Statement on academic freedom, DEI initiatives, and Aug. 28 Faculty Senate vote

It has come to our attention at KSU AAUP that there is an administrative initiative to remove all references to DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) from Kennesaw State University websites at all levels, and that all DEI language pertaining to hiring must also be removed. In terms of Academic Freedom, there has also been a push to align our teaching with the revised BOR definition of Academic Freedom, particularly the following criterion:

“Students should be provided an environment conducive to learning, be free from faculty or institutional coercion to make personal political or social choices, and be evaluated based on their academic performance, not factors that are irrelevant to that performance such as their personal beliefs. Similarly, faculty and staff have the right to be unburdened by irrelevant factors such as ideological tests, affirmations, and oaths, and should instead be hired and evaluated based on relevant factors such as their achievement and the success of students.”

Our reading here is that there is a limit to what the administration can require of faculty. In our understanding, the administration has clear authority over all materials that represent the university, such as websites, as well as anything related to hiring or admissions. However, under the BOR’s academic freedom language, scholarship or teaching is clearly a faculty domain, rendering the administration without legitimate authority to instruct faculty on syllabus content or research directions.

While nuanced language within these policies requires careful interpretation, the administration should not have the authority to preemptively tell faculty to remove DEI or other specific content from their syllabus. It can, however, intervene in cases where legitimate concerns are raised by students or others. Such concerns might include allegations of coercion to adopt specific ideological views unrelated to the subject matter or complaints regarding a professor’s introduction of personal ideological commentary not relevant to the course during class time. The exact process and potential consequences of such administrative intervention are not explicitly defined.

Our chapter concurs with AAUP National President Irene Mulvey that  “Academic freedom for teaching and research is grounded in scholarly expertise, and includes the protection of extramural speech.” And, as she points out “administrators should [not] be the deciders in DEI-based challenges to academic freedom.” Mulvey, citing an article from Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, reminds us that, as administrators, department chairs and deans “ often lack the requisite knowledge and expertise about academic freedom (and the scholarly field under consideration) to make informed decisions. Certainly, any challenge to academic freedom requires faculty involvement in the form of an elected faculty body or review committee.” Finally, Mulvey reminds us, and we concur, that pitting academic freedom and the values of DEI initiatives against each other creates a false binary. These two important value systems “should not be seen in competition.”

Under the emerging climate, we are concerned that there may be groups who will be notifying students that they should monitor professors and complain. We recognize that students and other stakeholders may have differing views on what constitutes appropriate content in an educational setting. It is wise for faculty to be prepared to provide scholarly context for material that may be questioned and to clarify that a diverse range of perspectives is welcomed within the class, without any particular ideological stance being required to succeed in the course.

Finally, we are aware that there are revisions to the KSU Faculty Handbook that will be presented to the Senate on Monday, August 28. Within the proposed changes is a significant deletion under section 2.1 on Academic Freedom that we find very concerning. The following protections are being removed from the existing handbook. These include protection from:

  1. External and internal political pressure;
  2. Undue interference in course content;
  3. Retaliation or reprisal for expressing unpopular perspectives related to research, curriculum, pedagogy, and organizational procedures; and
  4. Undue interference in grading and assessment criteria.

Within this context, it is our chapter’s hope that members of the Kennesaw State University Faculty Senate will withhold support on this proposed revision. 

Please notify us at AAUP if you have a Dean, chair, or outside entity, other than an accreditation organization, telling you preemptively what you may or may not have in your syllabus, readings, or lectures. It is our understanding that this is a violation of Academic Freedom as defined by the BOR.

Chapter meeting with the Provost on P&T Revision Process

The AAUP Executive Committee met with the Provost and Faculty Senate President Todd Harper yesterday (Wednesday, February, 22) to discuss how the P&T revision process was going. We expressed concerns about issues pertaining to the scope and speed of the process as well as questions pertaining to shared governance. 

On the shared governance concerns, the Provost was quite clear that shared governance was a priority in this process and that he was working with deans and chairs to assure that P&T revisions were grounded in the disciplinary wisdom of departments(not college level negotiations). 

He also told us that he wants to hear from any faculty member who feels as though shared governance was not being followed in the development of P&T guidelines. According to the provost, Pam Cole is leading small group in Academic Affairs focused on P&T revisions, and faculty with concerns should contact her directly. 

