Michael Bérubé presents “Is Shared Governance Really Part of Academic Freedom?” to Uva AAUP

September 20, 2019. Charlottesville VA.

Today from 3-4:30 pm at Holloway Hall (Bavaro Building, Curry School of Education), the UVA Chapter of the American Association of University Professors sponsored a talk “Is Shared Governance Really Part of Academic Freedom?” by Michael Bérubé, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Pennnsylvania State University. Faculty and members of the community are welcome.

“These are problematic times for the modern university in the world. Academic freedom is the fundamental condition under which universities may independently produce knowledge for the common good,” said Herbert Tucker, chapter president. At the University of Virginia struggles over academic freedom have arisen as faculty have come under attack for their academic work on issues such as climate change and racial inequality.

Shared governance prevails in universities when the various stakeholders together exercise decision-making responsibility. AAUP principles state that “a sound system of institutional governance is a necessary condition for the protection of faculty rights and thereby for the most productive exercise of essential faculty freedoms. Correspondingly, the protection of the academic freedom of faculty members in addressing issues of institutional governance is a prerequisite for the practice of governance unhampered by fear of retribution.”

At UVa, the intersection between academic freedom and shared governance has recently highlighted the issue of philanthropy and transparency of donor agreements. “The role of faculty in creating transparent donor policies is critical for defining the academic mission of the University,” said Walt Heinecke, immediate past president of the chapter. Citing AAUP statements, he added: “the educational effectiveness of the institution is the greater the more firmly the institution is able to protect this allocation of authority against pressures from outside it.”

Shared governance is perhaps the least well understood aspect of academic freedom. But in the wake of the 2006 Supreme Court case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, and amid the growth in size and power of university administrations, shared governance has become increasingly precarious–and increasingly important. It will receive needed attention in Professor Bérubé’s remarks on Friday.

Professor Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature (PhD UVa), is the author of books on cultural studies, disability rights, liberal and conservative politics, and debates in higher education. Past national president of both AAUP and the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), he is ideally suited to analyze the dilemmas, and opportunities, confronting university faculty at this embattled juncture in the history of the academy.