The Washington Post carries today an insightful op-ed on the “Cancelling Professor Tenure Act” in South Carolina. It is written by Jesse Leo Kass, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of South Carolina, who is also assistant professor at the University of California Santa Cruz. Titled “South Carolina’s effort to cancel professor tenure echoes the 1950s”, the article (also here in PDF) also discusses efforts in our state to stop teaching critical race theory. Kass compares the situation in South Carolina with attacks that took place during the worst excesses of the Red Scare, “a national atmosphere of fear that Americans sympathetic to communism were committing treasonous acts in support of the Soviet Union”.
The author recounts some of the history of the Red Scare in our state, reminding readers that “suspicion fell on seven professors at Benedict College and Allen University, two small, private, church-related historically Black schools.” The professors who were targeted back then were challenging segregation. Even the FBI was involved in the cases, as declassified records show. Kass warns that the future “may closely resemble the situation in the 1950s, when an accomplished professor could be dismissed over a false accusation of being a Communist Party agent. Indeed”, he adds, “much of the current discourse surrounding ‘canceling tenure’ says that universities are promoting ‘socialist propaganda’ — statements that could well have been made by South Carolina politicians in the 1950s”.
There are several prefilled bills currently being considered by the South Carolina House Committee on Education and Public Works, all of them directed at various aspects of curriculum content, including Critical Race Theory (CRT). Five bills address this amorphous issue: H. 4325, H. 4343, H. 4392, H. 4605, and H. 4799. Three of those bills, H. 4343, H. 4392, and H. 4605, are specifically directed at K-12. Some of these bills are internally incongruent; others repeat or contradict each other. H. 4605 has only five sponsors; while it may be “dead”, the Committee could still take language from it to make a new one.
These bills are fundamentally different from the anti-tenure bill (H. 4522, see our post below), in that the anti-tenure bill had no precedent and attracted limited support. These bills also claim to respond to parental concerns. Of those bills that are still progressing through the House, H. 4799 appears to be the most threatening; in addition to prohibiting discussion on a number of topics, it also has significant enforcement mechanisms and a whistle-blower provision. The Education and Public Works Committee met on 26 January as a committee of the whole to gauge support and to potentially combine some of those bills. You may watch that meeting here.
As with the strategy for the Tenure bill, AAUP-SC is communicating with partners and allies in higher education across the state and in the Assembly. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (SC CHE) and 14 University presidents, including our own Dr. Mike Benson, sent a signed statement to the Education and Public Works Committee (see PDF below), supporting diversity in teaching and academic freedom. The AAUP-SC has endorsed that statement and elaborated (see PDF below). Your AAUP-SC will continue to monitor, communicate, and engage on this and other critical topics.
The latest information on the heavily partisan H. 4522: Cancelling Professor Tenure Act is that all parties, including the original sponsor of the bill, have agreed to suspend further action. A concerted media campaign by the AAUP-SC membership helped our partners and allies, and enabled them to formulate arguments that were key to suspending the bill, especially with reference to its potential economic impact. These concerns reached SC legislators in an open forum, and were echoed by other higher education advocates, thus driving home the broad range of AAUP’s concerns about the bill. In the end, several factors led to the demise of the bill, not least internal divisions inside the Republican Caucus. It is worth noting that the Council of Presidents (SoC) worked in full concert to address issues arising from this bill. Their position reinforced and complimented the vies of the AAUP. The AAUP-SC President and Immediate Past President spoke with SoC and SC Commission on Higher Education (SC CHE) leaders in August, and pursued an agreed-on strategy to get out ahead of 4522, which proved highly effective.
The CCU chapter of AAUP has distributed the fourth issue of its bi-monthly newsletter. Titled The AAUP-CCU Update, the newsletter is dispatched to AAUP-CCU members and supporters, as well as to members of the state conference’s Executive Council, in PDF form. The fourth issue highlights a number of important developments we are currently monitoring, including legislation to prohibit tenure and ban critical race theory in South Carolina. We also provide a summary of our most recent meeting with CCU President Mike Benson. You can download our newsletter’s fourth issue by clicking on the link below.
On December 2, the Executive Committee of AAUP met with CCU President Mike Benson for the second time in the fall 2021 semester. The agenda included a number of pressing concerns, such as the anti-tenure Bill H 4522 in the South Carolina General Assembly, as well as current and planned mitigation efforts against the COVID-19 virus.
