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AAUP Letter of Concern addresses UNR issues

27 Feb 2024 2:08 PM | State Board (Administrator)

Recently, the State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance reached out to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to express concerns about violations of shared governance at the University of Nevada, Reno. The AAUP acknowledged NFA’s concerns about the climate at UNR and responded with an advisory letter that included relevant AAUP statements on aspects of shared governance.

The AAUP informed us that only about 10% of the complaints they receive rise to the level of our letter. The State Board of the Nevada Faculty Alliance has sent UNR leadership a copy of this letter, and we hope they will read through these materials and work with faculty via the Senate and other groups to improve the climate at UNR. We are confident that faculty members across the institution will value this effort, which will also help improve some of the widespread retention and morale issues reported to us and others.

Our complaint to the AAUP began with expressing concerns about ongoing threats to shared governance and academic freedom. Our formal complaint was that:

. . .various members of the administration, guided by UNR’s Office of the General Counsel, have facilitated the dismissal of academic misconduct charges and/or the altering of student grades without faculty permission; have set an unreasonably high bar for removing disruptive and threatening students from classes; have greatly limited faculty’s ability to revise college bylaws; have undue influence on the Title IX/EEO process; have engaged in problematic hiring practices for institutional leaders; and provided overly restrictive guidance around DEI work. 

The AAUP quickly replied that the described behaviors were concerning and that only 10% of the complaints they receive rise to this level of action–the full letter can be seen below. The AAUP recommended that the NFA send the upper administration a letter explaining relevant AAUP guidance around some of the described issues.

The AAUP also provided three relevant guidance documents–we are including links to and relevant excerpts from each letter below:

Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities

The variety and complexity of the tasks performed by institutions of higher education produce an inescapable interdependence among governing board, administration, faculty, students, and others. The relationship calls for adequate communication among these components, and full opportunity for appropriate joint planning and effort.

Faculty Participation in the Selection, Evaluation, and Retention of Administrators

…the composition of the search committee should reflect the primacy of faculty interest, and the faculty component of the committee should be chosen by the faculty of the unit or by a representative body of the faculty. The person chosen for an administrative position should be selected from among the names submitted by the search committee. The president, after fully weighing the views of the committee, will make the final choice. Nonetheless, sound academic practice dictates that the president not choose a person over the reasoned opposition of the faculty.

The Role of the Faculty in Budgetary and Salary Matters

The faculty should participate both in the preparation of the total institutional budget and (within the framework of the total budget) in decisions relevant to the further apportioning of its specific fiscal divisions (salaries, academic programs, tuition, physical plant and grounds, and so on). The soundness of resulting decisions should be enhanced if an elected representative committee of the faculty participates in deciding on the overall allocation of institutional resources and the proportion to be devoted directly to the academic program. This committee should be given access to all information that it requires to perform its task effectively, and it should have the opportunity to confer periodically with represen- tatives of the administration and governing board.

Despite the gravity of the issues discussed in our original letter and in the AAUP response, NFA leadership remains hopeful for positive changes in shared governance at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the meantime, we advise faculty to do the following:

  1. Contact their faculty senators to express any concerns about violations of shared governance and encourage the Senate to engage on these issues.
  2. Share instances of shared governance violations with NFA leadership, so that we can advocate accordingly.
  3. Share relevant concerns with one’s regent.

Unable to display PDF file. Download Nevada Faculty Alliance - Shared Governance.pdf instead.

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