The AAUP Presidency




Cary Nelson--Candidate statement--2010

The AAUP has made significant progress toward meeting the goals I and others began setting for it several years ago. For long an organization that was too often neither seen nor heard, it has now established a potent media presence. From an organization that communicated with its members only intermittently, it has transformed itself into one that regularly reaches out to hundreds of thousands of faculty. It has the elements for a timely organizational restructuring in place and awaiting government approval.

I am running for another term as president to build on these achievements and increase our impact still further. That said, one essential goal still eludes us: rebuilding membership to the 100,000 level we had forty years ago. As a first step, working with our staff, I established an email program to educate faculty nationwide about who we are and why we are critical if academic freedom and shared governance are to survive the forces of corporatization and the ideology of neoliberalism. Now we are about to consider adopting a progressive dues structure for non-CB members that will help us recruit younger advocacy faculty members into our ranks. Meanwhile, the ongoing recession has presented higher education as a whole with the greatest threats to academic freedom, shared governance, and faculty status we have faced in over half a century.

I have codified these challenges in a new book, No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom (NYU Press, 2010) that incorporates and builds on the presentations I have given as AAUP president at chapter and state conference meetings over the last four years. After chapters defining academic freedom in the current cultural context and analyzing the numerous contemporary threats to academic freedom and shared governance, I challenge the academic labor movement to recover its larger social mission and conclude by examining the AAUP’s recent history and suggesting how it can update its practices and procedures. Although I have been writing about higher education for years, this most recent book is very much a product of my experience and responsibilities as AAUP president.

No University Is an Island is also part of a multi-year effort to establish the office of AAUP president as a visible source of principled statements about AAUP issues and concerns. Other such efforts in recent months include my widely reported press release about Yale University Press’s decision to suppress images of Mohammed from a recent book and my New York Times essay about the case of Berkeley law professor John Yoo, the author of the memos justifying torture during the Bush administration. These supplement my continuing work in initiating and helping to draft Committee A policy statements and reports, from “Freedom in the Classroom” to a revised RIR 14 to new initiatives on politically controversial professors and on the tensions between individual and departmental academic freedom. I will continue to be an activist president across the whole range of AAUP commitments if I am reelected.


Cary Nelson is a candidate for re-election as AAUP president in 2008. For more informatio about the AAUP, including many important statements of principle about college and university life, see

“Cary Nelson has led the AAUP intelligently, tirelessly, and often even humorously, through these interesting times in higher education. I cannot imagine another candidate as gifted as Cary in the ability to both conceptualize and meet the multiple challenges and opportunities this organization faces – from much-needed reorganization to effective membership drives, from technological innovations to proactively addressing challenges to academic freedom. Best of all? No boredom.”
Cat Warren, President, North Carolina State Conference*

“Scholar and academic-freedom activist, Cary embodies the intellectual rigor, principled commitment, and imaginative grace that our profession stands for. To the public he represents the professoriate with principle, insight, and poise; as a colleague he communicates with frankness, wit, and diligence. His active concern extends from new graduate students, to contingent faculty members, to the members of the traditional faculty, and to retired and emeritus professors. He is realistic about organizational needs and idealistic about organizational purposes. In his first term of office he has ably dealt with controversy and upheavals not of his making, to resuscitate our organizational stability and free our executives’ hands for more forward-looking work in the next term. And I like him. “
Ruth Anne Baumgartner, editor, VANGUARD*

“I heartily endorse Cary Nelson for re-election as AAUP President. As an elected member-at-large to the Collective Bargaining Congress since 2006, I have had the opportunity to witness the leadership and integrity that Prof. Nelson brings to the office. He serves selflessly at a time when the need for principled, full-time devotion to AAUP principles and the rights of faculty has never been greater. He is a fierce defender of academic freedom, as evidenced by his recommendations for candidates to serve on Committee A. He is an inspiring leader and a creative, tireless role model from which even the most experienced among the professorate continue to benefit. My association with Prof. Nelson has resulted in a profoundly renewed sense of purpose for my own role as an educator. I share his vision of a stronger AAUP, and I am certain the organization will feel his positive influence for many years to come.”
David D. Witt, CBC Executive Committee*

