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Credit: Ava Cruz

We are proud to announce the formation of the University of Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP–Penn). As scholars and teachers of all ranks, we have come together because we believe that the long-term health of our university requires meaningful faculty participation in all major policy decisions that define our work and shape our community. 

Over the past year, administrators at the central and school levels made unilateral decisions as to whether our PhD programs could operate, whether international students remained enrolled in courses, and other matters that fall within the purview of faculty governance. Faculty were informed after the fact. We watched in dismay as Penn made cuts to academic programs, froze hiring, laid off staff, and ignored established principles of shared governance that would give us a voice in such decisions. Our concerns about Penn’s priorities, about our working conditions, and about the university’s relationship to the city and community remain largely unresolved.

The American Association of University Professors supports our aim to address such concerns. AAUP is a national professional organization with a century of experience representing the interests of faculty and the importance of shared university governance; defending academic freedom; advocating for the economic security of the profession; defining equitable policies of academic employment and promotion; and advancing professional ethics and teaching standards that foster a just society.

Penn faculty have come together at a moment of broader concern about the future of higher education in the U.S. We take this step in good company, alongside 40 other new AAUP chapters formed in the past two years. Our Penn chapter will urge our central and school administrators to learn more transparent and collaborative forms of decision-making that are consistent with the principle of shared governance. It is critical that faculty play a significant part in joint decisions about educational policy, personnel, and the budget. The Faculty Senate is not currently structured to ensure faculty a meaningful voice in such faculty-relevant matters; in addition, it represents only standing faculty.

Our chapter includes and advocates for the needs of contingent faculty, graduate employees, and all those employed primarily in teaching and research at a professional level at Penn. We insist that a productive academic community requires better working conditions. These include job security and fair compensation with benefits for adjunct faculty and for all workers at Penn, affordable childcare, funding extensions for PhD candidates to offset major disruption in their research and professional development, and more equitable compensation within ranks to offset glaring inequalities in salary and promotion for women faculty and faculty of color. We stand for a more egalitarian conception of the University, for racial justice on and off campus, and for a deeper structural commitment to the Philadelphia communities that enable us to function. 

We believe in higher education for the common good. This means, among other things, that a university with a $14.9 billion endowment and $3.2 billion of tax-exempt property in the most impoverished large city in the U.S. has a clear obligation to support the wellbeing of its local community. AAUP–Penn will work with other campus and community-based groups that insist on Penn’s ethical obligations to all its workers and all its neighbors. Our members include members or affiliates of Penn for PILOTs, Police-Free Penn, GET-UP, Fossil-Free Penn, and Student Labor Action Project, and we will amplify their concerns and join them in actions that work toward a more equitable future for our university and community.

AAUP–Penn’s priorities are defined by our membership, and our chapter has formed committees to address issues concerning the status of contingent faculty, women and minority faculty, graduate students and graduate programs, racial justice and university–community relations, and faculty governance. Chapter leadership is designed to include at least one contingent faculty member and one graduate member on the Executive Committee. Members with the means to do so have contributed to a fund that subsidizes membership in the national organization for those needing support. We are one faculty at Penn, and we invite colleagues of all ranks and from all schools to join us in advocating for a more equitable university.  

We are energized by the possibility of democratic, consultative governance at Penn that involves not only all faculty but also staff, students, and community members. Our collective desire to help shape the University’s priorities is by no means an unachievable ideal; we pledge to do all we can to make it our reality.

Penn’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors can be reached by emailing aaup.penn@gmail.com or by visiting aaup-penn.org.

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