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The purpose of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to facilitate effective cooperation among teachers in universities and colleges, as well as promoting the interests of higher education and research. “The AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in colleges and universities” (AAUP 2012). In order to hold institutions of higher education to this standard, the AAUP must often inquire, investigate, and report when they receive concerns from faculty members. Such was the case in 1992 when the AAUP heard from the faculty of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) faculty. The AAUP was justified in censuring SCAD in reaction to the 1990-1992 incidences.

Before the 1900s, courts and government did not involve themselves with the inner workings of higher education institutions. As a result there was no protection of freedom and justice for faculty, nor any way to have grievances dealt with outside of the institution. The administration of the institution had complete control of what faculty could or could not say and teach (Lucas 1994). It was argued that with this lack of academic freedom, the development of education and the advancement of knowledge would be prohibited. “New and abstract thought existing outside the established boundaries of knowledge and ‘truth’ would be subject to persecution and consequently new truths and important theories might continue to go undiscovered” (Dines 2012). In 1900 Mr. Edward Ross, a professor at Stanford University, was fired for his opinion on certain controversial issues. Although Ross’ case was not alone in its injustice, it aroused much controversy and sparked a series of discussions on the topic of academic freedom (Lucas 1994). Fifteen years later, at an academic convention, the American Association of University Professors was born (Metzger, 1965).

The AAUP contains many specialized committees and personnel to ensure that faculty and administration alike are aware and knowledgeable of the rights of due process, and to make sure this practice is upheld by the country’s higher education system; helping over a thousand higher education faculty members each year. When an educator believes his or her academic freedom is not being upheld, the AAUP staff offers assistance by providing the opportunity for consultation and by answering questions. If the problem persists, and the AAUP determines that the educator’s academic freedom is indeed being violated, the AAUP may suggest a legal investigation and will direct the educator to the appropriate resources. Although the AAUP does not have the power to legally represent individuals, the AAUP’s legal office can make attorney referrals and will sometimes prepare amicus briefs to the court (AAUP 2012). Although the AAUP cannot take direct legal action, they still play a role in determining cases, and therefore shaping education law to integrate the principles the association has established (Dines 2012).

In 1940, the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges agreed upon a restatement of the 1925 Conference Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which took up the topic of academic freedom in general. The purpose of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure “is to promote public understanding and support of academic freedom and tenure and agreement upon procedures to ensure them in colleges and universities” (AAUP 2012). The 1940 Statement of Academic Freedom and Tenure clearly defines the importance of both topics:

Academic Freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with its rights. Tenure is a means to certain ends; specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society. (AAUP 2012)

The Statement then goes on to define the terms ‘academic freedom’ and ‘tenure’. Academic freedom means that professors are “entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results”, freedom in classroom discussions (although they must be wary in introducing controversial topics that has no relation to their subject), and freedom from institutional censorship. Academic tenure simply states that professors should receive permanent or continuous tenure after the end of a probationary period. Once tenured, they should only be terminated for an adequate cause, except when they reach the age for retirement or under extraordinary financial circumstances (AAUP 2012).

These principles of academic freedom and tenure have been approved and endorsed by the Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, as well as over two hundred other professional and education organizations (AAUP 2012). Should an institution fail to uphold the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the AAUP will censure the institution:

Censure results from the Association’s findings that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. The 1940 Statement of Principles asserts that institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good, and that the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression. An institution that disregards the concepts of academic freedom and tenure will have difficulty in fulfilling its basic purpose. (AAUP 2012)

This was the result of a 1992 dispute at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Located in Savannah, Georgia, SCAD was founded in 1979 by Richard G. and Paula S. Rowan. Richard Rowan served as SCAD’s president; his wife, Paula, was provost; and Nancy H. Weber was executive vice president. During the time of these events, Nancy Verell and Dr. Harry M. Dixon were respectively vice president; each left SCAD in the summer of 1992 (Vandersall 1993).

The following accounts come directly from the AAUP’s report on the Savannah College of Art and Design. The report was released in the AAUP’s magazine Academe in May-June 1993.

During the spring of 1992 students began speaking out for a student government, resulting in numerous accounts of unrest at SCAD. A Graduate Student Association was formed by a group of graduate students, support by a few members of the faculty. On April 7, after a late night student meeting, a bomb exploded outside an administration building. On April 8, Executive Vice President Weber wrote to a number of the student leaders warning them “to make certain that [their] statements and activities do not contribute to alienation, mistrust or irrational acts of violence.” In May, two 19-year-old students were arrested and convicted of the crime; they had not been active in the movement for a student government (Vandersall 1993).

