As the chair of the Assembly of State Conferences, I have spent the past twenty months working as hard as I can to start new chapters and reinstate state conferences, because I believe that solidarity is our only hope for overcoming the many recent threats to academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure that we face from administrations and state legislatures. Last year alone, eighteen new AAUP chapters were formed, and progress was made on reinstating four previously dormant state conferences. In addition to the ASC workshops I have organized, I have made chapter building visits to dozens of campuses either solo or in tandem with another AAUP leader.
While I’ve participated in successful AAUP collective bargaining campaigns, I'm also dedicated to helping those campuses without collective bargaining find success as well, by building chapters that can coordinate their efforts with faculty senates, state conferences, and the national AAUP. At my own institution, through the combined efforts of the Department of Academic Freedom, Governance, and Tenure; the local chapter; faculty senate leadership; and dedicated faculty members, alumni, and students, we managed to get jobs back for “non-rehired” instructors and make administrative changes to ensure that the violations that led to "non-rehiring" do not occur again. I’m excited about helping other chapters across the country respond similarly to whatever threats they face.
During my ASC trips to many states—Georgia, Missouri, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas (with trips scheduled soon for Arizona, Iowa, Mississippi, and Louisiana)—I have encountered a stunning array of violations of AAUP’s principles: faculty members threatened with dismissal for merely talking to the press, handbooks or faculty senates suspended, administrators hired without faculty input, and faculty members dismissed in spite of overwhelming support from their colleagues. I’ve also encountered truly inspiring faculty advocates who are willing to sacrifice their own private career goals for the sake of making their institutions more hospitable to AAUP’s principles.
If we want to ensure that we have a strong system of affordable, quality, higher education for future generations, we must be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the profession: improve working conditions for graduate students; reverse the trend toward contingency, in which 75% of instructional positions are now contingent; fight recently introduced bills that would make tenure illegal for everyone except university presidents; and respond to the increasing corporatization of university campuses--which is indeed the culprit in the problems listed above. To achieve these goals, we must increase membership, build more chapters and conferences, bolster government relations at the state and national levels, and increase our national efforts to protect academic freedom, shared governance and tenure.
Having been a contingent faculty member for ten years, and as the parent of three children, I am well aware of the disproportionate number of women in contingent positions and the greater obstacles that tenure-track women with children encounter in tenure and promotion than their male counterparts. As a member of AAUP’s Committee on Women in the Academic Profession, I have worked to establish policies that will improve conditions for women. If AAUP is to survive and indeed thrive as an organization, it must respond to the changing demographics of the profession, developing more family-friendly policies within the organization and promoting them within the university system, which will enable a wider range of faculty to have a voice in AAUP and the life of the university. Whereas in 1972, 88.6% of faculty were male, and 95% were white, dramatic increases in faculty diversity in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity demand that AAUP work to accommodate these changes. AAUP’s efforts to protect academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure become all the more essential as a weak economy ostensibly provides more justifications for university administrations to abandon these principles, and for faculty members to become more entrepreneurial in their approaches to the profession.
During my terms as a member of the national council, I have been involved in efforts to increase a membership that had until recently been in decline, and I am grateful for the many recent efforts to reach faculty through new technologies.
I have served as president of the Kansas State University chapter since 2001, during which time I revived a previously dormant chapter, represented faculty members who encountered academic freedom violations; initiated letter-writing campaigns on behalf of national AAUP lobbying efforts as well as local and state AAUP matters; and held meetings on issues relevant to our faculty, such as the dismissal of a faculty member in journalism for coverage issues.
From 2002 to 2004, I served as president of the Kansas Conference, during which time we established a website that would enable faculty members who have encountered academic freedom violations to express their concerns and find resolution. Its reports of past Committee A work enable members to gain some insights into and remedies for academic freedom violations they might encounter on their own campuses. Our conference newsletter won an AAUP newsletter award in 2008.
In 2003, I worked to reinstate our state conference lobbying program, hosting the first Higher Education Day at the state capitol to be held in years. We designed and distributed fliers to legislators that expressed faculty concerns about higher education and explained AAUP’s views on tenure, academic freedom, and faculty governance. The event led to an annual Higher Education Day, during which members from across Kansas meet with state representatives.
As conference president, I organized several state-wide meetings: in 2003, at Kansas University, on the topic of academic freedom, in response to legislators’ attacks on the Human Sexuality class taught by Dennis Dailey; in 2004, on “Tenure at Private Universities” at Newman University, whose president’s attacks on tenure led to their decision to form a chapter, which eventually led to a new president more receptive to AAUP principles.
If elected ASC chair, I will do my best to promote the principles of AAUP that have sustained the faculty I have gotten to know through the local chapter, the state conference, and the national council. The more obstacles we face, the greater our need to forgo self-interest and work for the good of the whole community of faculty.
I earned a PhD in English from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1992, moving to Manhattan, KS in 1990, when my husband was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics at Kansas State University. Hired as an instructor in the English department in 1991, I began the long process of earning a tenure-track position (which took until 1998), gaining a new understanding of the challenges that adjuncts as well as dual career academic couples face, which led me to join AAUP in 1996. In 1997, by which time I had two children, I received a senior Fulbright lecturing award to the National University of Ireland, Galway, and my family and I returned there for sabbatical in 2004. I have served as president of the Kansas State University chapter since 2001, and from 2002 to 2004, as president of the Kansas Conference. Since 2006, I have served on the national council, and I was recently elected for a second term. My professional service includes membership on the University Salary and Fringe Benefits Committee (2004-2007); the University Grievance Board (2005-2006), and Faculty Senate (2005-2008, 2009-present). I have served as secretary of the Region and Nation Literature Association (2003-2006), and continue to serve as chair (2006-2010). I am on the Executive Committee of the American Conference for Irish Studies (2009-2012) and I serve as the arts representative. I contribute regularly to the Kansas Conference newsletter; have co-authored, with Cary Nelson, an article on academic freedom for Academe; have spoken at state conference meetings, and presented a paper, “The Great Rationalization”: Academic Labor in J.M.Coetzee’s Disgrace,” at AAUP in Kansas City, MO. My publications include Howard Nemerov and Objective Idealism; Waking Dreams (poetry), Salmon Press, 2012; Region, Nation Frontiers: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of RNLA (co-editor); Contemporary Irish Poetry and the Pastoral Tradition (University of Missouri Press, 2011)