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Faculty Organization Sanctions National University for Mass Firing

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The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has sanctioned the National University (NU) in California after investigating the mass firing of full-time professors and associate vice presidents. NU has cited the reason for the layoffs as a makeover due to the pandemic.

AAUP sent a letter to the university Wednesday, a day after NU President David Andrews resigned, stating the school has been sanctioned due to the “trinity of egregious violations of widely accepted governance standards.”

It also mentioned that the university, along with Andrews and the Board of Trustees, made decisions “in flagrant disregard of widely accepted standards of academic governance.” These decisions include making unilateral changes to its governance structure without consulting faculty and staff members and closing academic centers without considering faculty recommendations.

NU history professor and NU-AAUP chapter president Alexander Zukas was responsible for sharing emails and other documents last year, developments that became the basis for the investigation. He said that NU faculty’s irritation grew because of the school’s “convenient” and “nefarious” actions after Governor Gavin Newsome declared a state of emergency. 

Faculty Treatment

In May of last year, Zukas and 270 other professors were issued a sudden ultimatum that asked them to sign a new contract immediately or they would be fired. According to a letter from Andrews, 93 percent signed up to help “create the future.”

There were around 50 professors who did not take the offer. They were offered a severance package and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Zukas shared that he had a 10-year contract but those plans had since changed. The new contract now states that he could be fired for any reason within the next two years.

NU Violations 

AAUP Representative Anita Levy told Times of San Diego Thursday that their Committee on College and University Governance wrote the statement against NU during its meeting on May 5, including a recommendation for sanction. 

“The AAUP did not release the statement until after yesterday’s vote of the association’s council. As far as we know, President Andrews and Chancellor Cunningham were not aware of the committee’s recommendation to impose sanctions on NU prior to the action of the council,” she said. 

Andrews reportedly announced the need for urgent action to curb the impact of the pandemic at a virtual town hall meeting. This led to the dismissal of existing faculty contracts, suspension of faculty policies, a new version of the faculty handbook, and a new governance structure.

In its investigation, however, AAUP revealed that NU had not experienced major financial setbacks. Zukas remarked that announcing the sanction will inform association members and the public that “unsatisfactory conditions of academic government exist at the institutions in question.” 

This is projected to affect the university’s reputation and enrollment numbers. However, the institution can be removed from the organization’s sanction list if it works to solve its problems.

“Institutions are removed from the list once an AAUP investigative team confirms the evidence that the institution is conforming to the generally accepted standards of college and university government, as set forth in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities and derivative governance documents,” Zukas wrote in a letter to his colleagues.

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