AAUP and FIRE Question Treatment of Adjunct
June 1, 2012
Inside Higher Ed
The American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education both on Thursday expressed concerns about the way Texas A&M University at San Antonio notified Sissy Bradford, an adjunct with excellent teaching evaluations who had been told earlier she would have four courses for the fall, that she would have no courses. The university told Bradford of this development the day that a local newspaper noted her complaints about how the university responded to threats she received after her objections played a role in the removal of crosses from a tower being built at the entrance to campus. Bradford and her supporters see the university punishing her for speaking out. University officials have said that there is no relationship between her lack of courses for the fall, and her public statements. And university officials have stressed that adjuncts are not entitled to courses in any future semester.
A letter from the AAUP to President Maria Hernandez Ferrier said that "we believe that the action taken against Ms. Bradford was effectively a dismissal for cause, without the administration's having demonstrated adequacy of cause before a faculty hearing body. It thus seems to us to be a summary dismissal, fundamentally at odds with academic due process." The letter continues: "We accordingly urge that the Texas A&M University-San Antonio administration rescind her dismissal and reinstate her to the teaching that had been assigned to her for the fall semester, with any further action in her case to be consistent with the enclosed principles and standards."
FIRE announced that it was looking into the case. A statement from the organization said in part: "Many know, of course, that the job security of adjunct instructors like Bradford is nowhere near what it is for tenured professors and that universities may (and frequently do) decide not to rehire them for myriad reasons -- or no reason at all. But this does not mean that adjunct professors possess fewer First Amendment rights than their tenured counterparts. Adverse employment action taken against adjunct instructors on the basis of their protected expression as citizens violates the First Amendment."
On Thursday, the university released a letter from Bill Bush, interim head of the School of Arts and Sciences, in which he said that portrayals of the situation at the university have been "extremely one-sided." He said that the university offered support to Bradford amid the controversy over her statements about the crosses. He said that the decision not to offer Bradford courses for the fall was related to a desire to hire more tenure-track faculty members, and he said that she was in no way punished for any stances she took. He said it was a "duty" of the university to protect students and faculty members who express a range of views.
The university did not respond to a request that it explain why Bradford was initially offered courses for the fall, and then told that she would not teach those sections.