History of the AAUP

In 1900, when noted economist Edward Ross lost his job at Stanford University because Mrs. Leland Stanford didn't like his views on immigrant labor and railroad monopolies, other professors were watching. The incident stuck in the mind of Arthur O. Lovejoy, philosopher at Johns Hopkins. When he and John Dewey organized a meeting in 1915 to form an organization to ensure academic freedom for faculty members, the AAUP was born. At that time, the notion of "academic freedom" was still a novel concept.

A century later, the AAUP is still addressing the kinds of abuse that spurred Lovejoy and Dewey to organize the Association. Academia has changed a lot since 1915, but there are still people who want to control what professors teach and write. Thanks to the AAUP, academic freedom is recognized as the fundamental principle of our profession. Despite this acceptance, academic freedom remains vulnerable. The attacks are more subtle in some cases, but the response must always be decisive.

The AAUP remains the leading organization primarily dedicated to protecting the academic freedom of professors. Faculty members turn to the AAUP for assistance in the thousands each year. Some of these faculty members are well-known figures with resources and support. Most, however, are ordinary faculty members who need guidance in responding to troublesome or threatening professional attacks.

Through the AAUP, faculty determine the principles of our profession and the procedures by which to protect them. When the AAUP speaks, it is the voice of the profession.

A variety of resources on the AAUP's history were developed as part of the organization's centennial celebration. These include a timeline highlighting key events in the AAUP's history and a series of special publications. For additional information, see the list of selected readings on the AAUP's history and the lists of presidents of the Association and general secretaries of the Association.