Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Due Process

Incentives to Forgo Tenure

Tenure is "indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society." So declares the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The academic community, however, has never lacked for proposals that would undermine tenure and thus its role in serving students and society. Among such current proposals, one in particular requires comment because it has surfaced in recent cases considered by Committee A.1  It proposes that prospective faculty members accept renewable term appointments and forgo consideration for tenure and/or that current faculty members renounce tenure in return for some advantage, such as a higher salary, accelerated leave, or other pecuniary consideration. Proponents of these agreements argue that they embody a free exchange of mutual benefit to the parties. If academic tenure withers in consequence, they claim, that only demonstrates that, in a free market, faculty will have demonstrated their unwillingness to support tenure.

The Freedom to Teach

The freedom to teach includes the right of the faculty to select the materials, determine the approach to the subject, make the assignments, and assess student academic performance in teaching activities for which faculty members are individually responsible, without having their decisions subject to the veto of a department chair, dean, or other administrative officer.

Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications

This draft report, prepared by a subcommittee of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, was approved by Committee A and the AAUP’s national Council in November 2013 for publication for comment. We welcome your comments on the draft report; please send them to Jennifer Nichols (jnichols@aaup.org) by January 10.

Controversy in the Classroom

The AAUP clarifies that the group "Students for Academic Freedom," which purports to rely on AAUP principles concerning controversial subject matter, in fact goes well beyond the AAUP's statements and is inimical to academic freedom and the very idea of liberal education. 

Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications

This revised report brings up to date and expands upon the Association’s 2004 report on the same topic, while affirming the earlier report’s basic principles. Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in print, save for the most unusual situation where the very nature of the medium itself might warrant unusual restrictions,

On Partnerships with Foreign Governments: The Case of Confucius Institutes

Allowing any third-party control of academic matters is inconsistent with principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities. Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore these principles.

On Trigger Warnings

A current threat to academic freedom in the classroom comes from a demand that teachers provide warnings in advance if assigned material contains anything that might trigger difficult emotional responses for students.

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