We learned recently that the chair of the Middle States team that will visit Nassau Community College following the submission of our Middle States monitoring report on November 1st is Margaret McMenamin, who has been president of Union County College (“UCC”) in New Jersey since 2010. At its annual meeting in June, the AAUP voted unanimously to sanction Union County College for governance violations. UCC joins a group of only seven colleges in the United States that have earned a sanction. To earn a spot on the list of sanctioned institutions, a college (following an investigation by the AAUP) must have been found to have significantly breached accepted standards of college and university government endorsed by the AAUP.
UCC’s journey to an AAUP sanction began in 2010 when President McMenamin took over leadership of UCC. The parallels to NCC are striking: our leadership and challenges to shared governance also changed in 2010. Here, in brief, are the reasons why the AAUP sanctioned Union County College, as enumerated in the November 15th AAUP investigation:
- The McMenamin administration abolished UCC’s faculty governance structure in 2014. According to the AAUP report, UCC’s administration “ended, or severely restricted, the faculty’s role in choosing its own representatives to committees; eliminated most faculty committees, including the key Faculty Executive Committee (equivalent to NCC’s Faculty Senate); and replaced departments headed by faculty-chosen chairs with new academic divisions headed by deans selected with little or no faculty involvement.”
- The McMenamin administration abolished the faculty’s role in determining the status of faculty. As noted in the AAUP investigation, it is common practice in higher education, and it was the historic practice at UCC, that decisions related to reappointment, promotion, and tenure are determined by faculty who apply academic (as opposed to business) standards in such decisions. At UCC all such decisions are now made “unilaterally by the administration.” According to the AAUP report, “[early] experience with this practice shows what some faculty members have legitimately characterized as inappropriate political questions being put to faculty members under review, or inappropriate questions about their grading practices, followed by an unelaborated adverse personnel decision.”
- UCC’s administration foreclosed all discussions of academic governance. The particular action deemed reprehensible here by the AAUP was the presentation in 2012 by the UCC administration to UCC’s AAUP bargaining chapter with a “binder identifying over one hundred specific provisions of the current CBA that the administration claimed to be nonnegotiable—that is, no longer subjects for collective bargaining.” Primary among these one hundred provisions were those related to the governance structure of the college that had been in effect for decades. (Note: The provisions characterized as non-negotiable were among those deemed “non-mandatory” subjects for collective bargaining, which according to a perverse New Jersey law, are forbidden from being a subject of collective bargaining). So, instead of allowing faculty governance to be a key provision of UCC’s CBA, faculty participation was limited to “the narrowly confined zone of mattes that deal squarely with ‘wages and working conditions’ and that do not remotely touch upon educational policy.”4.
- Threats to academic freedom by the McMenamin administration. Faculty at UCC, according to the AAUP report face, “a growing sense of fear, intimidation, and retaliation.” The report notes that faculty members have been told by the UCC administration that criticizing aspects of the management of the college could result in “adverse personnel actions.” One notable example of a possible “adverse personnel action” involved the chair of the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) who was threatened with charges of “gross insubordination” after she spoke at a joint meeting of the board of governors and board of trustees in March 2015 in which she supported a resolution passed by the FEC repudiating the administration’s dissolution of the FEC, its elimination of the FEC chair and vice chair, its cancellation of FEC elections, and its “substitution of new regulations for the future of governance at the college.” The FEC chair was also instructed by a letter from the administration that she and the FEC “must immediately pass another resolution rescinding this [earlier] resolution in its entirety and specifically recognize that Union County College possesses a managerial prerogative to implement its governance structure.” This letter and its accompanying directive were determined by the AAUP to be “in violation of the professor’s academic freedom and certainly placed her in fear of retaliation in the event she refused to speak the words dictated by the administration.”
The AAUP report concludes with an example of particularly demeaning treatment by the UCC administration toward its faculty: “Perhaps the most startlingly disdainful treatment of the faculty was the denial by a college administrator, near the end of the 2014-15 academic year, of a room on campus in which the FEC wished to hold its final meeting, including the discussion of its own dissolution.” The AAUP report, we should note, was prepared by Robert A. Gorman, the Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor, Emeritus, of Labor Law at the University of Pennsylvania, and a former president of the AAUP.
Executive Committee, NCC/AAUP