[Reprinted from L. Joughin (Ed.), Academic Freedom and Tenure: A Handbook of the American Association of University Professors (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), pp. 33-39.]
In 1915, at the time of the founding of the association, a committee on academic freedom and tenure formulated a statement entitled A Declaration of Principles. This statement set forth the concern of the association for academic freedom and tenure, for proper procedures, and for professional responsibility. The declaration was endorsed by the American Association of University Professors at its second annual meeting, held December 31, 1915, and January 1, 1916.
In 1925, the American Council on Education called a conference of representatives of a number of its constituent members, among them the American Association of University Professors, for the purpose of preparing a statement in this area. There emerged the 1925 Conference Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which was endorsed in 1925 by the Association of American Colleges and in 1926 by the American Association of University Professors.
In 1940, following upon a series of conferences which began in 1934, representatives of the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors agreed upon a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure and upon three attached “interpretations.” The 1940 statement and its interpretations were endorsed by the two associations in 1941. In subsequent years endorsement has been officially voted by numerous other organizations.
The purpose of this statement is to promote public understanding and support of academic freedom and tenure and agreement upon procedures to assure them in colleges and universities. Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth its free exposition.
Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights.
Tenure is a means to certain ends—specifically, (1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security—hence, tenure—are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.
(a) The teacher is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of his other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
(b) The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his subject, but he should be careful not to introduce into his teaching controversial matter which has no relation to his subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
(c) The college or university teacher is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and an officer of an educational institution. When he speaks or writes as a citizen, he should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but his special position in the community imposes special obligations. As a man of learning and an educational officer, he should remember that the public may judge his profession and his institution by his utterances. Hence, he should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that he is not an institutional spokesman.
(a) After the expiration of a probationary period, teachers or investigators should have permanent or continuous tenure, and their service should be terminated only for adequate cause, except in the case of retirement for age or under extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigencies. In the interpretation of this principle it is understood that the following represents acceptable academic practice:
- The precise terms and conditions of every appointment should be stated in writing and be in the possession of both institution and teacher before the appointment is consummated.
- Beginning with appointment to the rank of full-time instructor or a higher rank, the probationary period should not exceed seven years, including within this period full-time service in all institutions of higher education, but subject to the proviso that when—after a term of probationary service of more than three years in one or more institutions—a teacher is called to another institution, it may be agreed in writing that his new appointment is for a probationary period of not more than four years, even though thereby the person’s total probationary period in the academic profession is extended beyond the normal maximum of seven years. Notice should be given at least one year prior to the expiration of the probationary period if the teacher is not to be continued in service after the expiration of that period.
- During the probationary period a teacher should have the academic freedom that all other members of the Faculty have.
- Termination for cause of a continuous appointment, or the dismissal for cause of a teacher, previous to the expiration of a term appointment, should, if possible, be considered by both a Faculty committee and the governing board of the institution. In all cases where the facts are in dispute, the accused teacher should be informed before the hearing in writing of the charges against him and should have the opportunity to be heard in his own defense by all bodies that pass judgment upon his case. He should be permitted to have with him an adviser of his own choosing who may act as counsel. There should be a full stenographic record of the hearing available to the parties concerned. In the hearing of charges of incompetence the testimony should include that of teachers and other scholars, either from his own or from other institutions. Teachers on continuous appointment who are dismissed for reasons not involving moral turpitude should receive their salaries for at least a year from the date of notification of dismissal whether or not they are continued in their duties at the institution.
Termination of a continuous appointment because of financial exigency should be demonstrably bona fide.
At a conference of representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Colleges on November 7-8, 1940, the following interpretations of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure were agreed upon:
- That its operation should not be retroactive.
- That all tenure claims of teachers appointed prior to the endorsement should be determined in accordance with the principles set forth in the 1925 Conference Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
- If the administration of a college or university feels that a teacher has not observed the admonitions of paragraph (c) of the section on Academic Freedom and believes that the extramural utterances of the teacher have been such as to raise grave doubts concerning his fitness for his position, it may proceed to file charges under paragraph (a) (4) of the section on Academic Tenure.
- In pressing such charges the administration should remember that teachers are citizens and should be accorded the freedom of citizens. In such cases the administration must assume full responsibility, and the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges are free to make an investigation.