The American Association of University Professors has accused the College of Saint Rose, in New York, of having violated shared governance and undermined tenure and academic freedom in laying off 23 faculty members late last year.
The college’s administration announced plans to lay off the 23 professors, all of whom were tenured or on the tenure track, in December. The job terminations came as part of an effort by the institution to reduce or eliminate 27 academic programs in response to what it described as long-term enrollment declines.
In a report issued on Wednesday, an AAUP investigative panel concludes that the college violated the association’s principles and standards by eliminating the faculty positions without any declaration of financial exigency or faculty-endorsed educational rationale for its decisions. Under the college’s current administration and governing board, the report argues, “the faculty has repeatedly been left out of deliberations or had its reasoned objections ignored, creating conditions for shared governance that can only be described as deplorable.”
The College of Saint Rose issued a statement on Tuesday that said: “It is no surprise that the American Association of University Professors has criticized the College of Saint Rose, as its opinion was formed long before the AAUP’s representatives set foot on our campus. The college chose not to participate in AAUP’s self-initiated study because AAUP prejudged the outcome from the very start.”
In an April 11 letter of response to the AAUP’s findings, Carolyn J. Stefanco, the college’s president, denounced the report as full of “inaccuracies and gross misrepresentations.” She said the college had never adopted the AAUP standards being applied to it, and its administration had fully complied with the processes and standards outlined in its own faculty handbook. She also said five of the faculty members whose layoffs were covered in the report had been reinstated.
“Your investigators — and unfortunately a subset of our faculty — do seem to have little understanding of the perils that face the college as a tuition-dependent institution of higher education today,” Ms. Stefanco wrote.
The College of Saint Rose is the latest in in a series of institutions to run afoul of the AAUP for actions taken as part of a process of “academic-program prioritization,” which the association blames for 14 of the layoff decisions it cites. The AAUP’s report on the college says its administration “placed the faculty in an untenable position,” justifying its decision to withdraw from the program-prioritization process by limiting its participation, denying it needed information, and giving it only two months to make recommendations as to which programs and positions should be cut.
President Stefanco’s response to the AAUP argues that the faculty committee charged with weighing in on the prioritization is itself to blame for the short window it had, because it delayed meeting with college administrators.
The AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure will decide in June whether to recommend that the association’s members vote to censure the College of Saint Rose at the AAUP’s meeting that month. The college’s faculty overwhelmingly voted no confidence in President Stefanco in February.
Correction (5/4/2016, 6:09 p.m.): This post originally misreported the college’s affiliation. It is not a Roman Catholic institution but is independent and nonaffiliated, it says. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.