Local History

UI Chapter history

The national AAUP was founded in 1915. The Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors ( Vol. II, No. 2, Apr. 1916, p. 10) includes a revised roster of the 867 charter members representing 60 colleges and universities. Included on this list are the names of ten University of Iowa professors. A later issue of the Bulletin ( Vol. II, No. 3, May 1916, p. 20) confirms that a chapter of the AAUP had been organized at Iowa. Soon after, the Bulletin ( Vol. III, No. 1, Jan. 1917, p. 25) published a roster of “Members of the Association” that included 42 UI professors. This list identifies C. B. Wilson as the “Chairman of the Local Branch” and includes familiar names such as Seashore, Shambaugh, and Shimek.

The University of Iowa Libraries’ University Archives has three or four feet of shelf space devoted to AAUP chapter documents, but the oldest that has been unearthed is a letter dated March 27, 1923.

Issues dealt with by the chapter often reflected the times, but throughout the period covered by the documents, it is clear that the chapter was concerned about the perennial AAUP issues of shared governance, standards for promotion and tenure, and due process. For example, the chapter constitution, approved in April 1948, included a Committee on Faculty Participation in University Government.

Following World War II, the chapter had a Committee on Housing, a reflection of the serious housing shortage at the time. A survey conducted by this committee yielded about 350 responses, and “246 clearly indicated that they were interested in the initiation of some form of faculty housing project.”

A three-page letter to Members of the General Assembly, dated March 23, 1951, provides reasoned opposition to the “subversive activities bill of 1951.” The letter states, “[E]xperience shows that Communists are apparently happy to sign the kind of ‘written statement’ required in this bill.” They also “emphasize[d] the fact that teaching about Communism is one thing—and that teaching in favor of Communism is another.” The authors of the letter were careful though and included statements such as, “We are vigorously opposed to Communism,” and, “We feel that Communism should be fought bitterly, and with all the strength we have.”

At one time, the membership of the University of Iowa AAUP chapter was the fourth largest in the nation. A newsletter dated November 29, 1971 states, “Present membership is 456—one of the largest proportions on any campus.”

During the mid-1980s the chapter hosted a speaker who had experience as an ombudsman at a sister Big Ten university. Chapter president George Kalnitsky arranged for this speaker to talk to UI president James O. Freedman; as a direct result the University of Iowa Ombudsperson's Office was established in 1985. The first ombudsperson was Professor Anthony Sinicropi of the College of Business.

Another major accomplishment of the chapter was the establishment of an annual symposium on promotion and tenure. A committee led by Ed Kottick planned the first symposium in 1987. The committee members expected that perhaps 25 faculty members might attend, but in fact, attendees numbered 125. Much to their surprise the front row was occupied by many of the deans, and they were taking notes! Soon after, the individual colleges began running their own promotion and tenure symposia. In the years that followed, the entire promotion and tenure process became much better understood and far more transparent.