Members approved five resolutions during the annual meeting. The text of four appears below. The fifth approved resolution honored Jonathan Knight, who retired at the end of June from his position as the director of the AAUP’s Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance after thirty-one years on the AAUP staff. A sixth proposed resolution, critical of Israel’s preventing students in Gaza from leaving to study abroad, was referred back to the resolutions committee.
Academic Freedom and Teaching Evolution
At its Ninety-first Annual Meeting in 2005, the American Association of University Professors adopted a resolution calling on “local communities and state officials to reject proposals that seek to suppress discussion of evolution in our public schools as inimical to principles of academic freedom.” Efforts to pass legislation specifically requiring the teaching of “intelligent design” have generally been thwarted. However, several state legislatures, including those in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri, have recently taken up new proposals that purport to guarantee academic freedom and critical thinking in the teaching of science by ostensibly protecting—according to the Alabama bill—the right of teachers to scientifically critique “prevailing scientific theories” and the right of students to hold a “particular position on any views.” But the underlying purpose of these proposals is to make it possible to have “intelligent design” offered as an alternative to evolution. Such efforts run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution and are inconsistent with a proper understanding of the meaning of academic freedom. It is for scientists and not legislatures to say what is science. The Ninety-fourth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors therefore opposes, as have previous annual meetings, efforts by state legislatures to determine what scientific ideas—widely accepted or not—should be taught in colleges and universities.
Higher Education in Iran
The Ninety-fourth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors observes with dismay practices by the government of Iran which discriminate against the country’s citizens belonging to religious or ethnic minorities, including unjustly denying them opportunities for education at all levels. We note in particular the worsening situation of Iran’s Baha’i community, whose members are subject to constant harassment and punitive measures by Iranian authorities and who are wrongly kept out of universities or prevented from completing their studies. We urge the government of Iran, consistent with the constitution of Iran, to remove barriers that deny access to higher education on religious or ethnic grounds, and to ensure for members of the Baha’i community the same rights accorded to other citizens of Iran.
Two recent cases involving administrative decisions in the California State University system to deny employment to faculty members who sought to attach qualifying language to the state-mandated loyalty oath for public employees once again highlight the problematic nature of these oaths. The Ninety-fourth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors affirms its belief that refusal to sign a loyalty oath does not justify the refusal to appoint a faculty member or the termination of faculty appointments.
The horrific shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in April 2007 and at Northern Illinois University this past February, and the murders of students in separate incidents near the campuses of Auburn University, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in March, have prompted renewed efforts to keep our colleges and universities both safe and open. Among initiatives under consideration is legislation in several states that would allow any licensed gun owner to carry concealed weapons on campus. A 2004 Utah statute—strongly opposed by the University of Utah but eventually upheld by the state’s supreme court—bars the state’s universities from restricting the possession of firearms on their property. Colleges and universities closely control firearms and prohibit concealed guns on their campuses because they regard the presence of weapons as incompatible with their educational missions. The Ninety-fourth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors endorses the reliance of colleges and universities on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents. We call upon state legislative bodies to refrain from interfering with decisions that are properly the responsibility of the academic community.