How Did We Get Here?

The AAUP's evolving emphasis on collective bargaining
By Ernst Benjamin

The call to the initial meeting of the Association included “collective action” among the proposed purposes but did not include collective bargaining. For the next fifty years the AAUP’s leaders not only rejected trade unionism but also discouraged any campus-level activism by AAUP chapters that would, they believed, supplant the role of the general faculty.

Early Rejection of Unionism

The founders were not unaware of trade unionism. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was founded only a year after the AAUP. Nor was their rejection of union activity attributable simply to political and economic conservatism. The 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, the AAUP’s founding policy document, explicitly warned of the constraints threatening “expressions of opinions . . . which point toward extensive social innovations, or call in question the moral legitimacy or social expediency of economic conditions or commercial practices in which large vested interests are involved. In the political, social, and economic field almost every question . . . is affected by private or class interests.” One might, however, join professor Walter Metzger, who, in Academic Freedom in the Age of the University, attributed their perspective in some degree to elitism: “The AAUP was not, as at first envisaged, ‘one big union for all,’ but a union of the aristocrats of academic labor.”

Then, as now, the more prestigious faculty tended to distinguish between professional concerns and the mundane self-interest they attributed to trade unions. “There was a deep aversion,” Metzger wrote, “among academic men to entering into an organization whose purpose smacked of trade unionism. The idealism of the profession . . . eschewed any activity that had material gain as its main object. . . . The dignity of the profession, fashioned on a genteel code of manners, was opposed to the tactics of the pressure group.” Metzger later noted that the founders initially avoided even the issue of salaries out of fear of the “trade-union label.”

Writer and radical reformer Upton Sinclair, an early critic of the AAUP’s rejection of trade unionism, was more censorious in The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education. Although he acknowledged the “accuracy and honesty” of the Association’s early investigative reports, on which he drew substantially for evidence of plutocratic interference in university affairs, he castigated the founders: “The first aim of the Association has apparently been to distinguish itself from labor unions, whereas the fact is that it is nothing but a labor union, an organization of intellectual proletarians, who have nothing but their brain-power to sell.”

Sinclair’s Marxist rhetoric might seem eccentric and irrelevant were it not for the similar language of Max Weber who, writing in Germany in his outstanding defense of the professor’s mission, “Science as a Vocation” (1918), stated that the German universities, particularly in the sciences, were developing in the “American direction,” where “we encounter the same condition that develops wherever capitalist enterprise comes into operation: ‘the separation of the worker from his means of production.’ The worker, that is the assistant, . . . is just as dependent upon the head of the institute as is the employee in a factory.” Nonetheless, unlike Sinclair, who called for a faculty strike to achieve job security and job control, Weber devoted the larger part of his essay to the “inward calling for science.”

In the 1915 Declaration of Principles the AAUP founders similarly emphasized the professional mission and responsibilities of the academic calling, even as they recognized that faculty were not, as most doctors and lawyers then were, independent professionals. Faculty were employees, but of a special kind: “experts whom, through the universities, [the public] employs.” Furthermore, faculty were “the appointees, but not in any proper sense the employees,” of the trustees, and as “far as the university teacher’s independence of thought and utterance is concerned—though not in other regards—the relationship of professor to trustees may be compared to that between judges of the federal courts and the executive who appoints them.”

In the development of practical standards of appointment to ensure freedom of inquiry and teaching, the founders spoke not as we do of “terms of employment” but rather of “ensuring the dignity, the independence, and the reasonable security of tenure, of the professorial office.” They viewed the faculty as appointed “officers” of their institutions and believed the faculty’s essential independence of judgment depended on a system of rules and hearing procedures. This view carried over, a quarter century later, to the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, jointly formulated by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges, which defines faculty members as “officers of an educational institution.” Hence, when Philo Hutcheson, author of A Professional Professoriate, a useful history of the AAUP’s experience in collective bargaining, omits the founders’ notion of the professorial office and grounds his analysis in the distinction between bureaucratic demands and professionalism, he erroneously reinforces the misunderstanding that it is collective bargaining that bureaucratizes the university. On the contrary, tenure was from its inception a bureaucratic method of ensuring professional autonomy—independence in office and academic freedom and integrity—best compared to the German system, in which many American faculty members had been educated, where professors were (and are) state civil servants. The proper distinction is not between professionalism and bureaucracy but between a bureaucratic system, wherein the faculty’s independence is ensured through a regulated system of appointment and tenure based either on university statute or a collective agreement, and the reemerging managerial system in which faculty serve virtually “at-will” on short-term contracts.

