Issues in Higher Education

The Academic Bill of Rights

Since 2004, nearly two dozen state legislatures have considered legislative proposals challenging the fundamental concept that higher education in the United States is, and should be, free of government control or interference

 

Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education. As the AAUP's core policy statement argues, "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 and its free exposition."

Academic Research

Academic research, along with teaching, has long been recognized as a primary responsibility of faculty members, and research accomplishments often bear heavily on tenure decisions. Moreover, research, and the publication of its results, constitutes one way in which academics serve the common good. As the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure proclaims, “Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth.”

Accreditation

Six regional accreditation bodies, along with dozens of specialized groups, create and implement standards to ensure the quality of the higher education experience. These bodies are non-governmental agencies, made up of their member institutions. Representatives of the institutions meet to create and revise standards, to review the accreditation status of other member institutions, and to consider the admission of applicants to their ranks.

Hiring and Promotions

The AAUP is concerned with all aspects of faculty appointments and the evaluation of faculty for reappointment, promotion, and tenure. The Association's staff regularly advises faculty members about the nature of their concerns under Association standards, and whether and to what extent the Association can be of meaningful assistance to them in helping to resolve their complaints. In addition to providing advice to individual faculty members, the staff works with the AAUP's national committees to develop statements of policy dealing with faculty personnel matters.

Civility

Recent calls by university administrators for civility have raised concerns over their potential to restrict extramural speech of faculty members. The AAUP has defended the right of faculty members to speak as citizens, since its inception.

Collective Bargaining

Academic collective bargaining includes the unionization of all sectors of the higher-education workforce—from tenure-line faculty to graduate student employees, and from academic professionals to support staff. The growth of academic collective bargaining has occurred in two waves. The first was the expansion of faculty and support staff collective bargaining fueled by the changes in federal and state labor laws during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The second was the rapid increase in graduate-employee unionization during the 1990s in response to the increased use of graduate-employee labor.

Resources on Conflicts of Interest

Resources on conflicts of interest, corporate funding and corporate influences

Contingent Faculty Positions

Who are "contingent faculty"? Depending on the institution, they can be known as adjuncts, postdocs, TAs, non-tenure-track faculty, clinical faculty, part-timers, lecturers, instructors, or nonsenate faculty. What they all have in common: they serve in insecure, unsupported positions with little job security and few protections for academic freedom. And they are the vast majority of US faculty today. Something needs to change.

Copyright, Distance Ed, & Intellectual Property

The world of higher learning is in the midst of change, often driven by technologies that are profoundly affecting the work of faculty members: they are reshaping the processes of teaching and learning, redefining the roles and authority of faculty members in organizing and overseeing the curriculum, and altering the bases for evaluating student (and faculty) performance.

Discrimination

The statement which follows was adopted in October 1976 by the Association’s Council. Successive revisions were adopted by the Council in November 1994 and June 1995.

Diversity & Affirmative Action

The AAUP has a longstanding commitment to increasing diversity in higher education. In 1976, the AAUP’s governing Council declared that “the Association is committed to use its procedures and to take measures, including censure, against colleges and universities practicing illegal or unconstitutional discrimination, or discrimination on a basis not demonstrably related to the job function involved, including, but not limited to, age, sex, disability, race, religion, national origin, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

Professional Ethics

The AAUP has long held that academic freedom carries with it duties correlative with rights. These duties are described in the Statement on Professional Ethics, first issued in 1966, and in derivative statements that deal with particular ethical issues, including plagiarism, conflicts of interest, and the recruitment and resignation of faculty members.

Faculty Compensation

Compensation affects all academic professionals. Since 1940, when the Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure declared that both academic freedom and economic security for professors were indispensable, the AAUP has supported fair compensation in a variety of ways.

Faculty Work & Workload

Few issues in recent years have aroused as much interest outside of the academy as the question of faculty workload. State legislators faced with shrinking resources, calls for more teaching and less research, and demands for greater accountability, responded in various ways: some sought to destroy the tenure system, others attempted to mandate the number of hours faculty must spend in the classroom.

Balancing Family & Academic Work

The work of faculty is—by its very nature—virtually unbounded. In addition to teaching classes, advising students, and serving on departmental committees, faculty members are expected to keep abreast of developments in their fields of specialization by engaging in original research and scholarship, participating in activities of one or more professional societies, and to read the latest research studies produced by their colleagues. There is always a new question to ask, further analysis to complete, or another issue to discuss.

Governance of Colleges & Universities

Governance of higher education institutions traditionally has been a responsibility shared by  faculty, administrators, and trustees. 

Grading

Although the right of professors to evaluate and grade students in their courses may seem obvious, teachers sometimes face the prospect of students who refuse to accept the grade they have received.

Graduate Students

The AAUP's Committee on Graduate and Professional Students works on  issues of special concern to graduate students, such as intellectual and academic freedom, institutional policy, collective bargaining, and those points outlined in the Association’s Statement on Graduate Students (2000). 

Minority Serving Institutions

The AAUP is a strong supporter of historically black colleges and universities and their faculty. We are engaging in a multi-year effort to consult with historically black institutions about academic freedom and shared governance, to strengthen academic programs, and raise the stature of these institutions among colleges and universities.

Post-Tenure Review

Post-tenure review is understood as a system of periodic, comprehensive evaluation of tenured faculty that goes beyond traditional forms of evaluation dates back to the early 1980s. While skeptical of the value of post-tenure review, the Association adopted in 1999 a policy, Post-Tenure Review: An AAUP Response, that offers practical recommendations for faculty at institutions where post-tenure is being considered or has been put into effect.

Retirement

Since 2000, the AAUP’s Committee on Retirement has initiated two major nationwide surveys of faculty retirement policies. The surveys cover early retirement incentive plans, phased retirement plans, and health insurance coverage for retirees. The first survey, published in 2000, responds particularly to concerns raised in the 1990s that the elimination of mandatory retirement would slow voluntary retirement, making it hard for institutions to secure resources for new appointments.

Sexual Diversity & Gender Identity

The AAUP advocates the fair and equal treatment of all members of the higher education community. It supports and encourages diversity among students, faculty and administrators.

Sexual Harassment and Assault

Policies governing sexual harassment have been at the center of many heated campus debates in recent years. Anita Hill's testimony during the Clarence Thomas hearings raised the nation's consciousness and it remains a contentious issue, particularly on college and university campuses.

Teaching Evaluation

AAUP work and policy on teaching evaluation.

Tenure

Since its founding in 1915, the Association has seen tenure as necessary to protect academic freedom. Tenure, briefly stated, is an arrangement whereby faculty members, after successful completion of a period of probationary service, can be dismissed only for adequate cause or other possible circumstances and only after a hearing before a faculty committee. The Association, also from its inception, has assumed responsibility for developing standards and practices, sometimes in cooperation with other organizations, to give concrete meaning to tenure. 

Women in the Academic Profession

Women academics sometimes face unique challenges to their entry and advancement in the academic profession, among them potential inequities in salary and promotion rates, sexual harassment, and discriminatory treatment.

The AAUP addresses a wide variety of issues in higher education as we work to safeguard academic freedom and quality higher education.