Of course he reiterated that the USG PTR requirements were non-negotiable, but all other revisions were to be developed at the departmental level. He has instructed the chairs to work collaboratively with Department P&T committees so that the document sent forward is agreeable to all parties including the chair who has to sign it. Finally, he told us that the College level committees should be building their P&T documents based on what has come forward from the departments. It should not be a stand alone top down document.

Regrettably we were not able to impact the scope or speed of the process; however, Academic Affairs is aware that the May due date we’ve all been asked to meet is very rapid. As such, our chapter leadership suggests that faculty involved in the process focus on getting the most necessary things accomplished clearly and with consensus.

Please use the Provost’s overt support of shared governance in your negotiations with chairs and deans. Please let us know if there are violations of shared governance as delineated by the Provost. 

The word the Provost used several times with respect to P&T language, especially with content beyond that USG mandated changes, was complexityand wants to encourage faculty to “embrace” the complexity of these conversations. As chapter leadership, we see this as an invitation for faculty to come to the table ready to advocate for themselves and their own disciplinary expertise.

We will continue the dialogue with the Provost on this issue throughout the P&T development process; we have another meeting scheduled with the President and Provost in May. We remain committed to robust dialogue within the chapter about these issues, so please feel free to use this thread to offer suggestions or contact any of the four of us if you’d like to have a more detailed conversation.

In Solidarity
The AAUP Executive

Welcome Back, Fall 2022

Welcome back to KSU for those who were able to find time away from teaching this summer and welcome to the fall term for those who did teach. Your executive committee at AAUP kept active over the summer and we have a couple of key issues to address in the coming year.  

Before we begin however let us remind you that the mandate of AAUP at KSU is one of monitoring and advocacy in two key areas: Academic Freedom and Shared Governance. Issues pertaining to both were active over the past year and continue into this one.  

The largest and most pressing is the censure of the entire USG system by the national AAUP. (See the attached AAUP report for more details) The censure was issued over the policy enacted by the USG pertaining to tenure and most particularly post tenure review. While the ins and outs of this policy are complex and nuanced, the censure was quite clear in indicating that the USG policy violated the definition of tenure as it was originally conceived in 1940 and how it has been practiced ever since. In addition, the censure stated that there was no real faculty input in the decision to challenge the traditional definition of tenure. Meaningful faculty input is required in making key policy decisions affecting faculty by any definition of shared governance. The impacts of both the censure and the policy are making their way through the system and there is currently a committee of faculty and administrators working on implementation of this new policy at KSU. The deliberations have been contentious and there is real concern that faculty voice will not be heard or heeded. This is an issue that we will continue to monitor and report on to you.  

We welcome your input on all issues and concerns so please don’t hesitate to be in touch (our e-mails and text numbers are at the bottom). We also have a website ( where we will post new information as it arises. In addition, we will have two meetings in the month of August where we can meet each other and also share concerns and ideas: 

Start of Semester Social Aug 23 Dry County Brewery 4:00-6:00

Online Business Meeting Aug 30 4:00-5:30 via Zoom (see AAUP listserv email for link)

One final note. It has come to our attention that in some meetings around campus faculty are being told to remember that AAUP is not their boss. That the USG is their boss. This seems to be in regards to the censure and whether or not faculty should listen to AAUP since they don’t work for them. Or that they should listen to USG when it states that tenure has not been effected and faculty should implement the policy because it is mandated by the USG who is their boss. 

We find this argument needlessly confusing. AAUP is no one’s boss. We are a faculty association working on behalf of faculty to assure that faculty have a voice in policies that affect them. As such we don’t expect faculty to see us as having any direct authority over their employment. When AAUP censures a university system it is not in any way an attempt to boss anyone around. Instead, it is a statement intending to give notice that faculty rights are being violated. What faculty choose to do about that rests with the faculty at each institution in question. As your AAUP executive committee it is our job to hear your voice, your proposals, and your concerns and assist you in strategizing ways that you might meaningfully impact the university where you work. That is the work of colleagues not bosses. 

In that regard we will hold an election in September. All positions of the board are open and officers serve two year terms: President, Vice President. Secretary, and Treasurer. Please let us know if you would like to run for one of these offices ASAP!! 

