Saturday, March 2, 2019

Meeting with President Tuminez

In February, Chapter President David Knowlton and I, Vice President, were fortunate to meet with our new University President. We talked for about an hour, touching on various issues related to our work on academic freedom, due process, and shared governance at UVU. In advance of the meeting, we sent President Tuminez the following description of our activities:

31 January 2019

A Brief Introduction to the Activities of our Chapter

Before there was an organized chapter of the AAUP at UVSC, the college (as do most US colleges and universities) drew on AAUP statements and recommendations ( for policies like this one on faculty tenure:
and this one on Faculty Rights and Professional Responsibilities:

            As members of the UVU Chapter, we focus on three issues: shared governance, academic freedom, and due process. 

Shared Governance
We support the UVU Faculty Senate as our elected and official representative body. Most of our Chapter members have served as senators over time. Our current president, David Knowlton, ran for Senate President about fifteen years ago and came within one vote of being elected. On extremely rare occasions (only two that we can remember over twenty years), we have written an open letter and invited faculty to sign it when speed was of the essence. The first one protested Matthew Holland’s signature as UVU President of an amicus brief for the Supreme Court opposing marriage equality­–over 100 of us signed the letter that filled most of the Salt Lake Tribune’s opinion page that day. The second was in 2018 in protest of sabbatical denials, pressure to increase class size, and other unilateral measures that lessened the quality of our instruction (published in the UVU Review).
Our former Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ian Wilson, invited our officers to his office annually for discussions about the state of the University from our perspective. Relations with our current SVPAA have not been as cordial, and at several points relations have deteriorated substantially.

Academic Freedom
            On two occasions we have sponsored day-long discussions of the principles of academic freedom. For the first, we invited the Cary Nelson, President of the national AAUP and author of several books on university governance and academic freedom, including No University is an Island. He gave a memorable keynote speech. The keynote speech for the second discussion was given by Jackson Newell, former president of Deep Springs College and author of several books about education, including The Electric Edge of Academe. We are pleased to report that with one exception we have not been asked to support a member of the faculty whose academic freedom has been infringed on. We remain ready to do so if needed.

Due Process
            Much of our work over the years has involved supporting colleagues who have, in our judgment, been denied due process in tenure decisions or in grievance procedures of various sorts. We don’t presume to judge tenure decisions or the facts of grievances. Worthy of tenure or not, deserving of the grievance or not, faculty members have a right to due process. When our colleagues contact us for support and when it appears to us that due process has been violated, we offer counsel, help with appeals, and even represent our colleagues in the appeals. We don’t have official standing at UVU as an organization, but because we have standing as members of the faculty, we often act simply as faculty representatives as allowed by policy. We work with two or three faculty members each year. Three quick examples will provide a sense for our work.

In 2008, a Korean/American member of the Art faculty was denied tenure. She was (and still is–represented by galleries in Santa Fe and NYC) a nationally known painter and an extraordinary teacher by all accounts. Tenure was denied after two of her colleagues inserted accusatory letters in her file and when, in a clear breach of due process, she had no chance to see or respond to the Chair’s letter or to the Dean’s letter before receiving notification from the Vice President that she would not be given tenure. We helped her craft an appeal. The Senate committee appointed to decide if she had received due process heard the appeal and resolved that due process had been violated; they ordered that the tenure process be redone. In the end, she was awarded tenure. And then, deeply offended, she left the University.

In 2015, UVU’s EOAA Officer responded to claims of harassment and religious discrimination against three members of the faculty. She decided that seven-of-ten allegations were unfounded and forwarded a recommendation for disciplinary action to the VPAA for the other three. The three allegations that were judged acts of religious discrimination involved attempts by one of the accused, then in a supervisory position, to require that UVU Family Science courses not be structured after the LDS “Proclamation on the Family.” We supported the three faculty members because the accused were denied access to the original claims, because they were not allowed to bring a representative to the sessions with the EOAA Officer, because the hearing was done by the Officer and not by a committee as policy requires, because the accused were not allowed to question the accuser, and because the investigation stretched on for months. We wrote a letter to the SVPAA asking him to step in. When he answered that he would assess no punishment but that the findings would stand, we repeated our request that he expunge the case from the records of the faculty members. He refused. We asked the national AAUP to review the case. Their counsel wrote the SVPAA a strong letter protesting the lack of due process and the frivolous attribution of religious discrimination in discussions about a shared course. The Vice President then relented.

