unconstitutional and discriminatory ban on entry into the United States for people from certain Muslim-majority countries. I urge you to join this action. Just click Stand Against the Ban to be taken to the sign up page.

We must unite to fight for academia!

1/26/17: Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos unsuited for job

The nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education raises alarms that the new administration will fail to support college access and affordability for millions of current and future college students. Her nomination signals a blatant disregard for not only the magnitude of college debt plaguing our students but also the widespread fraud that has been exposed in the for-profit sector across the country. It also reveals an irresponsible resistance to protecting students from sexual assault, gun violence, ensuring the rights of immigrants, and students with disabilities.

Equally troubling, at her confirmation hearing and in the disclosure of her extensive financial entanglements, DeVos refused to commit to enforcing existing laws protecting students from fraudulent practices. Her financial connections to a student loan collection agency and inexperience managing the trillion dollar student loan portfolio that would be her responsibility reinforce her unsuitability for the position.

Her responses to questions in her confirmation hearing raised concerns about the safety of students on our campuses. When asked about Title IX, DeVos indicated that as Secretary she would refuse to ensure that existing campus sexual assault prevention and response processes are respected and improved. She also refused to endorse a ban on guns in K-12 schools, suggesting that she would take a similar position with respect to college campuses.

DeVos also demonstrated a woeful ignorance of the federal scope of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act; her lack of understanding puts the rights of all students with disabilities at risk. We also do not know if she would respect the protections of DACA on which DREAMER students depend for their safety and protection.

In short, Betsy DeVos is singularly unqualified to fulfill the Department of Education’s obligation to ensure that all students who seek a college education will have fair access and will receive the highest quality education possible with a minimum of debt. Her lack of experience and expertise is a black hole into which the nation’s students, faculty, and campus communities cannot afford to be pushed.