“Cary Nelson is absolutely fearless. His fortitude is exactly what the AAUP needs in this moment of national recidivism.”
Andrew Ross

Cary Nelson AAUP President*

The AAUP is the only national force standing between us and the further corporatization of higher education. It is the only organization defending academic freedom against repeated efforts to eliminate it from every new technology, from web sites to email. It is the only source of principled rationales for granting job security to contingent faculty. It is the strongest national voice for shared governance. Only the AAUP speaks across disciplines for the rights and responsibilities of the professoriate as a whole.

All this we have continued to do superbly wellfrom our powerful statement on "Freedom in the Classroom" to our massive report on the academic aftereffects of hurricane Katrinadespite the need to focus on reversing the 2005 and 2006 deterioration of our membership and financial record keeping. We are now rebuilding, having hired absolutely terrific staff in both those departments. But we must still confront the costs of an ill-advised software purchase recommended by staff and the consequences of bad personnel decisions initiated in the national office. The elected leadership must clearly increase its oversight of all areas of the organization.

The national AAUP requires more than change, a word that can be an empty slogan without specific goals and plans. In several respects the AAUP literally needs to be reformed. Working with a dedicated Executive Committee, I began that process months before becoming president. Then in June 2006, when I became president, I added the energy of equally committed staff and that of a strong majority of National Council. Our first task was literally to keep the organization from collapse, a genuine risk at the end of 2006. Then we needed to reform our oversight practices, to make the EC and Council partners with staff, rather than rubber stamps. Next we needed to create effective ways of communicating with members. We have done so. And of course we needed to address the long-term crisis of declining advocacy (or non-collective bargaining) membership. Candidates for office have trumpeted this need for decades, but neither they nor the national staff have done anything fundamental to reverse the trend. I have put in place a massive new program to rebuild membership.

I have been able to do these things in part because of the experience, political sophistication, and selfless commitment of those who work with me on the Executive Committee. If you want us to continue our reforms, please vote for Jeff Butts and Estelle Gellman to be your vice presidents. Elect a treasurer who has the academic qualifications to do the job: that is Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor who heads his CB chapter.

When I ran for president in 2006, I did so on the basis of leadership experience on three different nonprofit boards, three decades of union activism across the country, many years of service to the AAUP, of a career combining extensive higher education scholarship with principled activism, and of a series of specific stated goals for the AAUP. I now have a record as AAUP president that you can evaluate. In addition to chairing meetings, appointing committees, and fulfilling other standard responsibilities, I have

  1. persuaded the staff to increase the number of members for whom we have accurate email addresses from about 8,000 members to over 38,000, allowing frequent communication with members for the first time and making it possible to enlist members in writing to legislators about higher education issues.
  2. worked with the staff to help inaugurate a twice-monthly online newsletter to AAUP members. I have written some of these emails and actively encouraged staff and leaders to write others.
  3. proposed and supervised implementation of the AAUP's largest ever educational and membership outreach to US faculty, reaching over 350,000 faculty in the fall of 2007. By the time you read this, the number should reach 400,000. This is the first major effort to educate the professoriate comprehensively about what we do.
  4. served on the subcommittee of Committee A charged with writing the report on "Freedom in the Classroom" that was mass distributed in September 2007. I sent a link to the statement not only to US faculty but also to faculty around the world. Canadians received both French and English versions.
  5. instituted a President's Column in Academe for the first time. Previously the AAUP had no mechanism for the president to address the membership regularly. Column titles include "What Has the AAUP Done for me Today?" "No Campus is an Island," and "A Manifesto Against Contingency."

