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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Principles for a Post-COVID University

Statement from the American Association of University Professors chapter at New York University

In ordinary circumstances, most of what AAUP chapters do is reactive—stepping up to advocate for the protection of faculty and student rights when they are under threat. At a time when higher education’s morbid expectation of its future is one of crushing austerity and, for some colleges, extinction, our NYU group decided to be proactive and assemble some principles for a post-COVID university. This was not done because we labor under the illusion that a university can be a morally purified space. Instead, we wanted to honor (by gathering together) the ideas and suggestions and arguments for reforming our institution that we have heard being made by faculty and students over the years. Of course, many of the action items on the list are far above our pay grade, but, at some point, we have to start behaving like self-organizing employees of the more humane workplace outlined here. --Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU

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Principles for a Post-COVID University


How should NYU play its role in a “just recovery” from the COVID crisis? How can we build on the experience of the crisis and from the opinions, grievances, and solidarity that circulated in NYU communities during this period? In thinking about how the university can sustain and rebuild itself, the AAUP envisions NYU as a more transparent, democratic, caring and resilient institution, prioritizing the equitable treatment and rights of its students and employees, minimizing the cost of attendance, and striving more single-mindedly to live up to its motto—“a private university in the public service.”

For too long, NYU policy has been dictated by debt-leveraged expansionary growth, domestically and overseas, and by an institutional desire for upward mobility as measured by national and international rankings. Post-COVID, and in the spirit of social and ecological sustainability, we would like to see NYU focus on thriving in place rather than reaching after “performance” goals that are defined by financial institutions or managerial value metrics. 

Transparency

With the university’s finances under pressure, now is the time to provide faculty, students and staff full access to NYU’s fiscal affairs.

Participatory budgeting should be a key component of the transition to transparency

Executive policy-making should be open to faculty review, and senior administrators should draw more routinely on faculty expertise

Top-level decision-makers should consult and solicit input from the faculty body before making large-scale policy moves, especially on GNU matters

The terms of operation of global branches – in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and other GNU “nodes” -- should be transparent to the entire NYU community.

Democratic

The faculty role in shared governance, as recognized by AAUP principles, should be fully restored and clarified.

The NYU administration should agree and affirm that the Faculty Handbook is contractually binding.

Faculty and students should be represented on the Board of Trustees.

Faculty who are elected, and not handpicked, should serve on committees to choose senior administrators, including the Provost and President.

Minutes of BOT and administrative leadership meetings should be accessible to faculty and students.

The right to organize (including that of contract and tenure-track faculty) should be upheld and encouraged, and NYU should recognize any bargaining unit formed by a majority of its eligible members.

Community-driven town halls and plenary assemblies should be instituted on the NYU Calendar to inform and review institutional decision-making.

Caring
NYU should be a sanctuary campus, prioritizing safety and sanctuary to members of the university and its host communities.

Resources and legal assistance should be extended to vulnerable and marginalized community members.

NYU should not operate branches of the university, domestic or overseas, in breach of its nondiscrimination policies.

Employees and students should have (free) access to comprehensive health care at Langone-Grossman if they choose.

Workplace welfare councils (with faculty, student, and staff representation) should be elected in every university unit to safeguard employee well-being and workplace quality.

Affordable

Every effort should be made to lower tuition and retire NYU’s reputation as poster child for student debt.

NYU’s unequal pay structures should be addressed, including gender salary gaps, salary compression, and the role of underrepresentation of minority faculty.

Senior administrator salaries should be sliced, and nonacademic administrative personnel positions downsized.

NYU should establish a much more equitable range spread between the highest and lowest paid of NYU employees, with total compensation packages included in these re-adjustments.

Salary and student fellowship increases should be tied to COLA, and not merit evaluations.

NYU should secure the steady conversion of NTT into TT faculty positions at every GNU location and in its US campuses; as a preliminary goal, NYU should aim for not more than 25% NTT positions in 5 years across the university.

NYU should extend protections comparable to those that accrue to tenure to all full-time faculty who have served continuously for seven years.

Faculty housing rent should be capped at an affordable percentage of income.

Sustainable

NYU’s carbon footprint should be minimized and its endowed funds should divest from the fossil fuel industry, and all enterprises involved in incarceration, immigrant detention, and military production.

Air travel, to global sites and to academic meetings, should be curtailed.

Cross-disciplinary climate crisis research and study should be prioritized.

New environmental justice and climate justice initiatives should be targeted and funded.

NYU should adopt an environmental stewardship role in downtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, modelling and propagating just practices.

Public Service

Since NYU sits on occupied lands of Lenni Lenape peoples, it should fully adopt a charter of decolonial ethics and practice.

NYU should extend public access (for meetings, workshops, assemblies) to its underutilized classrooms and buildings when they are not being used. It should also seek to provide students across the city access to its libraries and online research resources.

NYU should prioritize pathways for students from New York public schools and community colleges to matriculate at NYU; it should also extend and deepen support to such institutions in other ways that those institutions identify as arenas for collaboration.

NYU should make special efforts to support DACA and undocumented students.

NYU’s reach as a landlord and real estate owner should be surveyed and redefined to help address the city’s urgent housing crisis.

Representatives from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn communities should have the right to review and participate in the approval of all new building and expansion plans.

Local community representatives should have the right to serve on a committee for developing university-community initiatives that will benefit from NYU’s research and resources.

Racial and Social Justice

Indigenous study and engagement should be instituted and encouraged in all university programs.

NYU resources should prioritize the reduction of institutional inequalities for students, staff and faculty of color, along with LGBTQ, disabled community members, DACA and undocumented students.

NYU should insist on staffing reforms on the part of departments and units with an overwhelming majority of white instructors.

Gender balance and racial diversity should be adopted as an institutional principle of all NYU workplaces.

Truly affordable housing should be made available for faculty of color and first-generation academics who often have higher student debt burdens than their peers and cannot rely on family wealth.

Global University?

NYU should convene a community-wide review of the GNU mission and its record.

Free movement of students and scholars across borders and GNU sites should be guaranteed by NYU and host authorities.

NYU should loudly and visibly protest travel and enrollment restrictions at its GNU sites and NYC campuses and lobby the relevant political authorities to lift those restrictions. In cases where there are boycotts of NYU campuses by faculty and students in other parts of NYU because of these restrictions, NYU should recognize these as fundamental expressions of academic freedom.

Academic freedom protections, in all of the forms and expressions recognized by the AAUP, should be guaranteed across all NYU sites.

NYU should uphold the right of all employees, including those contracted to construct and maintain GNU buildings, to be protected by the ILO's basic international labor standards.

NYU should insist that US authorities remedy the challenges faced by international students and faculty--travel restrictions, embassy closures, and impractical visa protocols.
     
      The Executive Committee of the NYU Chapter of the AAUP
       
         Rebecca Karl, President
         Paula Chakravartty Vice-President
         Andrew Ross, Secretary
         Anna McCarthy, Treasurer
         Fred Moten, Member-at-large
         Vasuki Nesiah, Member-at-large
         Mohamad Bazzi, Member-at-large
         Marie Monaco, Immediate past President
     

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