Investigation Focuses on Academic Freedom and Curriculum

Date: 2/7/17

As part of its mission to defend academic freedom, the AAUP Foundation provides financial support for investigations, reports of those investigations, and meetings of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic and Tenure. The AAUP’s investigative work plays a critical role in ensuring that colleges and universities adhere to AAUP-supported academic standards. Administrations that violate these standards risk censure by the AAUP.

The Foundation funded the December visit of an investigating committee to the Community College of Aurora in Colorado to inquire into the dismissal of Nathanial Bork, a part-time instructor of philosophy. The administration’s stated reason for Bork’s dismissal, which occurred several weeks into the fall semester, was an alleged lack of effectiveness in implementing a required “curriculum redesign” for the introductory philosophy course he was teaching. Bork claimed that his dismissal was in retaliation for speech protected under principles of academic freedom, specifically, that he had been dismissed for writing a letter to the college’s accreditor, a letter that severely criticized administration-mandated changes to the course and their effect on students. The college administration did not afford Bork a faculty hearing, as AAUP-supported standards require, in which to contest the dismissal.

The committee will publish a report of its findings in March, and Committee A will make a recommendation on censure to the AAUP’s 103rd annual meeting on June 17.