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Rethinking Academic Traditions for Twenty-First-Century Faculty

By Judith M. Gappa and Ann E. Austin

The American Association of University Professors’ 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, defined the essential features of the academic profession in the early twentieth century: academic freedom, shared governance, and job security. Now, seventy years later, the number of faculty members in the United States has grown from approximately 147,000 in 1940 to approximately 1,140,000 today, and colleges and universities now number 4,168—more than double the 1,708 in the 1940s (Gappa, Austin, and Trice, 2007, p.60.) While important traditions of the academic profession have been retained, faculty members themselves, their work, and their institutions have changed dramatically. Today’s faculty members are diverse; they occupy different types of appointments; and their expectations about their work environments include new concerns, such as sufficient flexibility to manage both their work and life responsibilities. Their colleges and universities also face difficult challenges. They must create environments that attract highly diverse students, find new sources of revenue as traditional sources decline, maintain and enhance their technological infrastructures within budgetary constraints, and respond to numerous demands for accountability imposed by the public.

Despite all these changes and the enormous growth in the higher education establishment, the well-being of today’s faculty is as critically important as it has ever been—and perhaps more so. As in the 1940s, when faculty employment principles were developed by the AAUP and accepted generally by the higher education community, faculty today still value academic freedom, shared governance, and job security as important components of the academic profession. But now they have new priorities. To recruit and retain today’s prospective faculty, colleges and universities must ensure that their employment policies address current faculty members’ important priorities for work and life. 

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Judith M. Gappa has spent her career as an university administrator and faculty member. She is currently Professor Emerita at Purdue University. She served as Director of Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity at Utah State University (1975–80); Associate Academic Vice President for Faculty at San Francisco State University (1980–91); and Vice President for Human Relations at Purdue University (1991–98). From 1998 to 2006 she was Professor of Higher Education Administration in the Department of Educational Studies at Purdue University. Her research and publications have covered equity and faculty employment issues in higher education. She has co-authored two books: The Invisible Faculty (1993) with David Leslie, and Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative (2007) with Ann Austin and Andrea Trice.

Ann E. Austin is a Professor of Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education at Michigan State University, where she also serves as Director of the Global Institute for Higher Education. Her scholarly interests focus on faculty careers, roles, and professional development, work and workplaces in academe, organizational change and transformation in universities and colleges, reform in doctoral education, and the improvement of teaching and learning in higher education. She also is Co-Principal Investigator of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), a National Science Foundation Center focused on improving the preparation of future faculty in science, engineering, and mathematics. She was a Fulbright Fellow in South Africa (1998) and the 2001–02 President of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Her recent publications include Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative (authored with J. Gappa and A. Trice, 2007), and Paths to the Professoriate: Strategies for Enriching the Preparation of Future Faculty (co-edited with D. Wulff), as well as work on doctoral education and higher education issues in developing countries.


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