Objections to Campus Activism

Less often noted than their opposition to trade unionism, but equally important to their rejection of it, the founders objected to campus activism by AAUP chapters other than to discuss the wider professional concerns of the Association with a view to sharing their perspectives with the national organization. What the AAUP currently terms “advocacy organizing” was scarcely more acceptable than trade unionism. So, for example, a 1933 AAUP report on the conduct of campus chapters found it fitting to invoke the words of AAUP founder John Dewey, who, despite his support for trade unions, stated in his 1915 presidential address that “the Association must remain a national Association, concerned with common and fundamental interests; it must not in any way entangle itself in local politics or controversies.”

Fellow AAUP founder Arthur O. Lovejoy similarly wrote, in his 1919 presidential address, that “the point on which misunderstanding most frequently arises has to do with the right of a branch, as such, to express itself upon local questions.” He then set forth a strict limitation on the activities of chapters: “It is expected that they will in no case take public action . . . upon local controversies in such a way as to involve, or even seem to involve, the Association in those controversies.” He explained that it is

manifestly inexpedient that local groups, consisting in some cases of only a few members, should be able to create local situations such that the national body might be compelled either to follow courses of action not first considered and approved by the Council, or else to repudiate the action of the local group. In the second place, . . . nothing could be more contrary to the principles and purposes of the Association than that . . . the members of the society in any university should seek to deal with administrative authorities without full consultation with such of their colleagues who are not members.

In 1933, the retiring president, W. W. Cook, moderated these restrictions on local activity to clarify that local AAUP groups might encourage action consistent with AAUP policy by local faculty providing that they did not attempt investigations of local dismissals which required “impartial investigation” by the national Committee A, which was charged with developing policies on academic freedom and tenure and implementing them by investigating violations. By 1939 the Association had three hundred chapters, but, noting that many were “isolated little groups,” general secretary Ralph Himstead repeated the caution that it was inadvisable for chapters “to attempt to investigate or to assist in the investigation of local academic freedom and tenure cases. Members of local groups are too close to such situations to view them with the degree of objectivity which the gravity of the controversy may warrant.”

Almost twenty years after his critique of local AAUP chapter activism, when some Association members were attracted to the growing union movement arising out of the Depression and the Wagner Act, Lovejoy explained, in “Professional Association or Trade Union?” (1938), why he believed that trade unionism, and alliance with either the American Federation of Labor or the Congress of Industrial Organizations, would be inappropriate for faculty. Lovejoy acknowledged that the Association was analogous to a trade union in that the economic status of faculty is “legally the same as that of most industrial workers. We are employees of corporations, private or public, not, like most doctors and lawyers, independent entrepreneurs.” Moreover, he observed, this leads to disputes between faculty and their institutions. But, he argued, faculty and trustees, unlike employees and employers generally, are joint custodians of higher education. Even when the Association seeks to protect “the private interests of its members in their own jobs, it does this because it recognizes that the major issue in certain of these individual controversies is the maintenance of professional standards and of the conditions without which the special function of the profession cannot, in the long run, be truly performed.” Accordingly, a faculty association should focus on the “defense of the freedom of the salaried scholar.” Combining or allying with trade unionism would diminish and weaken that professional commitment. Lovejoy failed to foresee, as Weber had twenty years earlier, the corporatization of the academy and the consequent radical increase in the proportion of contingent appointees. But this lack of foresight should not obscure the Association’s accomplishments.

