‘To Make Collective Action Possible’: The Founding of the AAUP

By Hans-Joerg Tiede


The article reviews the developments that led to the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP was not founded specifically as the primary defender of academic freedom that it subsequently became. Its broader goal was to further the professionalization of the professoriate. Locally, the Association’s founders hoped to reform university governance by shifting the balance of power away from presidents and lay governance boards. Nationally, the Association was to serve as a body to speak for the profession as a whole in response to organized efforts to standardize American higher education - efforts that did not provide an adequate voice to the burgeoning profession.

Events before, during, and following the founding meeting in 1915, as well as the efforts of two of its founders, Arthur Lovejoy and E.R.A. Seligman, brought about the early focus on academic freedom. The major achievements of the AAUP in 1915 were the investigation of the University of Utah and the 1915 Declaration of Principles, which served as the founding document of the Association and still serves as the intellectual foundation of the American conception of academic freedom. These early events set the subsequent course of the Association.

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