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The AAUP's 1915 Declaration of Principles: Conservative and Radical, Visionary and Myopic

By John K. Wilson


The AAUP’s 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure is one of the most important documents defining the meaning of academic freedom. But today the 1915 Declaration is little understood, either ignored as mere history by the AAUP as an organization or cited with approval by conservatives who lament the AAUP’s abandonment of its early ideals. By establishing extramural utterances as a key part of academic freedom, the 1915 Declaration made a radical advancement and provided the guideposts for the primary work of the AAUP over the century that followed. However, the 1915 Declaration also narrowed the future of the AAUP by failing to consider discrimination as a violation of academic freedom. Understanding the 1915 Declaration helps illuminate some of the current debates about academic freedom (such as the question of whether statements related to academic work are protected as extramural utterances). 

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