1940 Statement

Two years after Lovejoy’s rejection of trade unionism the Association achieved its greatest success when it negotiated an agreement on the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure with administration representatives from the Association of American Colleges. Metzger has noted that the new policy also incorporated protections for probationary appointees that, for a time, made the AAUP’s policies applicable to the substantial majority of the professoriate. The Association’s focus on national, rather than local, activities and collective bargaining had achieved its primary objective. Even as late as 1965, as the AAUP celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its founding, the Association remained the preeminent faculty association in numbers as well as reputation. The founders’ approach had proved far more successful than AFT trade unionism in organizing and defending faculty.

Groundwork for Collective Bargaining

Nonetheless, the years leading up to 1965 were not easy. Despite the assault on academic freedom that characterized the McCarthy era, from 1949 to 1956 the Association failed to issue a single report. The AAUP membership was increasingly critical of the Association’s failure to pursue investigations and finally forced the resignation of the general secretary, Ralph Himstead, in 1954. The Association then established a Special Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the Quest for National Security that acted on most of the outstanding cases resulting from political constraints.

A constitutional revision that reflected the membership’s rebellion elaborated the role of the membership acting through the Association’s elected Council and the annual meeting, and also provided, for the first time, for state and regional conferences of chapters. The state conference would gradually emerge as a recurrent source of activist pressures on the staff and leadership of the Association. The increased activism lay the groundwork for the Association’s entry into collective bargaining.

The studies and debates that led to the Association’s formal endorsement of faculty bargaining in 1972 began in December 1964, at an AAUP “Conference on the Representation of Economic Interests.” The debate turned especially on the issue of exclusive representation. Clyde Summers argued that collective bargaining and exclusive representation were not essential to the establishment of appropriate rules and reiterated the long-standing view that exclusive representation would undercut effective shared governance. Jack Barbash countered that exclusive representation would not preempt individual faculty speech and that exclusive representation and bargaining would provide the basis for written contractual rights for the faculty. Further, he argued, “the very administrators who are attacking union methods are themselves actively contributing to making a factory-type operation out of the university.” Ralph Brown added, in the all-too-revealing language of the time, the prescient observation that “if the AAUP does not take steps to protect the rights and interests of the sub-faculty . . . they will probably create their own organization and obtain consideration of their demands.”

Although the attendees at the conference rejected faculty bargaining, the Association began informally accepting and then gradually encouraging the pursuit of bargaining by some chapters as well as establishing a standing Committee N on the Representation of Economic and Professional Interests in 1970. Philo Hutcheson finds the immediate impetus for the AAUP’s increasingly serious consideration of collective bargaining in the rapid expansion of AFT and National Education Association (NEA) bargaining in the 1960s following state enabling legislation. He also notes growing concern with unsatisfactory governance relationships associated with the rapid growth of higher education. The 1970 decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to take jurisdiction over collective bargaining of employees of private, nonprofit employers was especially important to the AAUP because of the organization’s relative strength at single-campus, four-year independent colleges and universities. Finally, faculty strikes, notably one at St. John’s University in New York that preceded collective bargaining, led a growing number of AAUP members and leaders to recognize the professional legitimacy of bargaining and strikes. The St. John’s strike, probably the first major faculty strike against a university administration in the United States, began in early January 1966, less than a month after the administration had summarily suspended twenty-two members of the faculty and notified them and eleven others that they would be released at the end of their contracts. The dismissals were carried out without a hearing, the AAUP’s investigation concluded, in violation of the professors’ academic freedom. While the Association responded in its usual manner to the violations of academic freedom that prompted the strike, conducting a formal investigation that led to the administration’s censure later that same year, it did not initially support the strike action. On January 6, 1966, with the approval of the Association’s governing Council, the AAUP’s executive committee declared that the AAUP “has never looked upon the strike as an appropriate mechanism for resolving academic controversies or violations of academic principles and standards. Regardless of an immediate situation it is in the best long-run interests of the institution and the academic community to use approaches and procedures developed by that community to meet its own objectives and needs. Accordingly, the Association does not endorse a strike against an academic institution.”

