Statement on Academic Freedom in Online Education.

The CSU-Pueblo Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) approved this statement on May 6, 2020:

“The AAUP’s primary mission is to support academic freedom and shared governance in institutions of higher education around the country. Our university, like so many other universities around the country, moved its courses online in response to the spread of COVID-19. Recognizing that our classes may stay all or mostly online for the foreseeable future, CSU-Pueblo’s chapter members offer the following ideas in the hope that we could respond better to this crisis when faculty and administrators work together.

While we recognize that moving online is a more than reasonable response to a pandemic, we feel that faculty need to be more closely involved in making basic decisions about when and whether we will return to in-person instruction, and what form that in-person instruction may then take. In particular, decisions about reducing the number of large classes, moving to in-person instruction (but with some ideas of social distancing), running classes as hybrid with only a few, carefully controlled, in-person meetings are all pedagogical matters. The faculty’s primary role when making decisions about pedagogy is the basic principle behind academic freedom in the classroom, and we hope this will be respected as our plans move forward.

While our move to remote instruction in March was clearly an emergency, the fall is not. If we start working together now, the faculty’s role in making pedagogical decisions can be respected, as it should be. In particular, chapter members have great concern that a firm that is wholly-owned by the CSU System’s foundation, Beyond Campus Innovations (BCI), is being paid to introduce the CSU-Global instruction model on campus — and faculty are being told that if they want support (including instructional design support, technology support, and/or financial support) they must accept BCI’s tools and template for their online courses.

The most astonishingly wonderful things that have been done with pedagogy on our campus have not be done by fitting faculty members’ ideas into consultants’ templates. We do not want to give up the ability to continue those efforts in favor of teaching classes that our indistinguishable from our competitors. After all, why wouldn’t students just take the courses at CSU-Global, if we’re just imitating so much of that institution’s approach and format?

The chapter believes that financial, technological and instructional design should be offered to all faculty thinking about moving their classes to an online or hybrid mode of instruction, but without rigid ideas of which platforms to use and into which template they must shoehorn their pedagogy. We recognize that some faculty may want to go with the BCI model, but faculty who want to use different tools or platforms than whatever BCI recommends need to know that they can get help in implementing their online classroom vision without restrictive constraints.”

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