President Benson was fully aware of efforts by some lawmakers in Columbia to abolish tenure for South Carolina faculty (Bill H 4522). He noted that he had done preliminary work to identify key supporters of the bill. He added that he hoped to engage these lawmakers in dialogue, in coordination with presidents of several other universities in our state, including UofSC and Clemson. President Benson noted that this is an approach that has proven successful in the past, adding that simply informing lawmakers of the reality of university operations tends to go a long way in situations like this. President Benson was also aware of efforts by some South Carolina lawmakers to censor discussions of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the classroom. He argued in favor of a student-led approach against attempts to censor discussions in the classroom and spoke in favor of taking a dialogue-based approach in this effort, just like in the case of H 4522.
The AAUP-CCU delegation also brought to the president’s attention concerns by faculty about upcoming changes in mitigation measures against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. President Benson stressed that the plan to stop requiring the use of masks indoors after December 13 of this year was the result of a compromise between parties wishing to repeal mask requirements much earlier, and parties wishing to prolong them for an extended period of time. He added that efforts to encourage vaccination and masks will continue into spring 2022, with additional rewards based on funding that is still available.
Additionally, the AAUP-CCU delegation revisited the issue of lack of faculty consultation that marked early efforts to create the Spadoni College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education in 2020. Further, it stressed the importance of consulting faculty in discussions on the creation of yet another new college at CCU, as well as departments and faculty in existing colleges. The president was given a number of relevant statements of concern by anonymous faculty in a number of departments. He agreed on the importance of consulting faculty and made a point that he would make sure they would be included going forward.
The meeting included a discussion of plans to develop the area adjacent to University Blvd. and HWY 544 with a number of facilitates that will fulfil the needs of CCU faculty. There was also a discussion of efforts by the new Vice President for Human Resources, Thomas Koczara, to reduce the volume of paperwork needed for daily tasks at CCU. Further meetings between AAUP-CCU and the Office of the President will be held in 2022.
At its meeting on 30 November 2021, the Executive Committee of the American Association of University Professors, CCU chapter, approved the following statement regarding the recent case of Professor Steve Earnest.
Founded in 1915, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is a national organization of university faculty that promotes and safeguards the two fundamental pillars of the academy: academic freedom and shared governance. Nationally, the AAUP’s efforts to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the academy began over a century ago, when the organization established a committee charged with “investigat[ing] and report[ing] upon […] the present or the desirable status of women in college and university faculties”. Since then, AAUP’s DEI-related mission has expanded to include work around racial justice, first-generation faculty and students, disability rights on university campuses, as well as the building of an inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ individuals.
The AAUP strongly believes that it is possible to pursue the principles of DEI in higher education, while at the same time safeguarding tenure, which is among the fundamental features of the academy. In the case of Dr. Steven Earnest, AAUP-CCU urges University authorities, students and faculty involved to reach a common understanding around DEI, without tampering with the rights of tenure, which AAUP’s mission is to defend. To that end, and given its history in support of both DEI and academic freedom, the AAUP is willing and able to be a constructive force of reconciliation and fairness in this and other disputes.
The CCU chapter of AAUP has distributed the third issue of its new bi-monthly newsletter. Titled The AAUP-CCU Update, the newsletter is communicated to AAUP-CCU members and supporters, as well as to members of the state conference’s Executive Council, in PDF form. The third issue highlights a number of developments we are currently monitoring, including changes to criteria for scholarly reassignments (sabbaticals) at CCU, legislation to ban critical race theory in South Carolina, and upcoming changes to the Kimbel Library. You can download our newsletter’s third issue by clicking on the link below.
Interested CCU faculty, staff, and students met on Monday, November 8th, to discuss issues related to South Carolina’s recently proposed legislation concerning the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT). AAUP-CCU sent a representative to the meeting. The meeting included a presentation giving background on the issues related to CRT nationally and in South Carolina. In South Carolina, there has been language added to the state budget (section 1.105) which would prevent state money from going to schools teaching a list of topics lawmakers considered to be part of CRT. The proposed SC House legislation is currently sitting at the House Education and Public Works committee. The bill will be taken up again in January, when the legislature reconvenes. Attendees expressed interest in organizing a response to the proposed legislation and brainstormed ideas and approaches. There will be a follow-up meeting on November 29th. For more information, consult the upcoming AAUP-CCU Update (the newsletter of the CCU chapter of AAUP).