Dramatic Reversal

Yet by April 1968, in the wake of the academic freedom strike at St. John’s and another at the Catholic University of America, the Association had dramatically reversed its position. That month, the Council issued its Statement on Faculty Participation in Strikes, declaring that “situations may arise affecting a college or university which so flagrantly violate academic freedom of students as well as of faculty or the principles of academic government, and which are so resistant to rational methods of discussion, persuasion, and conciliation, that faculty members may feel impelled to express their condemnation by withholding their services, either individually or in concert with others.”

Then, following a 1971 “Summer Study” by University of Pennsylvania law professor Robert Gorman, who had been engaged as a consultant, the Association’s executive committee submitted a confidential report to the Council that endorsed collective bargaining but presented two alternate approaches. Both approaches supported vigorous pursuit of collective bargaining to promote AAUP-supported principles and procedural standards. Under the first model the AAUP would incorporate collective bargaining as an integral activity of the Association; under the second, the Association would bifurcate, with one component pursuing the traditional role and the other collective bargaining. The dispute turned not only on which approach would best protect the professional policies of the Association but also on legal concerns about the conflicting status of charitable organizations and unions, a conflict that has recently led the Association to trifurcate.

A resulting report to the membership also included oppositional statements from the Association’s president and first vice president, both dissenters from the recommendation to endorse bargaining, and from the chair of Committee A (with backing from all but one member of the committee). The opposition argued that entry into collective bargaining would obstruct the Association’s ability to promote its principles on campuses affiliated with other unions, diminish administration support for AAUP principles and procedural standards, lead to the loss of professionally oriented members, and transform the AAUP into the American Association of University Professionals.

On October 31, 1971, the Council voted to “pursue collective bargaining as a major additional way of realizing the Association’s goals in higher education.” In June 1972 the annual meeting voted overwhelmingly to endorse bargaining. The following year the annual meeting endorsed a Council Statement on Collective Bargaining, which declared that “collective bargaining is an effective instrument for achieving” such basic purposes of the Association as academic freedom and tenure, due process, and sound academic government. The statement argued that the AAUP had a unique ability to shape academic bargaining in a manner consistent with Association-supported principles.

The AAUP’s involvement in collective bargaining had already begun at Belleville Area College (now Southwest Illinois College) in 1967. Three years later, Rutgers University, St. John’s University, and Oakland University became the first three AAUP-represented university faculties. In 1971, when the AAUP Council formally endorsed collective bargaining, three more AAUP representatives were certified. Then, in 1972, when the annual meeting approved the Council’s recommendation, the AAUP obtained certification as the faculty bargaining agent at eight additional four-year institutions, four private and four public, including Wayne State University, where I joined the new AAUP union when the AAUP defeated the AFT local of which I had been a leader. By December 1975, AAUP representation had expanded to include faculty at thirty-five colleges and universities—about half the present number. In 1973 collective bargaining chapters had established the Collective Bargaining Caucus. In 1975 they formed the Collective Bargaining Congress (CBC), which, following the pattern of the Assembly of State Conferences, received ex-officio seats on the Council and, later, the Council’s executive committee.

Internal Conflicts

My document-based historical reflections to this point will now shift more toward a memoir substantially shaped by my personal experience and selective recollections.

In 1974 former Committee A chair William van Alstyne, who had opposed collective bargaining, defeated two bargaining supporters for the AAUP presidency. The CBC leadership supported Van Alstyne with a view toward unifying the Association. Nonetheless, the ensuing ten years—as collective bargaining membership and state conference activism grew, and competition with the NEA and the AFT intensified—witnessed mounting organizational strain. Although collective bargaining membership expanded rapidly, overall AAUP membership continued to decline precipitously, from seventy-eight thousand in 1969 to sixty thousand in 1976. The justified concern that entering bargaining would drive away some non-bargaining members was somewhat countered by the reality that the failure to enter bargaining was already draining membership on those campuses that chose to bargain through other representatives and by the demand of many existing members that the AAUP provide representation. Although entering bargaining stemmed some of these losses, the Association lost many professionally oriented anti-bargaining members, especially in the more elite institutions, as well as those members whose campuses chose other bargaining agents. The combination of increasing expenditures, declining revenue, and shifting membership composition heightened political instability within the organization.