  6. wrote and the Executive Committee passed a series of regulations to ensure more complete oversight of AAUP activities by the elected leadership. For example, for the first time the President (or a designated representative) now has the right to attend all AAUP conferences and other major events, a right previously denied. All major grant applications now need to be reviewed by the leadership.
  7. recommended and Council approved the appointment of an Executive Director (later Interim General Secretary) in November 2006 to focus on critical management and financial issues in the national office. I recommended (and gained approval for) emergency budget adjustments to deal with potential cash flow problems in 2007.
  8. taken an active role in the committee and subcommittee meetings to design a major restructuring and implementation process for the AAUP. I have written a series of brief articles about restructuring and published them in ACADEME to help inform the membership about the AAUP's goals. I required and supervised email distribution of new constitutions to all members six months ahead of the June 2008 annual meeting vote.
  9. used my pre-existing press contacts to promote the AAUP's agenda in interviews for Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other publications. I was interviewed on camera for (and will be appearing in) a Public Broadcasting System documentary about higher education. I have written several press releases personally to increase coverage of the organization's activities.
  10. made chapter visits and public speeches, including joining the picket lines during the faculty strike at Eastern Michigan University, joining civil disobedience at New York University, presenting keynote addresses at the Coalition for Contingent Academic Labor in Vancouver and at the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa. Presented a public lecture "The End of Education" at annual state conference meetings in Michigan, North Carolina, and Iowa and to chapters and general audiences at the University of Vermont, the University of Connecticut, Connecticut College, the University of Florida, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. I will be making a series of west coast and high plains visits in 2008.
  11. debated conservative culture critic David Horowitz in Washington, and the debate was broadcast twice nationally on the C-Span television network in 2007.
  12. proposed and instituted the drive to collect capital campaign contributions of at least $1,000 from AAUP members. Over 200 such contributions have been collected so far, many of them solicited by me.
  13. organized a hybrid web site for my local chapter designed to provide useful tools for all chapters and state conferences, including recruitment videos, a power point presentation, sample chapter and a state conference newsletters, and compelling statements about AAUP values:
  14. sought to promote a more full partnership between the leadership and the talented national staff. I instituted more regular communication with the Executive Committee and Council and instituted the practice of having the Executive Committee and Council meet not only with the staff but also on their own.
  15. continued to publish both in my disciplinary specialty (modern poetry) and in the area of higher education trends and policy. Have sought to identify the AAUP presidency with serious scholarship. Among the longer essays I have forthcoming are "On Weakened Ground: The AAUP and the Future of Academic Freedom" and "Graduate Employee Unionization and the Future of Academic Labor."
  16. persuaded disciplinary organizations to send out 50,000 recruitment letters for the AAUP at no charge.
  17. designed the largest ever effort to recruit new members, scheduled for February 2008 implementation.

  18. drafted a proposal to increase the AAUP's scholarly profile.

I urge you to support me and our fine national officers in continuing this work and developing additional new initiatives.

I am supported for reelection by the following members of National Council*: Steve Aby, Ariel Anderson, Jacqueline Arante, Michael Bérubé, Jane Buck, Marc Bousquet, Bob Comeau, Estelle Gellman, Larry Gerber, Rodger Govea, Roxanne Gudeman, Jeff Halpern, Elizabeth Hoffman, Judith Johnston, Candace Kant, Susan Meisenhelder, Adolph Reed, Ellen Schrecker, Patricia Simpson, Sheila Teahan, and Wendy Roworth.

Visit my web site at Email me at

*AAUP affiliation listed for identification only and does not imply any endorsement by the organization





Steve Aby, University of Akron*
Ariel Anderson, Western Michigan University, Past Chair, Collective Bargaining Congress*
Jacqueline Arante, Portland State University*
Lenore Beaky, La Guardia Community College*
Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University*
Jane Buck, Delaware State University; Past President, AAUP*
Marc Bousquet, Santa Clara University *
Bob Comeau, Union County College (New Jersey)*
Estelle Gellman, Hostra University, Second Vice President*
Larry Gerber, Auburn University, First Vice President*
Rodger Govea, Cleveland State University*
Roxane Gudeman, Macalester College *
Jeff Halpern, Rider University, Chair, Collective Bargaining Congress*
Elizabeth Hoffman, California State University, Long Beach*
Judith Johnston, Rider University, President, New Jersey Conference*
Candace Kant. Community College of Southern Nevada *
Susan Meisenhelder, California State University, San Bernardino*
Adolph Reed, University of Pennsylvania*
Ellen Schrecker, Yeshiva University*
Patricia Simpson, Loyola University *
Sheila Teahan, Michigan State University *
Wendy Roworth, University of Rhode Island*


