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AAUP Fights For Recognition At BC

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Faculty members of Boston College’s branch of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) met yesterday prior to the Faculty Forum to discuss both their place within the BC community and their specific grievances. For the organization, the forum offered dual significance. Not only did it present members with an opportunity to air these issues directly to the provost, but it also raised the AAUP’s visibility within a community that often leaves it unacknowledged.

According BCAAUP president Susan Michalczyk, a professor in the honors program, the organization serves a vital purpose at Boston College, a school without any faculty senate or similar body. University committees have no decision-making power—only advisory power. “The faculty remains very separate from decisions,” she said.

 “AAUP is an alternative, a faculty voice,” Michalczyk said. “It provides a way of listening to faculty, responding to their questions and concerns, trying our best to raise awareness and raise the standards of BC.”

Because the faculty lacks a direct governance role in the administration, the only way for BC’s 137 AAUP faculty members to raise these standards lies in investigating and often challenging the University administration on a wide variety of issues.

The administration’s recent announcement that it would be reassessing the core curriculum baffled many faculty members, particularly when it was disclosed that an external “human-centered design firm” called Continuum Innovations would carry out the assessment. Even more startling, the email sent out to faculty noted that the team had already begun its work on campus, without specifying the nature of that work. Although time constraints prevented the AAUP from introducing the core curriculum problem during the forum, the manner in which it boiled down faculty concerns into three major questions: “What has Continuum been charged to do? What information is it gathering? What is going to be done with this information?” serves as an example of the way the organization disseminates the voice of BC professors.

Bullying and harassment has become one of the organization’s current causes, and one that its members addressed at the provost’s forum. “Students are bullied and harassed, faculty are bullied and harassed, even administrators are bullied and harassed,” Michalczyk said. Despite the administrative response that these issues can be adequately addressed by the school’s discriminatory harassment policy, she responded that, in her own experience, “Students have found no recourse.”

For the AAUP, the primary issue lies not in the individual grievances, which Michalczyk admits can seem insignificant. Rather, the greatest issue lies in the lack of transparency in the BC administration. As she challenged the provost at yesterday’s forum, the organization encounters its greatest difficulty addressing administrative issues because the administration often fails to share the details or even the existence of a problem with an organization whose existence it refuses to acknowledge.

On Oct. 4 of this year, for instance, Michalczyk sent individual emails to 19 administrators, including the provost and the deans and assistant deans of all schools, to discuss the organization’s survey of the school, yet received no response. “Do you want us to continue to send you these things?” she challenged at the provost’s forum. “Do they seem offensive to you?”

BC’s rejection of the AAUP extends beyond the school level. After Michalczyk won the national organization’s vice-presidential seat, the school never publicly announced the victory, even after Michalczyk and several colleagues contacted the administration to point out the achievement. “Ironically, when I was in Washington in June, I was told that until this election, most universities considered it an honor to have a professor elected to national office,” Michalczyk said.

 Standing in stark contrast to the BC administration’s dismissal of the organization is its reception elsewhere. At the Merrimack College Conference this past Saturday, for instance, the school’s provost introduced the AAUP and its president even encouraged the faculty to join.

In spite and perhaps because of the challenges it faces, Michalczyk emphasizes that BC students should not discount the AAUP. “All these things that matter to you, such as class size, matter to us as well, but there is no place to discuss it,” Michalczyk said. “You are paying customers. You deserve the best from the University.”

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