BY USF-UFF CHAPTER PRESIDENT ROY WEATHERFORD
ABOUT THE RECENT AAUP ANNUAL MEETING
First, let me again make it explicitly clear that UFF
has no organizational affiliation with the American
Association of University Professors (AAUP). Further-
more, while I am personally Vice President of the
Florida Conference of AAUP, I have assiduously refused
to speak for the conference or for AAUP on the Al-Arian
controversy, took no part in the investigation and
committee deliberations except as a witness to the
investigating committee, and recused myself from
speaking or voting at the annual meeting. In short, I
do not speak for AAUP on this matter.
Nevertheless, I believe UFF's members and the
bargaining unit we represent deserve some report on
what I perceive to have happened, so here it is:
1. The tenor of the debate was that it was clear
that the USF administration had violated the
standards of academic freedom, the only question
was what to do about it.
a. To me, the most impressive fact about the extended
open debate was that not one of the speakers
argued for reducing or opposing the recommended
(1) Not one speaker said the administration had
performed satisfactorily and should be
(2) Not one speaker said that Al-Arian deserved
whatever punishment he received because of...
(3) Not one speaker said that AAUP should dodge the
issue because it would be politically unwise to
take a stand, and the one speaker who suggested
that someone else might hold such a view was
chastised for heresy.
b. Procedural issues and AAUP's own rules dominated
(1) The question was not whether some action should
be taken against the USF administration, but what
kind of action would be appropriate and consis-
tent with AAUP guidelines.
(2) To editorialize slightly: Much of the substance
of AAUP's criticism of USF's administration
concerned the issue of procedural justice, hence
most members felt strongly that AAUP itself had
a strong obligation to observe procedural justice.
2. The substance of the debate involved long-established
guidelines for imposing censure and the relative
novelty of condemnation.
a. The censure process has two important elements that
were important in the discussion.
(1) Censure is not normally imposed until all of an
institution's internal procedures and appeals have
(a) Administrations are not normally considered to
have "done" something so long as it might yet be
reversed in the normal course of events.
(b) Professor Al-Arian chose to appeal his case
through the grievance procedure established by
the emergency rules rather than through the pro-
cedure established by the collective bargaining
(i) It is UFF's position that the contract is still
(ii) It is the administration's position that the
contract is not still in effect, and so they
refuse to process any grievances under the
(iii) Perhaps understandably, Dr. Al-Arian and his
attorney chose not to get caught in the middle
of this fight.
(iv) To editorialize again: This may not be a coin-
cidental problem as the administration waited
for over a year and then terminated Dr. Al-
Arian immediately after the date on which they
claim to have broken the union contract.
(c) Dr. Al-Arian has requested, and the administra-
tion has agreed, that his final hearing be
delayed until after the court disposes of his
(d) Therefore, internal appeals have not been
exhausted and may, in fact, never be exhausted.
(2) Imposition of censure normally includes specific
recommended actions an administration must take to
have the censure lifted.
(a) But the university cannot give Dr. Al-Arian his
job back while he is in jail.
(b) And it cannot "retry" him under AAUP procedural
guidelines while he is in jail.
(c) And it would be inappropriate to force an adminis-
tration to remain on the censure list for not
doing something it is powerless to do (to invoke
Kant again, "'Ought' implies 'Can'").
(d) Furthermore, President Genshaft had convinced
Committee A that USF is already implementing a
policy that such disciplinary actions will in the
future require a preliminary hearing before a
faculty peer committee so there is no need to make
such a recommendation.
(To editorialize yet again: those of us in
attendance from USF were amazed to hear this, as
none of us knew of any such policy decision. In
fact, the only time that I know when it was
seriously discussed occurred more than a year ago,
when President Genshaft told the Board of Trustees
that she was considering such a policy, the Faculty
Senate formed an ad hoc committee to recommend such
a policy, the committee held a hearing at which I
agreed to such a policy on behalf of UFF and the
administration's representatives rejected it --
nothing more was done, so far as I know; certainly
the union has never been consulted on such a
(3) Because these normal elements of censure were not
present, Committee A recommended that censure not
b. So far as anyone could recall, AAUP has never before
voted to "condemn" an academic administration.
(1) Censure is the normal instrument for indicating to
academia and the general public that an administra-
tion has violated AAUP guidelines.
(2) But AAUP had "condemned" other individuals and
institutions, such as the government of China.
(3) Committee A and the Executive Committee of AAUP
recommended condemnation in this case because:
(a) Censure seemed inappropriate under the circum-
(b) It would also be inappropriate to allow the
perception that AAUP had found the USF administra-
tion's actions to be justified under AAUP guide-
3. The conflict in the debate was whether or not the
recommended actions were sufficiently strong.
a. The plenary session clearly believed that it was
important to take some strong action proclaiming that
the USF administration had seriously violated AAUP
standards for academic freedom.
b. The plenary session rejected Committee A's recommen-
dation that censure not be imposed and recommitted
the question to the committee (note the beautiful
etymological symmetry) for further consideration.
c. The plenary session made it clear that they did not
wish condemnation to be viewed as an exoneration or
even a lesser reduced sentence for the USF adminis-
d. The plenary session voted almost unanimously (the
President called it unanimous and then withdrew the
appellation after three or four people indicated they
had softly said 'No') for the final motion to
recommit censure and impose condemnation on the USF
e. At the next plenary session a motion was briefly
entertained, but rejected, that would have recon-
sidered the final vote for the purpose of substitut-
ing a motion of immediate censure.
4. The consequences of the AAUP actions were these:
a. The most respected voice of academic freedom in the
United States has solemnly declared, in the strongest
language available, that the USF administration vio-
lated AAUP's generally recognized guidelines for
b. USF has not "escaped" or "dodged" censure -- the
option is still open for action at next year's annual
c. The administration has proclaimed itself exonerated
and "can't fathom" what the fuss was all about.
5. More subjective remarks:
a. In fairness to both the administration and the AAUP,
it is important to remember that the university's
actions that lie at the heart of the AAUP investiga-
tion and discussion are those involving the original
charges and actions against Dr. Al-Arian, not
primarily the more recent dismissal after his indict-
b. Unlike one case back when I was state president of
UFF, AAUP made no finding that the union was at fault
in this case, although it did express the opinion
that the collectively bargained contract is
insufficiently aligned with AAUP guidelines (there
are historical and systematic reasons for this, if
anyone is interested).
c. Neither our students nor our faculty should feel in
any way criticized by the AAUP's actions -- all
criticisms were directed at the university adminis-
tration, or at President Genshaft personally, or at
the Board of Trustees institutionally. In fact, the
censure list is explicitly a list of censured admin-
istrations, not institutions.
d. On the other hand, to the extent that students and
faculty are still at risk from the consequences of
any possible future imposition of censure, we need
to be vigilant and firm in our insistence that the
administration change its attitudes and behaviors.
e. Now that we have resolved the question of union.
recognition, the next important interaction will be
the negotiation of the first ever university-level
contract. I urge the administration to be forth-
coming rather than hostile and the faculty to be
engaged and supportive rather than apathetic.
f. We have a (somewhat) new Board of Trustees and a
(somewhat) new Provost -- as a confirmed optimist I
hope and expect that things will get better in the
future and we can all get past these conflicts and
get back to doing what we love to do: our jobs.