The third case was more recent, unfolding in the Spring of 2018. After positive decisions from her RTP Committee (the committee voted unanimously for tenure), from her Chair, and from her Dean, the SVPAA denied tenure The letter from the SVPAA referred to supposed “conduct that threatens, intimidates, or coerces an employee.” It claimed that there were “substantial concerns about your past conduct towards others. . . .” Because policy requires that tenure decisions be made onlyon the basis of what is in the tenure file, and because there was nothing in the tenure file that could by any interpretation be construed as rising to this level of offense, we offered our help. She appealed and the appropriate Senate committee was convened to judge if there were violations of due process. As opposed to the collegial process in the 2008 case, this appeal was held behind a metal detector attended by an armed man in uniform. The SVPAA was accompanied by counsel who challenged our representative’s right to testify about policy. The committee allowed our person to point out 1) that by policy the committee was to decide only whether or not due policy had been violated and 2) that if there were any witnesses called regarding supposed threatening or intimidating conduct it would be a breach of the policy that requires that tenure decisions be made only on the contents of the tenure file. After this testimony, the faculty member’s lawyer stated that they would rest their case – the breach of policy and the undermining of due process having been so clearly established. Nonetheless, a set of witnesses were called who painted the faculty member as a singularly horrible person. A settlement between the faculty member and UVU followed.

These, then, are examples of the kind of work we do as faculty advocates. We see ourselves as good citizens of a University we love. And we hope to work effectively, intelligently, and supportively with a new administration.

Academic Indulgences

Just over 500 years ago, Martin Luther, professor at the University of Wittenberg, tacked up his 95 theses to announce a forthcoming debate. In dispute was the practice of selling indulgences by which the buyer received forgiveness for sins committed and the Catholic Church received money to complete St. Peter’s Cathedral. No need for actual repentance or character development.Universities in the Utah System of Higher Education are issuing what amount to indulgences as they sell certificates of graduation without compelling students to complete meaningful courses of study.
Utah Valley University, Utah State University, Southern Utah University, and Dixie State University have recently developed General Studies degrees for the purpose of increasing “student success.” Student success means graduation. The General Studies degrees were designed “for students who cannot complete or pass final requirements.” Why would a university sell certificates of graduation to incapable students?
USU is now proposing a back-up degree for students who can’t finish their General Studies degree but who have “accumulated large numbers of credits” in various fields. Graduates will “enjoy the economic benefits associated” with “an undergraduate degree from an accredited university.” Don’t economic (and other) benefits follow from increased ability rather than from a degree meant to facilitate graduation?
Our state universities are obsessed with graduation rates. As an open-enrollment university, many of UVU’s beginning students are unprepared for college. We are reducing standards to raise the percentage of students who graduate, but shouldn’t we reserve graduation for students whose dedication and perseverance and ability lead them to the skills and knowledge that a college degree should certify?
UVU, defined in the state system as a “teaching university,” is in the process of raising class sizes and increasing teaching loads and discouraging research by its professors and denying sabbatical leaves and reducing requirements for introductory courses in order to increase the quality of teaching so students will graduate with more skills and knowledge. Wait, I got off track there somewhere. How could I forget that “student success” is achieved by paying tuition for a certificate?
Luther promises eternal condemnation for buyers and sellers of indulgences and predicts that the corrupt practice will destroy reputations:
#32 They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
#81 This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope [and university administrators] from slander, or even from the shrewd question of the laity.
Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy and Humanities, Utah Valley University

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Krisis: Perspectives for the New University

Michael Minch forwarded this link from Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy:

and this introduction:

The new issue of Krisis, Journal for Contemporary Philosophy deals with the future of the university. The desire for a special issue on this topic was provoked by the Maagdenhuis protest at the University of Amsterdam in the early spring of 2015. The energy of surprise and enthusiasm released by the protests, the fact that direct and confrontational action “worked”, that it was even taken seriously and responded to, seemed to open up new horizons. We strove to capture some of the imaginative energy that was released by these events.

The issue is organized along three points of focus: struggles, diagnoses and futures. Under the heading of struggles, the reader will find contributions that not only describe specific fights taking place but also be able to sense the passion and engagement. Diagnoses deal with the problem at hand. What is actually the problem and how can we grasp it in such a way that we do not argue ourselves into passivity? Finally, there are contributions which explicitly propose future images of the university, both in terms of structure and organization as well as alternative concepts and callings.

