University of Wyoming faculty members now have a new group to share concerns with and search for solutions.

A chapter of the American Association of University Professors is now on campus. Represented in hundreds of institutions, the AAUP is “a best practices organization,” said Steve Mumme, co-president of the Colorado Conference of the AAUP.

“It says there are a set of best practices that advances academic freedom and shared governance,” he said. “I can promise you that your university handbook is already chock full of AAUP principles.”

The group now has close to 40 members on campus, and co-founder Reneé Laegreid said it will likely continue to grow.

“What I’m hoping to do is hear from people across the university and hear what other people are thinking about,” she said.

Some departments might have problems or grievances other areas in the university might not be experiencing, and this group is meant to give a larger voice to any concerns.

“One of the first things we’d want to do is gather information (about any problems).” Laegreid said.

“We are an advocacy group, and we need to gather information to determine if something is a problem or not.”

The UW Faculty Senate is a similar group — it is comprised of department representatives and passes legislation possibly affecting everyone on campus. But there are also distinct differences that necessitate an AAUP chapter, Laegreid said.

“We want to make clear that we are not competing organizations,” she said. “We’re working toward the same ends. AAUP is an advocacy group — we’re not passing legislation. We’re asking questions.”

Faculty Senate Chair Tucker Readdy attended the meeting and explained early communication is key for both organizations.

“I hope we can have some meaningful discussions about how the Faculty Senate and faculty association can work together, but also how we might see their roles being different,” he said. “We need to think about what will happen when, inevitably, the Faculty Senate and the faculty association do not share the same perspective on an issue or do not share the same path forward towards a solution.

“We need to make sure we’re not cutting each other at the knees, but really helping lift each other up on campus,” he continued.

Laegreid agreed, saying more voice is needed now more than ever.

“We’re going to come in some difficult times, with budget cuts and program reviews, and I think if we can work together with administration to help them understand the faculty perspective and further that idea of shared governance, we can be much better and much more productive,” she said.

The chapter isn’t all about providing strong advocacy for possible problems or solutions, Chapter President Lynne Ipiña said.

“This group can do everything from introducing others to really good books about Wyoming to introducing all kinds of special reasons and ways our new colleagues can feel at home,” she said. “I think that’s a really important part of this.”

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