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On to the story:
The nearly twenty-year-old censure of Savannah College of Art and Design by the American Association of University Professors was on the verge of being lifted this spring when negotiations between the two parties broke down. The censure came in 1993, after a period of campus unrest; two SCAD professors were fired and six were denied reappointment. Financial settlements with several of the professors had been agreed upon, and it seemed all that was left was a visit by an AAUP representative, who would check to make sure that academic freedom reigned over the cool and quirky campus (which doesn’t have an AAUP chapter).
That visit didn’t happen. According to the AAUP’s report, SCAD officials kept delaying the visit, and finally declared that they needed to have complete control of the inspector’s itinerary–including whom the visitor talked to. This was a big red flag to the AAUP staff, which reported:
By way of explaining the conditions for going forward that (SCAD) President (Paula) Wallace now desired, Dr. (Tom) Fischer (SCAD’s chief academic officer) referred to her enduring bitter feelings about disruptions and riots at SCAD two decades ago, her belief that the released faculty members instigated the students and incited violence, and her fear of what these faculty members still might do. The staff members replied that the president, if she remains so fearful of their enmity, would seem better advised to make the settlement payments now than to leave the faculty members with the issue of not getting the payment they were told was being offered to them.
So, the checks didn’t get mailed, the visit didn’t happen, and SCAD’s censure remains. The AAUP staff report concluded:
The unexpected sharply negative developments for censure removal described in this report largely speak for themselves, and a single concluding observation would seem in this case to suffice. Committee A, in considering whether to recommend removing a censure, has been interested not only in settlements of cases and corrections of deficiencies in stated policies but also in the current climate at the institution for academic freedom and due process. An AAUP representative commonly makes a brief visit to the institution for this purpose, particularly an institution like SCAD where an AAUP chapter does not exist and direct contact in recent years with faculty members has been scant. By setting extremely restrictive conditions for allowing a visit to occur, however, the administration itself placed massive limitations on freedom at SCAD to seek truth. The administration’s apparent zeal to control the content of a visitor’s report about academic freedom ironically provided abundant evidence that the current climate at SCAD for academic freedom is sorely deficient.
A SCAD official, in the school’s response to a draft of the report, called it “one-sided” and stated:
While we would have preferred to settle this matter, we find that we can no longer engage in negotiations with your organization. To be sure, the negotiations between our organizations have broken down over your demands regarding the conditions of a site visit; focused on a 19-year-old complaint, they have nothing to do with the high quality education that our faculty provides or with student achievement.
You can see the 3-page report on the AAUP website.