UVU’s Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty, A Labor-Day Statement

Labor-Day Statement
UVU’s Exploitation of Adjunct Faculty
Many of the classes at Utah Valley University, especially General Education classes, are taught by adjunct faculty members. They are, in most cases, experienced and professional teachers who work under the following exploitative conditions:

The positions are contingent, meaning there is no commitment for ongoing employment. Classes can cancelled and/or added on the spur of the moment.

The semester salary for a 3-hour class is $2,725. There are no medical or retirement benefits.

The number of courses adjunct faculty may teach is severely limited. (If it were not, the University would have to include adjunct faculty in its medical insurance plan.)

In order to earn a living and to sidestep institutional limits on numbers of classes, many adjunct faculty teach at several different institutions (2 classes at UVU, perhaps, and 2 at SLCC, and 2 at Westminster or BYU).

A set of “Background Facts on Contingent Faculty” can be found at this site provided by the American Association of University Professors:

Why do these facts matter?

They matter because our adjunct colleagues are human beings who deserve to be fairly rewarded and respected.

They matter because students can rightly expect to be educated by members of the faculty who have offices, who have research support, who are full-fledged members of the university community, who have a course load that enables them to teach each class with rigor and depth and who teach few enough students that they can teach individuals rather than masses.

The UVU Administration, in all likelihood, agrees with most of this statement so far. Why, then, do they continue to foster a structure that exploits our colleagues?

One answer is that UVU pays its adjunct faculty at the same average rate as its sister institutions. Fair enough, unless, of course, its sister institutions are all exploiting their adjunct faculty. This is a corporate answer rather than the answer of an administration eager to serve its faculty and its students as well as possible.

Another answer is that it would cost between $25.5 million to $41.7 million to move adjunct faculty to full-time positions (Calculation for What-If Scenario of All Salaried Faculty at UVU, Made in cooperation with Vice President for Planning, Budget Human Resources 1/20/2015).

That's a lot of money! But what if we shift the focus from what better conditions for faculty and students would cost to a focus on what adjunct faculty contribute to UVU in terms of cold, hard cash?

This is the calculation:

For a 3-hour class an adjunct member of the faculty is paid $2725.

For a 3-hour class a full-time student taking 15 hours pays $538.

The adjunct professor’s salary is thus paid by 5 students in a given class.

A class of 25 students, then, has 20 students whose tuition for that class adds up to $10,760.

1000 such classes taught by adjunct faculty earn $10,760,000 for UVU (HR reported 978 part-time professors in November 2014, many of whom taught more than 1 class).

The quality education students pay for requires quality teaching. With our exploitation of adjunct faculty, we are acting like a sub-standard for-profit university whose aim is to teach as many students as possible at the cheapest possible price.

My mother taught in the Alpine School District until she retired. A combination of reduced funds and increased class size led teachers in that district to design and wear t-shirts that read:


That, I suggest, is what it means to teach so many classes at UVU with adjunct faculty.

Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies, Philosophy and Humanities

—In Labor-Day Solidarity—

A chorus of “The Preacher and the Slave” by Joe Hill, who was executed in Salt Lake City a 100 years ago,:

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,

You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

(More than 100) UVU Scholars for Diversity and Inclusivity

On the first of May of this year over one hundred current and former members of the UVU faculty and Staff (several us members of the UVU Chapter of the AAUP) published this letter in the Salt Lake Tribune.

George Pyle wrote Sunday in the Salt Lake Tribune that Gene Schaerr, the lawyer hired by the State of Utah to argue against marriage equality in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case and has done so for “100 Scholars of Marriage.” Pyle noted that among the 100 are 13 with connections to Utah, including, “most notably, Matthew Holland, the president of Utah Valley University.”

All of us, including our university president Matthew Holland, have the right to speak publicly as private citizens on controversial issues. However, as the public face of UVU to the larger community, Holland has a special responsibility to avoid public pronouncements that would harm his ability to carry out his duties as president of a state university officially committed to "diversity and inclusion."

As current and former members of the Utah Valley University faculty and staff, we find President Matthew Holland's promotion of the spurious ideas expressed by the “100 Scholars” and the potential association of UVU with the Schaerr brief to be disappointing and harmful to values at the core of our public university.