On May 5, members of the SCAD faculty voted to support the proposed student government and to begin the steps of forming a faculty senate. President Rowan wrote to the faculty on May 7 saying that he was “in favor of a faculty senate as described.” That evening, there was a meeting of approximately 300 students and twenty faculty members; four of them spoke, supporting the students. On the same day, Weber wrote to all members of the faculty concerning the renewal of their appointments:

Due to the recent upheaval, faculty contracts have been delayed. We apologize for the delay; however, our small administrative staff has been concentrating on the issues at hand in order to resolve the present situation in an expeditious fashion… The evaluation process is complete and contracts will be issued as soon as possible. We are in the process of individualizing each contract. You will receive your contract as it is processed. (Vandersall 1993)

Members of the faculty voted to form a faculty senate on May 11 and 12. Professor David Wells was elected chair pro tem. With letters dated on May 20, Weber notified twelve members of the SCAD faculty that their services would not be required for the 1992-1993 school year, including Professor Wells.

The AAUP began hearing from SCAD faculty members in April 1992; among them were Professors Barclay, Rogers, and Stout, all who were eventually fired in Weber’s May 7 letter. The AAUP also received a request for assistance from Professor Robert G. Nulph, who had been hired for the 1990-1991 academic year and was then dismissed in December 1990. On May 6, The AAUP wrote to President Rowan about Nulph’s case, inquiring as to why he had not been allowed a hearing and asking that they take corrective action. This was the AAUP’s first involvement. On May 29, the AAUP once again wrote to Rowan, requesting he repeal the notices of termination for the twelve faculty members. On June 2, the AAUP forwarded copies of these letters to members on the board of trustees at the university (Vandersall 1993).

On June 3, Vice President Weber replied on behalf of President Rowan stating that Professor Nulph’s written permission was required before releasing any information on him. On June 17, the AAUP provided said written statement from Nulph while restating its concerns about his case, and the cases of the twelve terminations the previous month (Vandersall 1993).

A month went by without any further word from the SCAD administration, so the AAUP’s general secretary authorized an investigation; President Rowan was informed via letter on June 23. On August 6, Rowan was further informed that the investigation was scheduled for October 8 and 9. In a letter dated October 6, Hugh M. Dorsey, writing as general counsel for the college, commented about the approaching visit:

…obviously, the AAUP, its agents and associates are free to visit Savannah and I am sure that their trip will be an enjoyable one. However, given the particular bias of the AAUP, its employees and its agents are not authorized to go upon College property or attend College functions held upon other property. Should the AAUP, its employees, agents or member of any team come upon College property or intrude upon any College function, such person or personals shall be considered to be trespasser(s) and shall be treated accordingly which could include, but not be limited to, prosecution for criminal trespass… Also, please be advised that no one is authorized to speak on behalf of the institution other than President Rowan, and the College’s Office of Communication is the only authorized source of information regarding the institution… (Vandersall 1993).

The AAUP investigating committee arrived on the scheduled date regardless, and worked out of a downtown hotel. The committee called President Rowan’s office and was informed that he was out of town and all members of the administration would not be available to the committee. The investigating committee instead conducted personal interviews with current and former SCAD faculty and administration members (Vandersall 1993).

As a result of the investigation, he AAUP investigating committee raised three issues that resulted in the censuring of SCAD: the dismissal of Professor Robert G. Nulph in December 1990; the termination of Professor Russell Barclay on May 20, 1992; and the terminations of six other faculty members on May 20, 1993.

Robert G. Nulph held a one-year appointment as professor and chair of the video department at SCAD. However, he soon experienced difficulties in his new position. In November and December, three separate faculty members wrote to Nulph regarding administrative matters, assisting students, and student evaluations (Nulph stated that he could not comment on the evaluations because he had never seen them). On December 12, Dean Dixon wrote to Nulph notifying him that “the college administration, in consultation with representation from the board of trustees, has determined that it is not in the college’s best interest to continue your employment… your derelictions of responsibilities, including your failure to uphold the policies and principles of the college, resulted in your termination” (Vandersall 1993). The next day, Direction of Personnel Edwards also wrote to Nulph to inform him that “as stated in the Faculty Handbook, you may request a hearing in front of a college committee, in your own defense, concerning the decision by the college administration to terminate your employment. The specifics of this hearing may be found on page 21 of the Faculty Handbook” (Vandersall 1993). Nulph replied on December 19, requesting a hearing and providing information as to where he could be reached over the Christmas holidays. However, on December 20 Edwards stated that, according to the handbook, “a hearing will be granted ‘if the facts are in dispute.’ The facts are not in dispute… However, if you wish to appeal the decision to terminate your appointment, you may do so to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Nancy Verell” (Vandersall 1993). Nulph submitted this appeal on December 28, and did not receive a reply until February 15, 1991, when she affirmed the decision to terminate Nulph and informed him that he could further appeal to Provost Paula Rowan. This appeal to Provost Rowan, sent on February 25, did not receive a reply until May 15; denying his appeal, she referred him to President Rowan if he wanted to appeal further.

