Informal Glossary of AAUP Terms and Abbreviations

1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure: Jointly authored by the AAUP and the American Association of Colleges and Universities and endorsed by more than 250 educational organizations and disciplinary societies, the statement has been incorporated by reference or verbatim in hundreds of faculty handbooks and cited in numerous judicial decisions. It is the AAUP's main policy document and at the heart of the work of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure (see “Committee A”).

AAUP-CBC: The AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress was a former sister organization of the AAUP that functioned as an umbrella organization of local AAUP collective bargaining chapters and affiliates. In 2020, the functions and programs of the AAUP-CBC were absorbed into the AAUP and it no longer exists as a separate entity. 

AAUP Foundation: The AAUP Foundation is organized to fund, through its grant-making process, the charitable and educational purposes of the AAUP. The purposes of the AAUP Foundation include supporting principles of academic freedom and the quality of higher education in a free and democratic society.

Academe: The AAUP’s magazine features articles on a wide range of topics in higher education as well as book reviews, Association news, and opinion columns. The print edition is mailed quarterly to members who opt in, and articles are published electronically year round. The summer issue is the AAUP Bulletin, which contains the major reports issued by the AAUP over the previous academic year.

Academe BlogAcademe Blog is a production of Academe magazine and focuses on issues in higher education. The blog includes postings from a wide range of contributors. The blog and Academe are published by the AAUP, but opinions published in them do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Academic Freedom: This is the essential characteristic of an institution of higher education. It encompasses the right of faculty to full freedom in research and in the publication of results, freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, and the right of faculty to be free from institutional censorship or discipline when they speak or write as citizens.

Active Members: Any person who holds a professional position of teacher, researcher, graduate student, or related professional appointment, excluding administrators but including any member of a bargaining unit represented by a chapter, at a college, university, or professional school of similar grade accredited in the United States or Canada, is eligible for active membership in the Association. However, members of bargaining units may be admitted to active membership only if they are members of the local organization that serves as bargaining agent. An active member who retires may choose to be transferred to retired membership. Retired members retain all rights and privileges accorded to active members under this Constitution, including the right to hold office.

Advocacy Chapter: The AAUP has two types of chapters—advocacy and collective bargaining. In addition to providing a vehicle through which faculty can collectively organize (if not formally engage in collective bargaining), among other efforts AAUP advocacy chapters promote shared governance, academic freedom, and due process, and can engage in local Committee A work as well as government-relations campaigns. Active, well-organized advocacy chapters can also have influence on matters like salaries and benefits.

Agency Fee: See "Fair Share." 

Annual Meeting: Until a 2020 restructuring that streamlined governance structures, the AAUP had an annual meeting, with a governance role defined in the Association’s Constitution. The meeting is now biennial. 

Associate Member: Any person not eligible for active membership may be admitted as an associate member, including members of the general public. Any person in a college, university, or professional school of similar grade in the United States or Canada whose work is primarily administrative is eligible for associate membership.

At-Large Chapter: The membership voted in 2019 to approve a set of organizational changes as part of the association’s restructuring proposal, including the creation of a new at-large chapter, effective January 1, 2020. The at-large chapter is made up of individual AAUP members who are not eligible for membership in a campus chapter of the AAUP. The primary purpose of the at-large chapter is to provide its members with the opportunity to nominate and elect delegates to the AAUP biennial meeting, where the delegates will cast the votes of the chapter in the election of AAUP officers and on other matters. As a national chapter, the at-large chapter does not represent individual members in disputes, nor does it intervene on behalf of its members at their institutions. At-large chapter members are encouraged to form their own campus AAUP chapter if they are interested in addressing specific issues or situations on their campus. 

Biennial Meeting: Includes plenary sessions, a Friday night reception, an awards and recognition luncheon, and peer-to-peer sessions in addition to meetings of the AAUP Council and the meeting plenary. The meeting plenary includes officer and Council elections and a report from Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure about the latest developments in academic freedom.

Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors: The Bulletin is the summer issue of the AAUP magazine, Academe. It brings together in one volume the previous academic year’s academic freedom and tenure and governance investigative reports, standing committee and ad hoc subcommittee reports, new policy documents and revisions to previously published documents, and selected annual reports of the Association and other relevant business materials. 

Card check: A process by which a union can petition for certification when a majority of potential bargaining unit members sign authorization cards; available in some states. 

Censure: The executive director and other AAUP senior program officers are authorized to receive, on behalf of Committee A, complaints from faculty members at accredited colleges and universities about alleged departures from the Association’s recommended standards concerning academic freedom, tenure, and related principles and procedures. If efforts by the staff to resolve a faculty member's case prove unsuccessful, and if the issues in dispute involve major departures from AAUP standards, the executive director may, upon the advice of the staff, authorize appointment of an ad hoc committee to investigate and prepare a report. Committee A reviews such reports and is responsible for approving them for publication. Censure of an institution’s administration—a practice begun in 1930—may result from the Association's findings that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. The responsibility for imposing censure rests with the AAUP's Council, which is similarly responsible for the removal of a censure. The AAUP maintains a list of censured administrations.

