AURORA | The American Association of University Professors, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, charity and labor union, on Wednesday released the results of an investigation the organization conducted at the Community College of Aurora last winter that delved into the circumstances surrounding the controversial firing of an adjunct professor.
The AAUP went to bat for former CCA professor Nathanial Bork last fall shortly after he was fired from the local community college for allegedly failing to properly implement a new curriculum in his introductory philosophy courses.
Bork, who is also an adjunct professor of philosophy at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, alleged he was let go last September in part for clashing with CCA staff over the curriculum redesign and in part because he sent a letter to the Higher Learning Commission, CCA’s accrediting agency, condemning the new academic program, called “Gateway to Success.”
In its nine page report, the organization claims CCA infringed upon Bork’s academic freedoms and belittled his status as a part-time professor.
“The CCA administration’s stated rationale for Mr. Bork’s summary dismissal strains credulity,” the report states. “Insofar as the dismissal may have been in retaliation for the letter Mr. Bork had addressed to the HLC (Higher Learning Commission), in which he criticized the content and implementation of the Gateway to Success curriculum, it would constitute a gross violation of his right to intramural speech under principles of academic freedom.”
Bork said he appreciated and supported the report’s findings.
“I thought the investigation was really well done it was very professional and I completely agree with the report,” he said. “I absolutely feel vindicated by all of this. I think the facts bore out that what I was saying was in fact true.”
Officials from CCA rebuked the report’s findings.
In a statement, Betsy Oudenhouven, president of CCA, said the college’s administration disagrees with the report’s conclusions and reaffirmed that both the Higher Learning Commission and the state’s Department of Higher Education signed off on the school’s recent curricular tweaks.
Oudenhoven said that during observations last fall, Bork’s performance quickly came into question.
“In the case of the instructor whose complaint led to the report, the department chair and achievement coach who observed the instructor discovered general instructional problems as well as difficulties in the implementation of the new curriculum they characterized as severe,” she said in an emailed statement.
Bork, who plans to enroll in a PhD program in political science at Colorado State University this summer while continuing to teach online courses at ACC, said he plans to forward the report to department chairs, university presidents and governing boards at four-year institutions across the state. He said he wants to make it clear that the new CCA curriculum waters down the community college experience and should preclude CCA courses from being transferred to a four-year degree at Colorado universities.
A trio of AAUP-affiliated professors visited CCA last December to speak with the college’s staff about Bork’s firing and further investigate the school’s policies. The three members of the investigating committee were: Nicholas Fleisher, a linguistics chair from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, James Klein, a history professor from Del Mar College, and Nicole Monnier, a Russian professor from University of Missouri.
“Professor Bork is not alone,” Debra Nails, a former professor of philosophy at Michigan State University and member of an AAUP committee on academic freedom and tenure, said in a statement. “The AAUP and members of the profession will continue to advocate, with adjunct and other contingent faculty, to ensure such rights and protections as ought to be afforded all who teach in the nation’s colleges and universities, tenured or not. To do less would be an injustice to students and an abrogation of the Association’s hundred-year-old commitment to the common good.”