Canisius among six other colleges to join the AAUP’s list of sanctioned institutions
By: Natalie Faas, News Editor
After an almost yearlong investigation conducted by a special committee for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the association has recently recommended that Canisius College be added to the AAUP’s list of sanctioned institutions due to “substantial noncompliance with standards of academic government.”
Greg Scholtz, director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance of the American Association of University Professors, explained what the sanctions mean and how institutions can get off of the list after being sanctioned.
“A sanction indicates that the administration and governing board tend to make decisions affecting students’ education without involving the faculty in those decisions, a practice the AAUP would argue diminishes the quality of the education students receive,” he said. “As a result, a sanction might affect an institution’s ability to attract students and to attract and retain faculty members.”
According to the AAUP’s website, the executive director of the association appointed a special committee in September 2020 to investigate eight institutions, including Keuka College and Medaille. Their investigation focused on crises in academic governance due to the pandemic.
In July 2020, Canisius announced that it was discontinuing nine academic programs and terminating 22 faculty members, most of whom were tenured.
This decision created unrest throughout the college community and led to two votes of “no confidence” in President John Hurley as well as one for Vice President of Academic Affairs Sarah Morris by the faculty senate.
According to the report released by the AAUP, Canisius did not follow specific processes preceding this decision. “No declaration of financial exigency preceded the program closures and appointment terminations; instead of employing existing faculty governance bodies and processes to address the financial issues, the administration created an ad hoc committee dominated by administrators.”
The report also states that no faculty body was involved in the process and that the institution made no effort to find other suitable positions for those being terminated. Canisius did not provide any hearing opportunity for those being terminated in order to contest the decision.
The investigative committee said that Canisius’s administration “disregarded normative standards of academic governance.” They also found that the governing board “degraded conditions for shared governance, weakened tenure, and damaged the climate for academic freedom.”
Dr. Tanya Loughead, president of the Canisius AAUP, sent an email to the faculty this week explaining the decision and what it means for the Canisius community.
“In the hundred-year history of the AAUP, few universities have been placed on the sanction list,” Loughead said. “The sanction decision on Canisius College is the culmination of a ten-month-long investigation by national AAUP that involved interviews with and documentation from both administration and faculty.”
Following the initial investigation process, the process for getting off the list of sanctioned institutions could last longer than a year. Canisius’s administration and faculty must be prepared to work together to repair the campus community if they intend to be removed from the list.
Scholtz said, “The staff reaches out to sanctioned administrations annually to inquire whether conditions have improved. Typically, after a change in presidents, the administration or faculty will contact the AAUP claiming that the governance situation [has] improved.”
While the technical process of getting off this list could take a long time, the deep-rooted mistrust that this situation has caused may not be as easily mended.
According to Loughead, “A university cannot move forward and be successful without the support of its faculty. This support must be earned. We sincerely hope that as the College acts to address this ruling, it does so in a manner that earns our support.”
Both President Hurley and members of the Undergraduate Student Association have not responded to requests for comment at this time.
(Photo credit: Sarah Lynch)