Stanley Aronowitz. City University of New York; CBC Executive Committee*
Ruth Anne Baumgartner, Fairfield and Central Connecticut State Universities; Vanguard Editor*
Mayra Besosa, California State University, San Marcos; Member, Committee on Contingent Faculty*
Patricia Brodsky, University of Missouri, Kansas City; Chapter President*
Scott Bruton, Rutgers University; Graduate Student Committee*
Jane Buck, Delaware State University; Immediate Past President, AAUP*
Howard Bunsis, Eastern Michigan University; CBC Executive Committee*
Eileen Burchell, Fordham University, Past Vice President, New York Conference*
Cecil Canton, California State University, Sacramento, Associate Vice President, California Faculty Association*
Amy Carrell, University of Central Oklahoma; President-elect, Oklahoma Conference*
Joseph Colombo, University of San Diego; Former Chair, Committee on Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity*
Cecilia Konchar Farr , College of St. Catherine; President, Minnesota Conference *
Matt Finkin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, former General Counsel and former Chair, Committee A
Steve Finner, United Professions of Vermont, former national staff member*
Julius Getman, University of Texas; Past President, AAUP*
Vivienne Gilroy, Union County College (New Jersey), former Vice President, New Jersey Conference*
Steve Goldberg, Adelphi University; past President, New York Conference*
Robert Gorman, University of Pennsylvania: Past President , AAUP*
Kerry Grant, Southern Connecticut State University; Parliamentarian and former Secretary-Treasurer*
Peter Hansen, University of Iowa; Chapter President*
Siegfried Heit, University of Central Oklahoma*
Keith Hoeller, Green River Community College (Washington); member, Committee on Contingent Faculty*
David Huyssen, Yale University, AAUP Committee on Graduate Students*
Sanford Kadish, University of California at Berkeley; Past President , AAUP*
Otis King, Texas Southern University; former member Committee on Governance*
Louis Kirschenbaum, University of Rhode Island; CBC Executive Committee*
David LaPalombara, Ohio University;, former President, Ohio Conference *
Julie Laskaris, President, University of Richmond Chapter and member, Virginia Conference Executive Committee*
Stephen Leberstein, Brooklyn College; Chair, PSC-CUNY Academic Freedom Committee*
Michael Livingston, St. John's University and The College of St. Benedict; former President, Minnesota Conference*
Sandra Mayfield, University of Central Oklahoma; former chapter president and chapter president-elect*
Mike McIntyre, De Paul University,; formerPresident, llinois Conference*
Rob Moore, St. Joseph's College (Pennsylvania); President, Pennsylvania Division*
Christian Morgan, Seminole State College (Oklahoma); Secretary, Oklahoma Conference*
Mohey Mowafy, Northern Michigan University; CBC Executive Committee*
Debra Nails, Michigan State University; former Council member *
Jeremy Nienow, Minneapolis Community and Technical College*
Dan O'Connor, Rutgers University; Past President, New Jersey Conference*
Robert O'Neil, University of Virginia; Director, The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression; former AAUP General Counsel *
Rosa Maria Pegueros, University of Rhode Island; former Council member*
James Perley, College of Wooster; Past President, AAUP
Robert Post, Yale University; member, Committee A, former AAUP General Counsel*
David Rabban, University of Texas, Austin; Chair, Committee A and immediate past General AAUP Counsel *
Paula Rabinowitz, Samuel Russell Chair, University of Minnesota*
James Richardson, University of Nevada, Reno; Past AAUP President*
Andrew Ross, New York University, Chapter Co-President; Committee A member*
Charles Ross, University of Hartford, President, Connecticut Conference*
Joel Russell, President, Michigan Conference; CBC Executive Committee*
Carl Schaefer, University of Connecticut; CBC Executive Committee*
David Shiman, University of Vermont, President, United Academics (AAUP-AFT)*
Gerald Soslau. Drexel University; Past President, Pennsylvania Division*
John Parris Springer, University of Central Oklahoma, chapter Executive Committee*
Peter Steiner, University of Michigan; Past AAUP President*
Lillian Taiz, California State University, Los Angeles; President, California Faculty Association*
John Travis, Humboldt State University; past president, California Faculty Association*
Bill Trimble, Auburn University, President, Alabama State Conference*
Gerald Turkel, University of Delaware; President, Delaware Conference; CBC Executive Committee, Chair of Committee on Government Relations*
Craig Vasey, University of Mary Washington; Virgina Conference Executive Committee*
Donald Wagner, University of West Georgia; former Committee A member*
Paul Walter, Skidmore College; Past AAUP President*
Cat Warren, North Carolina State University; Vice Chair, ASC, President, North Carolina State Conference *
Janet West, University of Nebraska at Omaha; former chair, Collective Bargaining Congress*
Bill Williamson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, chapter treasurer*
David Witt, University of Akron; CBC Executive Committee*

