Chapter History

In late 2021, the AAUP-FM Executive Committee compiled an early history of the chapter. We intend to add additional sections to include more recent history.

AAUP-FM Chapter Beginnings (1991 to 2002)

Founded in 1970 as a teaching college, Francis Marion University (FMU) became a public four-year liberal Arts institution in 1992, serving the Pee Dee and Northeastern regions of South Carolina. The faculty established its AAUP chapter in 1991, a move not viewed favorably by the administration, and then-President Thomas Stanton forbade the chapter initially to meet on campus. President Stanton fired a provost popular with the faculty, causing a controversy which led AAUP-FM and other faculty members to form a faculty senate in 1994 – 1995.

When President Stanton retired in 1994, Dr. Lee Vickers was selected to serve as president, despite faculty opposition. President Vickers provoked further tensions with the faculty when he refused to review the issue of the provost’s firing and responded by initiating questionable policy changes surrounding tenure, faculty oversight, and post-tenure review. The rift between the administration and the faculty grew when President Vickers announced a restructuring plan, creating two new schools and appointing new department chairs without engaging the faculty in meaningful consultations.

Between 1994 and 1996, a series of conflicts ensued between the FMU administration and faculty, which resulted in a faculty vote of no-confidence directed towards President Vickers that called into question his administrative and budgetary policies. In response, the president attempted to dismantle the Faculty Senate. He found support from the FMU Board of Trustees, the local business community, and some members of the faculty. Some faculty members who spoke out against the president’s actions were vilified in the press. As morale fell, many faculty members left Francis Marion, taking jobs at other universities, retiring early, or leaving academia altogether. Those who stayed kept pushing for reform and called on AAUP national to intervene.

In 1996, after reviewing extensive documentation, an AAUP investigating committee visited campus. The report from this visit was shared in the May-June 1997 issue of Academe, the association’s journal. The committee determined that the FMU administration had grossly bypassed generally accepted shared governance practices. In addition, the FMU Board of Trustees were culpable for not attempting to heal the rift between the president and faculty members. Due to this 1997 report, the AAUP placed Francis Marion on the AAUP list of institutions sanctioned for infringement of governance standards.

The Vickers administration was questioned further in 1998, when the South Carolina legislature audited the university. The audit report revealed that the FMU governance system had been dysfunctional, that financial policies had not been followed, and that funds had been misused. The SC legislature also expressed concerns about sharply declining enrollment.

Soon after the legislative audit, changes were initiated that allowed FMU to operate more functionally. The Board of Trustees was restructured, and it elected Dr. L. Fred Carter as president in 1999. President Carter, with an extensive background in university teaching, administration, and state government, strongly supported an overhaul of the faculty governance system and became a leading advocate for faculty concerns. Recognizing the changes underway at FMU under its new president, AAUP national delegates voted in 2000 to remove the sanctions against FMU.

To ensure continuing structures for shared governance, Dr. Charlene Wages, newly elected chair of the faculty, led an effort to create Francis Marion’s Constitution of the Faculty and Bylaws of the Faculty Senate. This document was ratified by the faculty in 2001. Dr. Wages, with AAUP-FM members including AAUP-FM president Dr. Dwayne P. Meyers and taskforce chair Dr. Lorraine de Montzulin, collaborated on the Faculty Handbook, which aligns with the AAUP’s Redbook principles. Since its publication in 2001, Francis Marion’s Faculty Handbook has become a model for other academic institutions.

FMU’s profound change in institutional culture has garnered national attention and continues to strongly influence higher education in the state and region. In 2002, upon nomination by the AAUP-FM executive committee, President Carter received the AAUP’s national Ralph S. Brown Award for Outstanding Service to Shared Governance. Since then, AAUP-FM has continued to recognize outstanding leadership by honoring a faculty member each year with the Charlene Wages Shared Governance Award.

Sources for this early chapter history include “Francis Marion University: A Governance Success Story: An Interview with Lorraine de Montluzin, AAUP leader and campus activist” by Iris F. Molotsky (a PDF saved from a now-unpublished 2000 AAUP web text) and a letter written in 2001-2002 by the AAUP-FM executive committee to nominate Fred Carter for the Brown Governance Award.