The Association sought to stabilize membership and revenue by participating in large-scale joint-venture agreements with the NEA (University of Hawaii, Kent State University, and California State University) and the AFT (the Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and Universities and the Professional Staff Congress at the City University of New York). But the reduced dues and large voting blocs entailed in these arrangements exacerbated both the political and the financial problems. Nonetheless, the Association rejected overtures for a merger with the NEA in favor of maintaining an uneasy balance between the AFT and NEA alliances. The political and budgetary disarray contributed to rapid staff turnover. Five different general secretaries were appointed between 1974 and 1984, compared with only two between 1958 and 1974 and two between 1984 and 2004.

Two critical US Supreme Court decisions intensified internal conflicts. In 1980, the court’s decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva denied faculty a protected right to bargain in private universities. This decision was inimical to not only faculty bargaining but also the core principles of the Association. In the words of Justice William Brennan’s dissent, “The notion that a faculty member’s professional competence could depend on his undivided loyalty to management is antithetical to the whole concept of academic freedom.” Moreover, the decision disproportionately impaired the development of AAUP bargaining because the AAUP was more competitive at private than at public universities owing to the concern of many faculty members at the latter institutions for the political support of organized labor and the difficulty of organizing statewide systems. The consequent need to focus on public-sector organizing reinforced the argument in favor of joint ventures with their attendant difficulties.

Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Knight case, in which the Minnesota NEA argued that the union’s exclusive right to bargain and have access to meet-and-confer procedures trumped the claims of individual faculty members to participate in a shared-governance system independent of bargaining. The Association’s committee charged with formulating collective bargaining policy prepared an amicus brief in support of independent shared governance, which it argued would in the long term enhance faculty collective bargaining. The brief, however, was not submitted to the leadership of the CBC in a timely manner. The CBC rejected the brief but, despite these objections and following a controversial parliamentary ruling at the annual meeting that prevented a motion to require a proportional vote in which the CBC position would likely have prevailed, the Association filed the brief. The CBC chair wrote to the court claiming that the brief did not properly speak for the Association. While one can doubt that the justices ever saw the CBC chair’s letter, the court ruled that, although the system of shared governance it had cited in finding the Yeshiva faculty to be managers was desirable, such a governance arrangement was not constitutionally protected and, therefore, the Minnesota NEA union’s position prevailed.

Achieving Stability

In 1984 the Association’s internal tensions culminated in a sharply contested election for president, another search for a general secretary, and serious discussions of organizational bifurcation. In the election a moderate collective bargaining presidential candidate lost to a state conference candidate (Paul Walter). But, at the same time, the search committee, chaired by professor Walter, selected me, a former CBC chair (and unsuccessful union-based presidential candidate in a previous election), as the first general secretary with a collective bargaining background. The president and the general secretary, with the concurrence of the Council, agreed on a common agenda to stabilize membership and finances, reduce the political and financial problems associated with the joint ventures, and avoid bifurcation.

Two controversial decisions related to collective bargaining helped restore balance. First, the Association censured the administration of Temple University for laying off several long-term, non-tenure-track faculty in violation of national AAUP policy, despite the fact that the layoffs were consistent with Temple’s AAUP-negotiated collective bargaining agreement and were defended by a long-time CBC leader and national officer. This action reassured many traditional members that collective bargaining would not subvert the AAUP’s long-standing commitment to fundamental principles of academic freedom and tenure. Second, the Council’s executive committee accepted my recommendation to appoint the CBC chair, who had disowned the AAUP’s amicus brief in the Knight case, as the first director of collective bargaining selected from the Association’s collective bargaining leadership. This appointment reassured members from unionized chapters. Further, in 1988, the AAUP adopted the Statement on Academic Government for Institutions Engaged in Collective Bargaining, affirming that “collective bargaining should not replace, but rather should ensure, effective traditional forms of shared governance.”