Collective Bargaining Chapter: The AAUP has two types of chapters: advocacy and collective bargaining (see “Advocacy Chapter”). Collective bargaining chapters serve as the bargaining representatives for faculty and other academic employees in union-related activities at their campuses.

Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure: This key standing committee of the Association, the first of several committees established at the AAUP’s organizational meeting in 1915, promotes principles of academic freedom, tenure, and academic due process in higher education through the development of policy documents and reports relating to these subjects and the application of those principles to particular situations that are brought to its attention. (See also “1940 Statement of Principles,” “Academic Freedom,” “Censure,” “Tenure,” and “RIR.”)

Committee W: One of the first AAUP standing committees was Committee W, later called the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession. In 2019 the AAUP Council, acting on the recommendation of members of the affected committees, voted to merge this committee and the Committee on Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity into the new Committee on Gender and Sexuality in the Academic Profession, which will formulate policy statements, provide resources, and report on matters of interest to all those who identify as women, femme, and nonbinary, and to the academic community, addressing such issues as equity in pay, work/family balance, sexual harassment and discrimination, Title IX, and the role of gender and sexuality in rank and tenure.

Contingent Faculty: This group consists of both part- and full-time faculty who are appointed off the tenure track. The term calls attention to the tenuous relationship between academic institutions and the non-tenure-track faculty members who teach in them. For example, teachers hired to teach one or two courses for a semester, experts or practitioners who are brought in to share their field experience, and whole departments of full-time non-tenure-track English composition instructors are all ‘contingent faculty.’ The term includes adjuncts (a.k.a. part-time faculty), who are generally compensated on a per-course or hourly basis, as well as full-time non-tenure-track faculty who receive a salary. The AAUP, through chapters and at the national level, works to improve conditions for contingent faculty members and to reverse the trend towards part-time and non-tenure-track appointments.

Council: The governing body of the AAUP, empowered by the Association’s Constitution.

Due Process, Academic: Refers to procedures designed to resolve personnel issues in a clear, fair, and orderly manner. For example, under AAUP standards, due process consists of a grievance/appeals policy that permits faculty members to present their concerns to an elected faculty committee, with the complaining faculty member carrying the burden of proof. It also consists of a hearing procedure for severe sanctions, where the administration has the burden of demonstrating adequacy of cause for its proposed action. The process that is due to a faculty member depends on the circumstances of the individual's situation. Broadly, academic due process comprises two elements: (1) adjudicative hearings of record before an elected faculty body for severe sanctions, where the administration bears the burden of demonstrating adequacy of cause, and (2) a grievance/appeals policy that permits faculty members to present their concerns to an elected committee of peers, with the complaining faculty member carrying the burden of proof.

Department of Organizing and Services (DOS): Supports member activity and development of both advocacy and collective bargaining chapters. Maintains regular contact with AAUP chapters, provides support and guidance to members, chapters, and state conferences, and advises chapters on day-to-day business issues.

Entrant: AAUP membership category open to nontenured faculty who are either new AAUP members or new to a full-time appointment. Entrant members receive a discounted rate on their national dues for up to four years. Applies only to members paying dues via a collective bargaining chapter.

Executive Committee: The executive committee of the Council consists of the president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer. According to the AAUP Constitution, the executive committee, between meetings of the Council, may exercise such powers as the Council has delegated to it and, under unforeseen exigencies, exercise other powers subject to prior authorization of the Council. 

Executive Director: As the organization’s chief executive officer, the executive director is responsible for the operation of the AAUP’s national office and is accountable to the Council and the executive committee. Formerly known as the general secretary.

Faculty Compensation Survey: The AAUP’s comprehensive and comparative report on faculty compensation at public and private institutions across the country. Results are published annually in April. 

Faculty Handbook: This document sets forth the policies, procedures, and guidelines governing a college or university’s operation. It includes official institutional regulations under which professors work and enumerates the rights and obligations of the faculty. Handbooks typically define, among other things, institutional governance structures, appointment and advancement procedures, and grievance procedures. In some states, faculty handbooks may be enforceable employment contracts between individual professors and the institution. (The AAUP publishes a guide on each state’s treatment of faculty handbooks.)

Fair Share: Fair-share fees (also called agency fees) refers to the union's ability in particular circumstances or at particular academic institutions to collect a fee from nonunion members to pay expenses that arise out of a union’s representational activities. Since the 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision (see “Janus”), public-sector unions generally cannot assess or collect any fees, including fair-share or agency fees, from nonmembers without their voluntary consent. Where fair-share fees are allowed, nonmembers can often be assessed fees equivalent to the full amount of the union dues unless the nonmember objects, in which case they are assessed only for chargeable expenses. Chargeable expenses are the proportion of union dues attributable to expenditures on activities that are germane to the union’s duties as collective-bargaining representative, such as the expenses of collective bargaining, grievance handling, and contract administration, but exclude the union’s expenditures on political and ideological projects.

Fee Payer: Individuals who do not belong to the union that represents them in bargaining, but who live in a state, or work for an institution, in which they must pay a “fair share” or “agency fee” (see “Fair Share”). Fee payers often pay the full amount of the dues unless they object to doing so, in which case they are assessed only for chargeables—the expenses of collective bargaining, grievance handling, and contract administration. Since 2018, unions’ ability to charge fair-share fees in the public sector has been largely eliminated. (see “Fair Share” and “Janus”).

