Report Finds Partisan Ideology and Political Ambition Motivated Changes at Maricopa Community Colleges

Today AAUP released a governance investigation report about the Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC), which consist of ten institutions serving Maricopa County in Arizona, including the city of Phoenix. Investigators looked into the college district governing board’s decisions to repeal the entire faculty manual, put restrictions on the faculty’s participation in institutional decision making, and terminate a “meet-and-confer” process. This process had been used for establishing institutional policies related to faculty matters and for making recommendations to the board on salary and budgets. These steps by the governing board eliminated the mechanism by which changes to institutional policies related to faculty matters were negotiated. They also eliminated the role of the only district-level representative faculty governance body, which also served as the governing body of the faculty association, an organization that was incorporated as a union, but which did not have collective-bargaining rights under state law.

Investigators found evidence -- based on correspondence of individual board members that was obtained through open records requests -- which strongly suggests that the board’s intervention was an engineered performance of political theater motivated by partisan ideology. It also served the political ambitions of two former Republican members of the Arizona House of Representatives who served as a member and chair of the board. The report concludes that the governing board’s motivation was union-busting—or more precisely, mischaracterizing the faculty association as a collective-bargaining agent and then attempting to destroy it and, with it, all vestiges of a once-effective system of shared academic governance.

The investigating committee found that, in terminating the meet-and-confer process and repealing the faculty manual, the governing board acted in disregard of the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. The statement provides that the structure and procedures for faculty participation in institutional governance should be designed, approved, and established by joint action of the components of the institution.

Soon after the visit of the investigating committee, three new members were elected to district governing board and the existing board president announced his resignation. After the AAUP shared the findings of the report with the MCC administration, we were pleased to learn that, under its new leadership, the board passed a proposal that rescinded the earlier changes and will eventually restore many of the shared governance mechanisms that the old board had terminated.

Michael DeCesare, professor of sociology at Merrimack College, serves as chair of the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance, which authorized the publication of the report. He notes the district governing board has moved in a positive direction, but still has a ways to go.

“The board has taken some promising first steps, but the Committee on College and University Governance will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the faculty’s governance rights are fully restored at Maricopa,” says DeCesare.

He adds that in light of the board’s most recent actions, the Committee on College and University Governance has not yet determined whether it will recommend to the AAUP membership that the Maricopa Community Colleges be added to the AAUP’s sanction list. The committee may delay its decision until next year, depending upon further action by the board. An AAUP sanction informs the academic community and the public that unsatisfactory conditions for academic governance exist at the institution in question.

Click here to read the full report

Publication Date: 
Thursday, March 7, 2019