As a practical matter the Association renegotiated the various joint-venture collective bargaining chapter arrangements on the principle that votes and dues should be proportional. These actions temporarily alleviated the internal organizational stress but contributed to a further decline in membership to just above forty thousand—about half the Association’s peak membership at the time of the decision to enter bargaining. The AAUP also explored, but rejected, both merger and joint projects with the NEA, leading to a worsening relationship between the two organizations. At the same time, the AAUP, which had earlier established a close relationship with one major AFT-affiliated faculty union in New York State (the PSC-CUNY), worked out a joint venture with another, the United University Professions (State University of New York), leading to a period of increased but uneasy cooperation with the AFT nationally. The Association also established a non-collective-bargaining membership development program that stabilized non-collective-bargaining membership and preserved the nonunion majority until at least the late 1990s. Substantively, the Association maintained its continuing commitment to the integrity of Committee A procedures and its core mission to defend academic freedom and tenure.

Members’ desires for increased activism and visibility led, however, to recurrent member-staff conflicts, resulting in a series of political changes, including my resignation, after ten years of service, as general secretary, though not from the staff. The Association then appointed a new general secretary, Mary Burgan, who sought to be more responsive to the increasingly activist leadership. The Association also increased its emphasis on improving the status of part-time and non-tenure-track faculty—efforts that dated back to the late 1970s—and addressed, in its 2002 report on College and University Academic and Professional Appointments, the long-standing issue of how to better represent non-faculty academic appointees included in collective bargaining units. The report called for affording to these colleagues the professional protections and procedures afforded to faculty under existing Association-supported standards.


In 2000, after more than thirty years with unionized chapters, the Association signaled the completion of its assimilation of collective bargaining when it elected Jane Buck as the first AAUP president drawn from a collective bargaining chapter. In 2007–08, during the presidency of Cary Nelson and my brief return from retirement as interim general secretary, the Association negotiated a new joint organizing agreement with the national AFT that led to successful organizing campaigns at the University of Oregon, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (non-tenure-track faculty). After several years of discussion and legal analysis, the Association also determined that collective bargaining activities had become so central to its work that it needed a new legal structure, thereby making the AAUP a tripartite organization consisting of a professional association, a collective bargaining organization, and a charitable organization, each with its own governance structure. This restructuring has furthered an activist agenda—for local and state AAUP chapters and conferences as well as the national organization— by focusing more resources, notably including staff positions, on the collective bargaining and nonfaculty professional sectors and by enabling AAUP bodies to engage more freely in political activity. These changes have marked the transition of the AAUP from the founders’ vision of a purely professional association of faculty to an activist organization focused on collective bargaining and advocacy.

Successful Integration

On reflection, I believe that the Association and to a remarkable extent the profession have successfully integrated collective bargaining with the commitment to academic freedom, tenure, shared governance, and professional standards. I base this conclusion not only on forty years of involvement in national AAUP affairs but also on recent systematic reviews of contract clauses affecting these basic principles and standards in preparation for conducting contract development workshops. Skeptics might refer to the 2013 study by Stephen R. Porter, “The Causal Effect of Faculty Unions on Institutional Decision Making,” in which the author writes, “The results presented here suggest that faculty unions have a positive effect on the level of faculty influence at public institutions. Not surprisingly, faculty at unionized institutions have more say in decisions regarding overall salary scales as well as decisions about individual faculty salaries. However, they also have more influence in many other areas, such as appointments of faculty and department chairs, tenure and promotion, teaching loads and the curriculum, and governance. Faculty influence does not appear to suffer from any negative effects of unionization.” Nor have the Association’s published investigations and policy statements been compromised by collective bargaining. It remains a matter of contention, however, whether an appropriate balance can be maintained in view of current proposals to decentralize the Association’s investigative procedures and the reduced proportion of the senior program officer staff primarily responsible for advancing the AAUP’s work in the areas of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance.