On October 1, Joe Oestreich, Associate Dean of the Edwards College, sent the leadership of AAUP-CCU the following message: “I’m writing to thank you, the Executive Committee of AAUP-CCU, and AAUP members for your insightful feedback on the COHFA Teaching Load Calculation (TLC) document—and to provide you with an update. Please know that Dean Bornholdt, Dean Selby, and I take faculty sentiment—and faculty governance—very seriously. We have been meeting over the last several weeks to discuss possible changes and improvements to the TLC based on concerns expressed by AAUP and by faculty through other channels. Over the next month, the Dean’s Office will be working with COHFA Leadership (i.e. department chairs) to add new language to the document. As soon as a revised document has been approved by COHFA Leadership, we will present it to the whole college, likely at a college-wide meeting, town hall, or the equivalent. Please feel free to share this response with the Executive Committee and your membership. And thank you again for the comments.”
On September 28, 2021, the Executive Committee of AAUP-CCU held an official meeting with CCU President, Dr. Michael Benson. The agenda included items relating to safety on campus under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, new policies regarding scholarly reassignment, as well as the need to reduce the size and complexity of forms that faculty and staff use in day-to-day tasks in the course of their work. During the meeting, President Benson expressed his support for shared governance and academic freedom, describing them as “hallmarks of a reputable institution” and positing that higher-education institutions are made “better by shared governance.” He conceded that, at the end of the day, he needs to make some decisions, but is open to whatever the faculty bring to him. Additionally, President Benson expressed his support for “simplifying bureaucracy” at CCU. He also expressed enthusiasm at meeting with AAUP-CCCU once a semester, and even suggested meeting more than once a semester might be in order. For more information on our meeting with President Benson, see our upcoming newsletter.
There was some skepticism about the new EHFA “Teaching Load Calculation” (TLC) system in August’s EHFA College meeting. In an effort to ensure that shared governance is upheld when it comes to the new TLC, the AAUP asked its members to share with us the particular ways in which they think the TLC makes or does not make sense to them. We compiled these comments (anonymously) into a unified document, and shared it with EFHA’s leadership. We informed the EHFA leadership that the AAUP is not lobbying in favor of a particular outcome in this discussion. However, our purpose is to ensure that our members are given the opportunity to share their views with them about this policy. The leadership of EHFA let us know that these comments would be taken into consideration as the TLC is being reviewed, to make sure it meets the intended purpose.
The CCU chapter of AAUP has distributed the second issue of its new bi-monthly newsletter. Titled The AAUP-CCU Update, the newsletter is communicated to AAUP-CCU members and supporters, as well as to members of the state conference’s Executive Council, in PDF form. The second issue contains a summary of a new AAUP-National study about the effects of COVID-19 on shared governance at four-year institutions. It also reports on a letter sent by AAUP-SC to our state’s Governor, Henry McMaster, and informs our membership about the CCU Executive Committee’s meeting schedule for Fall 2021. Lastly, it contains links to important articles that can be accessed in the latest issue of the AAUP’s Bulletin publication. You can download our newsletter’s second issue by clicking on the link below.
The AAUP-CCU leadership has communicated to President Michael Benson a letter which the South Carolina Conference of the AAUP recently sent to our state’s chief executive officer, Governor Henry McMaster. The letter urges Governor McMaster to use his executive power in order to give university administrations across our state the ability to deploy their own management tools in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. AAUP-CCU communicated to President Benson our strong belief that responsible university leaders, in association with faculty, should have the power to make independent decisions about how best to mitigate the challenges of COVID-19 on our campus. In the same message, AAUP-CCU assured President Benson that it will be a vocal ally in each and every effort he undertakes in support of our right as an institution of higher education to combat this deadly disease, which continues to threaten our mission on a daily basis. The letter is available below:
Members of AAUP-CCU participated in an emergency meeting of the AAUP South Carolina state conference, which was called to discuss the challenges posed by COVID-19. Specifically, the meeting addressed South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s refusal to allow our state’s educational institutions to decide what mitigation measures to adopt in order to combat COVID-19. A letter was drafted, which calls on Governor McMaster to “not wait for full ICU beds in South Carolina and the horror realized by Dallas County’s judge Clay Jenkins, who said on 13 August that ‘Your child will wait for another child to die’.”. The letter will soon be communicated to the AAUP-CCU membership for deliberation and possible adoption.
Starting this month, the CCU chapter of AAUP is launching a new bi-monthly newsletter. Titled The AAUP-CCU Update, the newsletter will be communicated to AAUP-CCU members and supporters in PDF form, via email. The first issue contains a note from the AAUP-CCU’s new president, updates about changes in the chapter’s Executive Committee and the AAUP of SC State Conference Executive Council, as well as information concerning changes in scholarly reassignment regulations at CCU. There are also selections of important and timely articles from The Chronicle of Higher Education and Academe, the AAUP’s quarterly magazine. You can download the newsletter’s first issue by clicking on the link below.