History of the AAUP

AAUP History & Background


The American Association of University Professors was founded in 1915 by John Dewey, A.O. Lovejoy, and other eminent scholars because they felt that the quality of higher education in America depended on the extent to which the faculty, as highly-trained professionals, maintained primary control over teaching, scholarship, and faculty governance.

One of the fledgling organization's first undertakings was to formulate principles and standards for a tenure system that would protect the academic freedom of professors in teaching, research, and governance. That formulation, the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, provided the first effective defense of academic freedom in American higher education.

In the last ninety years, the AAUP has continued to promote academic excellence by advocating for the highest professional standards. The traditions of tenure, academic freedom, due process, and shared governance, which have contributed to making our colleges and universities the best in the world, were all established by the AAUP, and have been kept alive and strengthened by its activities.

Academic Freedom and Due Process

The definitive exposition of principles that supports this country's model tenure system is the AAUP's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The 1940 Statement has been endorsed by over 200 scholarly and educational organizations. A superb collection of resources on academic freedom is available on the AAUP's website.

To assist colleges and universities in developing their own policies supporting academic freedom and tenure, the AAUP has developed recommended standards and policies. Among these, the most important are the Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings (1958), Procedural Standards in the Renewal or Nonrenewal of Faculty Appointments (1989 rev.) and Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (2006 rev.).

Shared Governance

Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities. Jointly formulated in 1966 by the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), the American Council on Education (ACE), and the AAUP, this document contains the definitive exposition of the concept of shared governance.

"What Is Shared Governance Anyway?" The essence of the 1966 Statement is explained.

"The End of Shared Governance: Looking Ahead or Looking Back." In this 2003 conference paper, Robert Birnbaum, a scholar of educational policy and leadership, affirms the utility of shared governance as defined in the Statement on Government. His conclusion:

"There is no doubt that, as its critics suggest, faculty participation in shared governance will have the effect of making it more difficult to change the programs and purposes of higher education. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of ideology. The faculty are the primary upholders of the academic culture, and so those that give precedence to the idea of a university as an academic institution—who believe with [the English poet John] Masefield that 'there are few earthly things more splendid than a university'—are likely also to continue to believe in the importance of shared governance. The basic question to ask is not whether we want to make governance more efficient, but whether we want to preserve truly academic institutions. If the answer is affirmative, then shared governance is the essential precondition."

The Role of the Faculty in the Accrediting of Colleges and Universities. A set of guidelines and recommendations for applying the principles of shared governance to the process of institutional accreditation.

The national AAUP website includes additional resources on governance.