Of course, neither the traditional Association procedures nor collective bargaining has sufficed to prevent the erosion of the tenure system by the widespread practice of replacing tenure-track with contingent appointees. But there is no evidence to suggest that bargaining has fostered this erosion of the tenure system. Rather, most bargaining chapters have tried, with modest success, to reverse the increasing dependence on contingent positions. Moreover, growing efforts to organize contingent faculty by incorporating them into existing units or by establishing new units are the best available response to the systematic erosion of their professional protections.

The first decade of this century saw the establishment of a number of additional AAUP adjunct-only bargaining units: at Emerson College in 2001, the University of Vermont in 2003 (a joint chapter with the AFT), Suffolk University in 2006, and the University of Rhode Island, where separate chapters represent full-time faculty and graduate employees, in 2007. Units of full-time contingent faculty have also formed, most recently at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (a joint chapter with the AFT) and the University of New Hampshire. In other chapters, tenure-track and contingent faculty bargain together in mixed units. This is the AAUP’s preference, where possible, for reasons both philosophical (all faculty share a community of interest) and practical (the greater resources of mixed units tend to make them stronger, and a single bargaining unit makes it more difficult for an administration to play off one faculty group against another). These chapters have had some notable successes. The Wright State University AAUP chapter recently bargained tenure-like job-security protections for non-tenure-track faculty at that institution, while at the University of Oregon a chapter jointly affiliated with the AFT succeeded in reclassifying some 80 percent of the more than four hundred adjuncts as career non-tenure-track faculty, with substantially enhanced job security and professional stature. It is also notable that the decline in the proportion of tenure-track faculty has not been the result of any decline in the proportion of colleges and universities that continue to maintain the tenure system for some full-time faculty.

Critics were correct, however, in warning that the adoption of collective bargaining and a more activist approach would contribute to a decline in Association participation and membership among faculty at more prestigious non-bargaining institutions. This transformation of the Association’s membership has proceeded from multiple causes, but it still leaves us with the question of how an Association whose members are drawn primarily from institutions with collective bargaining can continue to ensure adherence to the Association’s principles—a pattern and practice that also protects bargaining chapter agreements—across the entire profession. Collective bargaining can certainly play a larger role, through both the organization of contingent faculty and the expansion of bargaining to the more prestigious public universities where the faculty have so far not chosen to exercise it. Advocacy organizing may also play a significant role at universities where collective bargaining either is not encompassed by state law or is discouraged by Yeshiva. But, as was the case a century ago, the Association today can best reach faculty at the more prestigious institutions (from which the founders themselves largely hailed) by reemphasizing the AAUP’s professional values and by seeking members who are prepared to make a modest contribution to the charitable wing of the Association with a view to developing and promoting national standards of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance.

Still and all, where the Association and faculty generally have adopted it collective bargaining has tended to strengthen AAUP-supported standards and procedures. Moreover, the collective bargaining faculty who now provide the greater share of Association resources and make the AAUP’s continued support of national standards possible are plainly subsidizing those many faculty members who do not contribute to the organization’s work. In view of the ever-increasing managerialism that confronts us throughout academe, and the consequent erosion of the shared values between faculty and academic administrators that have helped sustain the AAUP’s core principles, I do not see an alternative to pursuing collective bargaining and advocacy organizing. Collective bargaining is not a panacea, and the quality of academic bargaining depends on its continued foundation in the AAUP’s core principles. Nonetheless, the profession benefits and will continue to benefit from strengthened faculty bargaining.

Ernst Benjamin served as AAUP general secretary from 1984 to 1994 and 2006 to 2008. He also has served as AAUP director of research, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, and president of the Wayne State University AAUP chapter. He was coeditor of Academic Collective Bargaining.