Looking forward to seeing you later this month! And if you haven’t, don’t forget to become a member.  (Information about joining/membership is available here:  The more of us there are the more impact we can have! 

Your friendsAAUP Executive Committee

COVID-19 News: Mask Mandate Statement

At AAUP@KSU’s first business meeting of the semester last week (9/1), attendees registered strong agreement for the chapter’s release of a statement supporting the recent Faculty Senate resolution and calling for mandatory masking on campus.

That statement, sent to President Kat Schwaig and Provost Ivan Pulinkala on 9/2, read as follows:

 The KSU chapter of the AAUP joins the Faculty Senate in calling for a mask mandate for all indoor campus settings. 

AAUP@KSU President Tim Hedeen

The chapter asks that KSU faculty and staff members register their support for a mask mandate on campus by completing the this survey. Please share widely with colleagues.

Want more news, context, and upcoming events regarding COVID-19 response? See our additional resources page.

COVID-19 News: Additional Resources

The AAUP@KSU supports our Faculty Senate’s vote last week (9/1/2021) resolving that the USG should allow its campus presidents to decide on whether to institute mask mandates on their own campuses. Our chapter believes that given the COVID-19 surge in Cobb County, the least we can do to keep the community safe is require masks.

Here is some further reading:

“Cobb County declares state of emergency as COVID cases surge” by Matt Bruce, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Aug. 20, 2021)

“The faculty member who quit: State policy ‘literally becomes teachers die trying'” by Maureen Downey, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Aug. 27, 2021)

“UGA professor speaks out against dean, USG mask policy in open letter” by Joe Fu, The Red and Black (Sept. 3, 2021)

“KSU faculty senate votes overwhelmingly in favor of push for vaccine, mask mandates” by Thomas Hartwell, Marietta Daily Journal reprinted by Yahoo! News (Sept. 6, 2021

The Masked Professor v. the Unmasked Student” by Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times (Sept. 7, 2021)

Dr. Amber Schmidtke’s Twitter feed, currently focusing on COVID-19 data in Georgia

If you agree with the need for masks on campus, come join us for protests on the campus green next week following with coordinated AAUP protests across the state. If you can join us on any of those days, let us know by completing this form.

Also, you can indicate your support for our masking statement here.

October 2020 Membership Meeting

Our first general membership meeting of the 2020-21 academic year was held over Zoom on Oct. 27, at 5:30pm.

We covered:

  1. Introductions
  2. Report on recent chapter activity
  3. Highlights from Saturday’s GA AAUP meeting
  4. Open frame: new and continuing issues
  5. Upcoming events
  6. Membership opportunities

Tim Hedeen, our chapter president, delivered a slideshow for the first several agenda items which you can watch below in two installments:

Presentation, part 1
Presentation, part 2

Sept. 2019 Membership Meeting

Join us for our first general membership meeting of AY 2019/2020:

When: Tuesday, September 10 from 12:30pm-1:30pm
Where: K-Campus, Social Science Building (SS), 3033

The agenda for the meeting is forthcoming via email and will be posted to this page as well.

Our first social meeting of the fall semester will be Tuesday, September 17 from 4pm-6pm at Dry County Brewing Company in Kennesaw. We’ll have AAUP coffee mugs for new members and AAUP/Dry County pint glasses for everyone until we run out.

You can see all of the meetings scheduled for this semester here.

Business meeting, April 16

Our fourth business meeting of the semester will be held from 2pm-3:30pm on Tuesday, April 16, in SO 5074. Our agenda for the meeting will be . . .

1) Todd and Andy’s meeting with President Whitten and Provost Schwaig
2) Shared governance (Senate Ad Hoc Committee)
3) Workload Language 
4) Planning for the AAUP Social, Thursday, May 2, 4:00-6:00 pm, Dry County Brewery
5) AAUP for the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Business Meeting, March 19

Our third business meeting of the semester will be held from 2pm-3:30pm on Tuesday, March 19 in SO 5074. Our agenda for the meeting will be . . .

  1. Updates on the workload language for the faculty handbook. 
  2. Shared governance update.
  3. CHSS CFC’s Letter to the Provost on transparency and merit raises.
  4. Other Senate Items and Issues of Concern
  5. Planning End of the Semester Get Together. 

We look forward to your joining us for the discussion!