The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure calls for a hearing before a faculty committee in cases of dismissal prior to the expiration of a term appointment. SCAD’s handbook states that the faculty member in question is to be given the opportunity for a hearing “in all cases where the facts are in dispute”, quoting exactly the 1940 Statement. However, Professor Nulph disputed the accuracy of the charges that lead to his termination via the multiple letters he sent requesting a hearing. According to the AAUP report, “It seems clear to the investigating committee that, when one party disputes the facts as alleged by the other party, the facts are indeed in dispute.” As a result of all these events, the AAUP investigating committee found that the SCAD administration acted in disregard of the 1940 Statement of Principles by terminating Professor Nulph without granting him a hearing (Vandersall 1993).

The second issue that led to the censuring of SCAD regarded the May 1992 notices of termination. Those who received the May 20 notices were completing their first or second year of service, with one exception - Dr. Russell Barclay. Barclay joined the SCAD faculty in 1984, by the time he was terminated he had served for eight years and had become a senior professor at the college. In the weeks before his termination he had become closely associated with the efforts to form a student government and with the faculty for a faculty senate. He was even scheduled to give a speech at the graduation ceremony before his sudden termination. According to the 1940 Statement of Principles, faculty members who have been retained beyond seven years are to be given a year of notice. SCAD was in clear violation of the 1940 Statement of Principles by firing Dr. Barclay (Vandersall 1993).

The six other professors who were fired via the May 20 letters also should have received sooner notice. According to the AAUP’s Statement on Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments, faculty members should have received notice by March if it was their first year at the college and by December if it was their second. Instead, all members were notified in May and no reasons were given without procedure for review. The six faculty members – Professors Ron Chandonia, Gary Gelfenbein, Paul Marquardt, James Rogers, David Stout, and David Wells – all claimed that “a significant consideration in the administration’s decision to terminate their services was their activities in support of the students’ movement for student government” (Vandersall 1993). This results in the AAUP’s third strike against SCAD: “The allegation that the services of the six faculty members were terminated as a consequence of speaking out in support of student government states a prima facie violation of Association supported principles of academic freedom” (Vandersall 1993).

Recently, SCAD has made efforts to work with the AAUP to resolve the issues that originally caused the institution to be censured. SCAD showed a willingness to respond to the AAUP’s recommendations by agreeing to offer settlements to the faculty members who were involved in the 1990-1992 events. However, the AAUP’s plan to revisit SCAD in April 2011 was met with mistrust by the SCAD administration. First, SCAD administration rescheduled the visit for the following month because of scheduling conflicts. Then, the college drafted a document for the AAUP staff that was “replete with conditions that the association could not possibly accept” (June 2011). This document requested by SCAD would require the AAUP to remove SCAD from the censure list and to take down the 1993 report that is available on the AAUP website (see Vandersall 1993 in works cited). The institution also insisted on having “sole discretion” in creating the itinerary for the AAUP visitor, including whom they could interview and where they could go on campus. As of today, SCAD continues to remain on the AAUP’s censure list (June 2011).

During the 1990-1992 events SCAD violated three 3 of the AAUP’s standards. In dismissing Professor Robert G. Nulph, SCAD acted in disregard of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure; when terminating the services of Professor Russell Barclay, the SCAD administration also acted in disregard of the 1940 Statement of Principles; finally, the six professors who were fired in the May 20 letter presented a prima facie case, stating that the administration’s decision to terminate their services was based on “considerations violative of their academic freedom” (Vandersall 1993). For these reasons, the American Association of University Professors was justified in censuring the Savannah College of Art and Design.




The Academy of Jundishapur


Page Author: Jazmyne M. Sturgeon

Saturday, 17 March, 2012 10:51



AAUP. American Association of University Professors. Web. 8 March 2012.

Dines, Erica R. "The American Association of University Professors." The Thin Tweed Line. 11 Feb. 2012. Web. 08 Mar. 2012. <>.

June, Audrey W. "AAUP Blasts Climate for Academic Freedom at Savannah College of Art and Design." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2012..

Lucas, Christopher J. “American Academe in the Early Twentieth Century.” American Higher Education: A History. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994. 195-99. Print.

Metzger, Walter P. “Origins of the Association.” AAUP Bulletin Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 1965): 229-237.

Vandersall, Amy L., and Jeffery A. Butts. "Savannah College of Art and Design." Academe: Bulletin of the AAUP. May-June 1993: 65-70. Web. 5 Mar. 2012.




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