American Universities Group Votes to Expel Nebraska
American Universities Group Votes to Expel NebraskaBy TAMAR LEWIN - New York Times, 5/3/2011For the first time in its 111-year history, an organization made up of the nation’s leading research universities has voted to oust one of its members, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
The ouster by the prestigious and prominent group, the Association of American Universities, was particularly painful to Nebraska since the university was one of its earliest members, admitted in 1909. But for several years, Nebraska has lagged behind most others on the criteria for membership — primarily competitive research financing and the share of faculty in the National Academies, which issues policy reports and advice.
“We have known we were at risk of this for 10 years, and successfully fought off a similar threat in 2000,” the university’s chancellor, Harvey Perlman, said in a Friday afternoon e-mail to faculty and staff announcing what he called the “disconcerting news.” “I had hoped our extraordinary accomplishments and steep trajectory would have made us less vulnerable, but the A.A.U.’s approach to the review made this result inevitable.”
Nebraska’s ouster was reported Monday by The Chronicle of Higher Education, along with a decision by Syracuse University to leave the organization voluntarily. Syracuse has been a member since 1966, and, like Nebraska, was placed on review last fall.
“We went through the review process, and it was very clear from A.A.U.’s point of view, and our point of view, that they had recommitted to this narrow set of criteria,” said Nancy Cantor, the Syracuse chancellor. “I don’t see it as a big blow. We have tremendous strength, and we’re very confident in our profile.”
Although membership in the association — which now will have 61 members, including most Ivy League institutions and many of the top state schools, like Texas A&M and the University of North Carolina — brings no specific benefits, many campuses see it as a proud indicator of their status.
“Some believe it helps attract faculty,” said Barry Toiv, a spokesman for the group, “and the presidents of member universities appreciate the opportunity to meet twice a year with others facing the same set of issues, and work together on policy and funding issues.”
The association’s meetings are closed, and its votes confidential, so the news of Nebraska’s ouster came from the university, not the group.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the voting process began at a meeting in Washington on April 10, and Chancellor Perlman learned that evening that a committee had voted for his university’s removal. Mr. Perlman made a 20-minute presentation before the full membership of the organization the next day, and was then excused from the meeting. When the other university leaders went off to dinner that evening, Mr. Perlman dined alone.
According to association rules, it takes a two-thirds majority — 42 votes — to remove a member; 44 voted against Nebraska.
The university, the state’s flagship, had several factors working against it. Its medical school is under a separate administrative structure, so the research dollars it brings in are not counted by the association. And as a land-grant institution, Nebraska has about a quarter of its faculty involved in agriculture and extension work, and most financing for agricultural research is noncompetitive and so does not count heavily in the group’s ranking.
Last year, the association invited Georgia Institute of Technology to join, its first new member in nine years.