University Professors Assoc. GC at the Head of the Class

University Professors Assoc. GC at the Head of the Class Photo by Rachel Philipson Risa Lieberwitz

The American Association of University Professors has tapped Cornell University law professor Risa Lieberwitz as its general counsel, the Washington, D.C.-based trade group announced this week.

Lieberwitz, a professor of labor and employment law in Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations since 1982, was a member of an AAUP committee on academic freedom and tenure from 2012 to 2014. She also was a National Labor Relations Board attorney in Atlanta from 1979 to 1982.

She succeeds Washington attorney Theresa Chmara, whose term as the AAUP’s top lawyer ended this year. Lieberwitz’s term concludes in 2016.

Lieberwitz said she looks forward to working with the two other lawyers in the AAUP legal department on faculty member protections, intellectual property rights and other legal issues facing professors.

“I’m really honored to do it,” Lieberwitz said of becoming general counsel. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the AAUP.”

While on the academic freedom and tenure committee, Lieberwitz was the lead author of a 2012 amicus brief in support of professors who tried to unionize at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, but were rebuffed by the college’s administration.

The university’s leadership claimed that the faculty members are “managerial” employees, making them ineligible for unionization. The AAUP argued in its filing that the interests of professors and administrators aren’t aligned, creating conflict and division.

The case is pending before the NLRB.

“We are looking forward to working with Professor Lieberwitz, who is a top-notch legal scholar with experience in First Amendment issues and academic freedom as well as labor issues,” AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum said in a written statement.

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