Statement on Professors and Political Activity

The statement that follows was prepared by a subcommittee of the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and approved by Committee A. It was adopted by the Association’s Council in May 1969, and endorsed by the Fifty-fifth Annual Meeting. It was endorsed in 1970 by the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities). The governing bodies of the two associations, meeting respectively in November 1989 and January 1990, eliminated five introductory paragraphs that were no longer applicable and adopted several changes in language in order to remove gender-specific references from the original text.


The institutional regulations of many colleges and universities govern the participation of professors in political activity and public office holding. These regulations vary from absolute prohibitions against holding public office, campaigning for public office, or participating in the management of political campaigns, to requirements that professors engaging in such political activities merely inform administrative authorities in the college or university of their activities.

In view of the range and variety of institutional and legislative restrictions on political activities of professors, the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges believe there is a need for a definition of rights and obligations in this area. The following statement is offered as a guide to practice. It is hoped that colleges and universities will formulate and publish regulations consistent with these principles.


  1. College and university faculty members are citizens, and, like other citizens, should be free to engage in political activities so far as they are able to do so consistently with their obligations as teachers and scholars.
  2. Many kinds of political activity (e.g., holding part-time office in a political party, seeking election to any office under circumstances that do not require extensive campaigning, or serving by appointment or election in a part-time political office) are consistent with effective service as members of a faculty. Other kinds of political activity (e.g., intensive campaigning for elective office, serving in a state legislature, or serving a limited term in a fulltime position) will often require that professors seek a leave of absence from their college or university.
  3. In recognition of the legitimacy and social importance of political activity by professors universities and colleges should provide institutional arrangements to permit it, similar to those applicable to other public or private extramural service. Such arrangements may include the reduction of the faculty member’s workload or a leave of absence for the duration of an election campaign or a term of office, accompanied by equitable adjustment of compensation when necessary.
  4. Faculty members seeking leaves should recognize that they have a primary obligation to their institution and to their growth as educators and scholars; they should be mindful of the problem which a leave of absence can create for their administration, their colleagues, and their students; and they should not abuse the privilege by too frequent or too late application or too extended a leave. If adjustments in their favor are made, such as reduction of workload, they should expect the adjustments to be limited to a reasonable period.
  5. A leave of absence incident to political activity should come under the institution’s normal rules and regulations for leaves of absence. Such a leave should not affect unfavorably the tenure status of a faculty member, except that time spent on such leave from academic duties need not count as probationary service. The terms of a leave and its effect on the professor’s status should be set forth in writing.