The American Asso­ci­ation of Uni­versity Pro­fessors has had Hillsdale College on its censure list since 1988. Since then,  Hillsdale has annually declined to accept the AAUP’s invi­tation to present new evi­dence that would repeal its status.

Hillsdale made it onto the national aca­demic watchdog group’s censure list almost 25 years ago, after a faculty-admin­is­tration dispute went public in the Col­legian.

The issue was raised last month when The Detroit Free Press men­tioned it in an article about the college.

Although the staff involved are long since gone, and the faculty handbook has been updated sig­nif­i­cantly since then, Hillsdale admin­is­trators said they still do not accept the organization’s invi­tation to review the censure because of ide­o­logical dif­fer­ences between the college and AAUP.

“The college does not rec­ognize their authority to censure,” Provost David Whalen said. “They are self-appointed arbiters of pro­fes­sional pro­priety.”

The AAUP pub­lished a report in 1988 that is available on its website claiming that the college did not extend a non-tenured professor’s con­tract because he crit­i­cized an administrator’s behavior in a letter to The Col­legian.

Whalen said the college is in a fun­da­men­tally dif­ferent place now.

“That’s ancient history — things don’t look like that now,” he said.

Whalen also said the college will not accept the AAUP’s invi­tation to repeal the censure.

“We do not regard the AAUP as having any moral or pro­fes­sional authority, so there is no need to erase a censure that has no traction.”

The AAUP’s five-page doc­ument describes the incident  from the untenured professor’s per­spective, with no direct input from the college’s admin­is­tration.

“There wasn’t enough infor­mation to know what really went on,” Whalen said.

According to the AAUP report, Hillsdale vio­lated the professor’s aca­demic freedom by not extending his con­tract with the school. The pro­fessor had co-authored a letter to The Col­legian crit­i­cizing an admin­is­trator who had sued a pro­fessor for alleged slander.

The AAUP crit­i­cized Hillsdale for not having a policy for pro­fessors to appeal their con­tract-ter­mi­na­tions to a peer-reviewed board.

“The admin­is­tration … in … refusing to provide [the pro­fessor in question] with any reasons and any oppor­tunity for faculty review of the decision, denied him the gen­erally accepted pro­ce­dural safe­guards to which he was entitled…” the report said.

Whalen said the Board of Trustees is the ultimate authority for per­sonnel issues at Hillsdale.

“The only way to create an appeal pro­cedure is to either create a body with the authority to overturn the board of trustees or to ask the board of trustees to think again,” Whalen said. “Essen­tially anyone is free to do [the latter].”

The college will not, however, establish a faculty board with more authority than the board of trustees, he said.

“If by faculty-review they mean a body that has the authority to overturn a decision by the board of trustees, that’s anarchy,” Whalen said.

According to the Faculty Handbook, however, tenures and non-tenured pro­fessors are told the reasons for why their con­tracts are not renewed or ter­mi­nated.

Both Pres­ident Larry Arnn and Whalen said the AAUP’s censure list sig­nifies a dif­ference in phi­losophy in the running of a college, stemming in part from the organization’s founder, John Dewey.

“Dr. Arnn has done some research and has some inter­esting remarks about the philo­sophical under­pin­nings of an orga­ni­zation that tends to look at uni­ver­sities and col­leges as entities mired in an inescapable political struggle,” Whalen said. “We tend to look at the source of our insti­tu­tional effec­tiveness and internal harmony as having a common purpose and being willing to reason with each other when there are dif­fer­ences about how best to pursue that purpose.”

The AAUP did not return calls to comment.