Statement to Trustees

On July 13, the officers and other members of the AAUP-UofL attended the first meeting of the Bevin-appointed Trustees. The chapter expects to soon release a formal statement opposing the Governor’s executive orders, but since the legal issues are out of our hands, it is also important to emphasize that the AAUP has no quarrel with the particular individuals whom the governor has appointed, and we will seek to work with any and all decision makers – trustees, overseers, foundation, administration, etc. – to increase the transparency and efficacy of University governance. In this case that means enhancing the quality and quantity of communication between trustees and university constituencies. To that end, the AAUP-UofL chapter gave the assembled board members the statement copied below, and appended the AAUP statement on best practices for faculty communication with governing boards. We will seek to make a formal presentation at a future meeting of the Board – whichever Board – to initiate such communication and begin building the relationships described in that AAUP statement.

Statement of the American Association of University Professors–University of Louisville chapter to Members of the Board of Trustees, July 13, 2016

The Board of Trustees plays a unique and essential role in the stewardship of the University. As the final institutional authority, a governing board must be available for support “when ignorance or ill will threatens the institution or any part of it, [and] in grave crises [the Board of Trustees] will be expected to serve as a champion.”[1] Given recent tumultuous events, members of the AAUP-UofL chapter wish to express their appreciation for your willingness to step into this role.

A governing board can be effective, however, only when its actions are founded upon constructive and collaborative relationships with all the University’s stakeholders – faculty, staff, and students. The AAUP has recognized the necessity of effective and unmediated communication between governing boards, administrators, and campus constituencies since its initial statement of principles in 1915; in the current climate in higher education, the AAUP urges even greater communication between faculties and governing boards.

We are of course eager for the quick resolution of urgent issues such as outstanding personnel cases and the determination of tuition rates. In the longer term, however, we believe that Trustees have no duty more important than rebuilding confidence in the governance practices of the Board of Trustees, the Foundation, and the University Administration.

Rebuilding this confidence is all the more critical because of the outstanding questions of legitimacy raised by the irregular process through which you have come to be members of the Board. In recognition of the pending legal action on these issues, we urge you to both make extraordinary efforts to work collaboratively with campus constituencies, and at the same time act with more than the usual restraint when your decisions might alter the course of the University.

We also urge Board members to look to faculty, staff, and students as invaluable resources in sharing the responsibility of guiding the University. Faculty and staff – who have built careers and set down roots here – are the long-term stewards of the University, embodying its institutional culture and memory and dedicating their careers to its flourishing. Students are the lifeblood of the University and have a vested interest in the quality of education and the value of a UofL degree. It is therefore particularly imperative that Board members establish productive relationships, both formal and informal, with rank-and-file members of these campus constituencies.

AAUP members look forward to working together with the Board. To that end, we have appended for your reference the AAUP statement on best practices for faculty-trustee communication, and we hope to be able to work with you to make these productive recommendations a reality. The AAUP has general meetings once per semester, and we hereby cordially invite you to attend our next meeting, this fall, on a date to be determined.

[1] AAUP Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.

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