Kaylee Liu, News Editor
On Sept. 28, the Wooster chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) commenced their first meeting. The chapter includes membership from both staff and faculty, and was a preliminary meeting to elect leadership roles and create bylaws. Mareike Herrman, professor of German and Russian studies, was elected president. Zack Sharrow, interim director of CoRE, was elected vice president and Kate Beutner, assistant professor of English was elected secretary and treasurer.
AAUP, a national nonprofit organization, exists to develop and maintain higher education standards in America, with a focus on professional values and the rights of academics, especially those that relate to academic freedom and shared governance. While the national organization focuses on faculty, the Wooster chapter includes staff and aims to share a collective voice and support solidarity between both groups. The formation of the local chapter began last spring, starting with informal conversations between faculty and staff regarding the outsourcing of the dining, custodial and copy center departments along with the demolition of the Wooster Inn. After these discussions, several faculty, students and staff members co-signed a statement of objection to outsourcing, highlighting the lack of transparency and collaboration from the administration violating “reasonable definitions of shared governance,” according to the petition. Other grounds for objection included the disrespect of staff members during the pandemic, lack of information and evidence of outsourcing’s consequences, lack of long-term guarantees and a contradiction of graduate qualities, particularly those of equity and inclusion. While a total of 698 community members signed this petition, the majority of faculty, staff and students did not sign the petition, citing the College’s current governmental structures, difficult working conditions in insourced departments and outsourcing’s short- and long-term opportunities.
The ongoing conversation about the faculty’s role in College governance helped spur the decision to form the chapter. Shared governance is defined as the joint responsibility of faculty, administration and governing boards to govern their college and ensure that both educational and professional standards are upheld. Herrmann, the chapter’s president, stated that the advocacy chapter grew out of the discussions on outsourcing and that those discussions made it “increasingly clear to us that it would be beneficial to have a forum for us to organize ourselves around issues that concern us as faculty members.” Sharrow echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that “from the start, we have approached this endeavor as not only a way to advocate for faculty interests, but also as a means to express solidarity with staff and students when we share common concerns.” Notably, he also recognized the difficulty of the endeavor and stated that he “did not join with leadership in mind, but [he] recognize[d] that in order for the organization to be effective, someone has to do this work” and that he “appreciate[d] the vote of confidence from [his] colleagues.”
According to AAUP, faculty are responsible for fundamental areas like curriculum, instruction, research and other aspects of student life. Maintaining faculty input and their role in the decision-making process of the college is integral to maintaining the health of an educational institution, which the AAUP looks to accomplish by supporting faculty across America in this goal. Furthermore, it supports faculty in having a voice in non-educational matters, like long-term planning, budgeting and other areas of primary importance to the institution. Hermann stressed that the fundamental goal of the chapter is to “to promote collective support, solidarity and participation in shared governance among college employees, and to help institutionalize AAUP principles, particularly those relating to academic freedom, at The College of Wooster.” While students are not allowed to be members of the chapter, they are encouraged to communicate with the chapter to express their concerns and contribute to discussions. Bylaws of the College chapter highlight the importance of cooperation between professors and scholars to increase the welfare of the profession, to defend academic freedom and to “encourage faculty participation in governance.”
The local chapter of the AAUP aims to promote unity between faculty, staff and students. In the words of Sharrow, it recognizes that “we – the employees and students of the College – are stronger when we organize and work together in good faith.” The chapter will be submitting leadership roles and bylaws to the national organization to gain official recognition.
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