AAUP Confirms Departure of General Secretary

June 7, 2011

The American Association of University Professors is announcing today that Gary Rhoades stepped down, effective Monday, as general secretary. The imminent departure of Rhoades has been rumored since April. The AAUP statement showered praise on him. "Rhoades has been instrumental in effecting a dramatic turnaround in AAUP’s finances, realizing operating budget surpluses and building a reserve fund. Income has been increased, expenditures have been prudently reduced, and financial oversight has been strengthened," the statement said. It also cited his strong support for AAUP chapters, leadership in defending faculty rights, and success in building coalitions with other groups in higher education. As to why Rhoades is leaving, the statement cited "fundamental differences between the general secretary and the Executive Committee of the AAUP on various matters."

Rhoades -- a scholar of higher education who studied issues related to faculty rights and collective bargaining before taking the AAUP position three years ago -- will return to his tenured position at the University of Arizona.

Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, said via e-mail that plans will soon be announced for an interim period of leadership at the association's office. Asked about the general secretary's role, Nelson said that the AAUP Executive Committee "is committed to the view that the general secretary's major responsibility is running the national office."

Nelson's point about the general secretary's focus in the office may indicate a key disagreement with Rhoades. Via e-mail, Rhoades said that "it is more important than ever" for the general secretary to be doing "as I have been doing, to more consistently and effectively connect with and provide support for leaders and members in the field, to more strategically and directly focus on local organizing opportunities and on national campaigns around resource allocation (prioritizing core academic missions), governance and academic freedom and the future of higher education."

Rhoades also suggested another area of disagreement: "The extent to which the association can get beyond itself. The AAUP is a special organization. But its future success, like its greatest successes historically, lies less in positioning itself largely apart from others, based on special mission, on its laurels or on past precedent, and more in working behind the scenes more consistently and cooperatively with other organizations within and beyond the [Washington] beltway."

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