Jim Harris, Biology
Scott Abbott, Integrated Studies and Humanities
Daniel Horns, Earth Science
Catherine Stephen, Biology
David Knowlton, Anthropology

Sam Rushforth, Biology
Lyn Bennett, History
Alan Clarke, Integrated Studies
Alex Simon, Sociology
Angie Banchero-Kelleher, Dance

Christa Albrecht-Crane, English
Jeff Torlina, Sociology
Dan Stephen, Earth Science and Environmental Studies
Karin Anderson, English
Robert Robbins, Biology

John Hunt, History
Nancy Rushforth, Integrated Studies and Humanities
Laura Hamblin, English
Katherine Paulick, Sociology
Bob Palais, Mathematics

Steven Emerman, Earth Science
Denise Richards, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Nathan Gorelick, English
Laurie Whitt, Integrated Studies and Philosophy
JaNae Haas, History

Michael Bunds, Earth Science
Stacy Waddoups, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Bill Evenson, Physics
Kate McPherson, English
Anita Bradford, History

Chris Weigel, Philosophy
Mike Jensen, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Emily Holt, Biology
Lydia Kerr, English
Cindy Hamman, Dental Hygiene

Janice Sugiyama, Biotechnology
Larry Harper, English and Philosophy
Kevin Eyraud, ESL
Christine Contestable, Philosophy and Student Leadership and Success Studies
Monica Campbell, Dance

Matt Horn, Chemistry
Lisa Hall Hagen, Theater
Gaya Carlton, Nursing
Joel Bradford, Earth Science
Mark Lentz, History

Lisa Lambert, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Michael Goode, History
Ross Hagen, Music
Jan Wellington, English
Hazel McKenna, Developmental Mathematics

David Yoder, Anthropology
Leslie Simon, Humanities
Sandy McGunigall-Smith, Behavioral Science
Anne Arendt, Technology Management
Richard Tolman, Biology

J.C. Graham, Suicide Prevention
Dennis Potter, Philosophy
Paul Bybee, Biology
Glendon Parker, Biology
Deb Thornton, English

Lee Anne Mortensen, English
Kindra Amott, Philosophy and Humanities
Erin McClure, Summit Program Manager
Colleen Bye, Developmental Mathematics
Alex Strasburg, Center for the Study of Ethics

Karen Mizell, Philosophy
Deborah Marrott, Basic Composition
Keith Snedegar, History
Sam Liang, Humanities
Sandra García-Sánchez, Developmental Mathematics

Jamie Johnson, Veteran Coordinator
Mavis F. Green, Aviation
Robbin Anthony, Student Life and Wellness
George Veit, Dental Hygiene
Garth Tino, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation

Lisa Williamson, Women’s Success Center
Liz Owens, Sociology
Jenna R. Atkinson, Assistive Technology
Brooke Swallow, Student Life
Heather Holland, Philosophy and Humanities

Chelsey Darrington, Graduation and Transfer Services
Gabriel Black, Lead-Staff Interpreter
Tiffany Yoast, Student Leadership and Success Studies
Tia Sorensen, Prospective Student Services
Michaela Giesenkirchen Sawyer, Humanities

Samuel Banford, English
Numsiri Kunakemakorn, Secondary Education
David Heldenbrand, Computer Science
Kristin Nuesmeyer, Academic Advisor
Betsy Lindley, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation

Jerry Petersen, English
Sarah Donohue, Dance
Terrell Wyche, Biology
Wioleta Fedeczko, English
Russ Harrel, Earth Science

Brad Morin, Mathematics
Scott Williams, Exercise Science and Outdoor Recreation
Suzanne Walther, Earth Science
Mark Olson, Integrated Studies
Michael T. Stevens, Biology

Travis Reynolds, Behavioral Science
Catherine McIntyre, Archivist and Digitization Librarian
Maritza Sotomayor, Finance and Economics
Reba Keele, Public and Community Health
Lucille Stoddard, Business and Academic Administration

Eric Robertson, Humanities
Suzy Cox, Education
Machiel Van Frankenhuijsen, Mathematics
Joshua Snyder, Biology
Emily Bullough, Library

Grant Moss, English
Paul Weber, Physics
Rick McDonald, English
Ed Firmage, Humanities

Click HERE for the newspaper version.