“Cary Nelson's high profile as a scholar, especially in the area of higher education policy; his strong support of both collective bargaining and advocacy chapters; his profound understanding of the challenges facing the Association and the academy; his proven fund-raising ability; and his indisputable commitment to AAUP principles made him the successful candidate for the presidency two years ago. As president he has initiated an aggressive electronic membership drive, continued to publish scholarly work, successfully debated David Horowitz on national television, and given numerous interviews in the academic and popular press. The AAUP requires his continued leadership.”

Jane Buck, Immediate Past President, AAUP*

*Institutional affiliation listed for identification purposes only and does not imply any endorsement by the organization.


Candidate Statement (2006)

Cary Nelson

EVERY faculty membereven the most vulnerable part-time teacherbenefits each day from the work the AAUP has done for decades. Imagine a world without the 1940 statement on academic freedom and tenure, without decades of censuring rogue institutions, without thousands of violations for which the organization has quietly gained reversal or redress. Academic freedom at best would be defined randomly and inconsistently at the whim of sympathetic and unsympathetic administrators alike.

Yet each new generation needs to be educated about our values, and we must constantly apply these values to a changing world. Many administrators are far from convinced that academic freedom applies to what people say on college or university email or on university web sites. Few administrators acknowledge faculty rights to control the content of online courses. Our policy statements on such emerging issuescontingent labor, intellectual property rights, the impact of 9/11 on the academyare detailed, well reasoned, and without equal.

Yet most faculty across the country have little idea of what the organization has accomplished. It is likely that only a small percentage of the professoriate has ever read one of our major policy statements, let alone a full committee A report or the Redbook. Although our work is of the highest quality, we do a very poor job of communicating about it.

Part of the problem is a certain stodginess about technology. We need to communicate regularly and concisely about our work to our members by email. We need to educate the professoriate as a whole about our history and our current projects. Informing faculty and graduate students about what we do is the first step in rebuilding our membership, which must be a top priority for the next president.

Thousands of faculty have spent the last two decades hiding from the changing realities of higher educationignoring the increased reliance on contingent labor, ignoring the gradual shift of power to central administrations. Yet AAUP members are well informed about these trends and the serious threat they constitute. We may differ about what strategies to use in dealing with them, but we are in consensus about the nature of the problem. Our members are thus a wonderful resource; we must involve more of them in our activities. We must organize national email and letter campaigns to support helpful legislation and challenge administrations violating academic freedom.

As president, I would continue writing and speaking passionately about higher education on AAUP's behalf. Working with our talented and devoted staff, I would dedicate myself to membership development and to the public phase of our endowment campaign.
Despite decades of careerism in the academy, there remains a vital core of idealism in the professoriate. It is evident in city-wide living wage campaigns, in renewed and more socially conscious collective bargaining drives among both faculty and graduate students. Such actions demonstrate that new faculty identities can embody both disciplinary loyalty and community responsibility. This idealism can be tapped to make the AAUP stronger, larger, and more influential.