From the Editor: The First Hundred Years

By B. Robert Kreiser

The AAUP has reached its centennial year—a major achievement in the life cycle of a professional organization. Since its founding in 1915, the Association has sought to advance the core principles and values of the academic profession and to shape its governing standards and practices, with the goal of ensuring higher education’s contribution to the common good. While promoting, with remarkable success, the adoption of its recommended principles and standards, the Association has also monitored institutional compliance with them, investigated abuses, and published reports of its investigations.

What accounts for the persistent vitality of the AAUP’s founding principles and their continuing relevance to American higher education? Despite periods of relative inactivity, notably a lack of a meaningful response to the assaults on academic freedom during the McCarthy period, the Association has remained active in response to changes in the academic environment and in the nature of the professoriate. As a result, it has regularly developed new policies and standards to help the academic community confront the recurring threats to those core principles.

The Association’s capacity to accomplish what it has done, while remaining faithful to its original ideals, has stemmed from an ability to attract dedicated volunteer activists to its work. In addition, since the 1930s, the Association has benefited from talented professional staff members with knowledge, experience, and a commitment to advancing the AAUP’s mission.

The articles in this centennial issue of Academe commemorate the AAUP’s admirable past. They describe some of the key areas—and ways—in which the AAUP has advanced standards for the academic profession. Robert O’Neil’s opening article demonstrates the major role the AAUP has played in shaping the law of higher education since the late 1950s by filing amicus briefs in carefully selected cases—particularly on issues relating to academic freedom. Debra Nails describes the AAUP’s procedures for academic freedom and tenure investigations, in which dedicated member volunteers work closely with staff to produce widely respected reports that treat serious violations of the AAUP’s principles and standards. Jordan Kurland’s companion article comments on the most noteworthy investigations over the decades. Ann Franke provides an overview of the AAUP’s century-long role in upholding and protecting the principles of academic freedom and tenure. Larry Gerber shows how the Association’s standards in the area of college and university government have established widely accepted norms of shared governance, which seek to ensure the faculty’s meaningful involvement in academic decision making. Ernst Benjamin recounts the AAUP’s initial embrace of and evolving emphasis on collective bargaining as a means of achieving the Association’s goals. Finally, Mary Gray discusses the role played by the AAUP’s Committee on Women in the Academic Profession in developing policies relating to the status of academic women and in advancing the principles of equity and the rights of women faculty. Several articles address the problems associated with the continuing proliferation of contingent faculty appointments and describe the AAUP’s efforts to grapple with these issues.

Periodically throughout its history, the AAUP has adjusted to financial and organizational challenges and weathered internal controversies. What lies ahead? As Franke concludes, “The continuing integrity of the Association’s positions and processes undergirds its moral authority. Only through even-handed application of its core principles will the Association retain its legitimate authority and advance its mission.” Here’s hoping that the AAUP will flourish in its second century and remain faithful to its core principles, thereby maintaining its well-deserved reputation as the authoritative voice of the academic profession.

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