This is the last newsletter for the current
editor, and having a newsletter at all is but a small marker in the
powerful evolution the AAUP has experienced in the past three years.
For those of you who have been less involved, or who are newcomers or
recent returnees to the fold, it is worthwhile to note and to celebrate
the growth of our Faculty Association.
Prior to three years ago, the Towson AAUP was
a small and comfortable organization. But when the increased teaching-load
mandate came down in January 2003, neither the leadership nor the membership
was prepared for the confrontation. Because the workload mandate was
particularly shocking to faculty hired since 1998, it was junior faculty
especially who leapt into action, feeling they had been dealt a “bait
and switch.” Junior faculty held that the 3/3 teaching load made
Towson an up-and-coming university where a strong research agenda could
move their academic careers—and the University—forward.
In response to the Regent’s ruling, junior
faculty came together and drafted a statement to the then-new President,
Bob Caret, calling on him to defend Towson against the Regent’s
demands. This statement was presented to the AAUP at a meeting in which
newly invigorated senior faculty applauded the measure, assisted in
revising the statement, and helped to pass it as an AAUP Resolution.
The ad-hoc Junior Faculty Caucus that emerged, with
the support of senior faculty, was transformed into an Appointed Committee
of the AAUP. Since then, the Junior Faculty Committee has become a major
force within our Faculty Association, meeting monthly with the Provost
and providing an important venue for information exchange with the Administration.
Though its mandate is to protect and promote the interests of Junior
Faculty in particular, this committee continues to work for the interests
of all faculty at Towson.
Now the Towson AAUP has become a place where junior
and senior faculty work together for the betterment of Towson. A steering
committee has emerged that represents some of the best and most engaged
faculty from all colleges. This is a welcome evolution, and with the
remarkable growth of membership, marks a true rebirth of the AAUP as
a campus-wide Faculty Association.
The present leadership has shown that the AAUP can
be an affective instrument in defending the interests of the Faculty
and ensuring that shared governance is more than a catch-phrase. It
took a jolt to the system to bring this about, and it would be all too
easy for complacence to set in and for the AAUP to dwindle in neglect.
The Administration would like us to think that the workload issue has
been satisfactorily resolved. The State still holds that we may not
be recognized for purposes of collective bargaining. But our challenges
are far from over.
It is not just that we need a strong Faculty Association
to defend our interests against incursions from the Administration,
or even from the Regents. Faculty rights are under fire across the nation,
with weapons such as the so-called “Academic Bill of Rights”
taking aim at us. It takes diligence to maintain what we have. We cannot
take for granted that tenure, academic freedom, and shared governance
are always going to be there. These will exist only so long as we ensure
that they do. And that is the job of the Towson AAUP/Faculty Association.
That we can lose it all, all too quickly, is suggested
in the story of the American Passenger Pigeon (no, really, just stay
with me…). In perhaps the most amazing species collapse, these
birds went from several billion members to complete extinction in less
than a century. Biologist T.R. Halliday argued that once hunting sufficiently
diminished the number of birds to small flocks, the rest simply could
not survive. Passenger pigeons depended on the many eyes and ears of
its huge flocks to find food and shelter, and once there were too few,
their system collapsed. With the potential onslaughts threatening faculty
rights, some of which could be as insidious as a Trojan Horse, we too
need all our eyes and ears to defend ourselves. In other words, we need
to use all our faculties. That means every one of us.