Field Staff: Staff employed by local AAUP chapters or state conferences and typically based at local AAUP campus chapters or in state offices.

General Secretary: Former name for the AAUP executive director. 

Governance of the AAUP: The AAUP’s activities are guided by its elected governing bodies. These include the Council and the executive committee of the Council. The Association also has national standing committees, a dozen AAUP business committees, and a number of advisory bodies.

GR (Government Relations): This AAUP activity—conducted primarily at the chapter and conference levels—includes the monitoring and analysis of government policies and legislation on matters of concern to higher education.

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities): The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as “any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation." The AAUP has a standing Committee on Historically Black Institutions and Scholars of Color, which deals with issues of special concern to HBCUs and to minority faculty members in general. The committee is concerned with access to opportunities in higher education for traditionally underrepresented groups and has focused its recent efforts on affirmative action and diversity, and outreach to faculty at minority-serving institutions.

Janus decisionJanus v. AFSCME Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018) was a US Supreme Court decision holding that it is generally unconstitutional for public-sector unions to collect any payments, including fair-share fees (also called “agency fees”), from nonmembers without their explicit and voluntary consent. The decision overturned forty years of precedent finding that the fair-share system, through which unions were able to recover the costs of representing nonmembers, adequately balanced the interests of the employees and the state in an efficient labor relations system and the First Amendment interests of union members and nonmembers.

Journal of Academic Freedom: The AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom publishes scholarship on academic freedom and on its relation to shared governance, tenure, and collective bargaining. The Journal is published online. Essays range from historical studies to analyses of contemporary conflicts, from accounts of individual faculty experiences to institutional histories.

Lifetime Memberships: Members 60 and older can support the AAUP through lifetime membership.

National Staff: The bulk of the Association’s staff members are located in the AAUP’s Washington, DC, office; some, especially organizers, are located in different regions of the country. The staff, under the leadership of the executive director, is responsible for carrying out the programs of the Association, and is charged with pursuing, promoting, and implementing AAUP policies and standards on behalf of the academic community.

NLRB (National Labor Relations Board): An independent federal agency created by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the primary law governing relations between unions and employers in the private sector. The statute guarantees the right of employees to organize and to bargain collectively with their employers, and to engage in other protected concerted activity with or without a union, or to refrain from all such activity. In recent years, however, the courts and the NLRB have defined most tenure-line faculty at private institutions as “managerial” employees and thus have failed to provide them with the legal framework for union representation. (See “Yeshiva Decision.”)

Office Visits (One-on-One Organizing): One of the primary—and most effective—means of faculty organizing and mobilization. Office visits consist of four basic steps: (1) introduction of the AAUP and its principles by AAUP chapter activists to other individual faculty members; (2) discovery of particular faculty concerns/issues/questions; (3) education of individual faculty members on AAUP national or chapter work and positions on issues or concerns and on broader issues; and (4) commitment by visited faculty members to join AAUP chapter and national organization or to increase participation in AAUP chapter or national initiatives.

President of the AAUP: An elected position. The president presides at meetings of the Association and the Council; appoints, and is a voting ex officio member of, all committees of the Association except the Nominating Committee, the Election Committee, and the Election Appeals Committee; and is a nonvoting ex officio member of the governing bodies of all state conferences.

"Redbook" (AAUP Policy Documents and Reports): Now in its eleventh edition, this compilation of documents presents a comprehensive range of policies, in some instances formulated in cooperation with other higher education organizations. Widely regarded as an authoritative source on sound academic practice, the Redbook contains the Association's major policy statements on topics including academic freedom; tenure; due process; shared governance; professional ethics; research and teaching; distance education and intellectual property; work and family; discrimination; retirement and leaves of absence; collective bargaining; college and university accreditation; and student rights and freedoms. Many of the principles and procedural standards, and a great deal of the language, in these documents are embodied in the faculty handbooks and/or faculty collective bargaining agreements of numerous institutions.

RIR (Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure): This document, first formulated by Committee A in 1957 and subsequently revised and expanded several times, sets forth, in language suitable for use by colleges and universities, rules that derive from the chief provisions and interpretations of the Association’s key statements of principles and procedural standards. The current text is based upon the AAUP’s continuing experience in evaluating regulations actually in force at particular institutions. It is also based upon further definition of the standards and procedures of the Association over the years. Members of the AAUP staff are available for advice and assistance in interpreting these regulations as well as in incorporating them in, or adapting them to, the rules of a particular college or university.

Sanction, Governance: The executive director and other AAUP senior program officers are authorized to receive, on behalf of the Committee on College and University Governance, complaints of departures from the Association’s recommended standards relating to academic governance at a particular college or university. When it appears that corporate or individual functions of the faculty, as defined in the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, have been seriously threatened or impaired, and when efforts to resolve these matters prove unsuccessful, the executive director may, upon the advice of the AAUP's staff, authorize appointment of an ad hoc committee to investigate and prepare a report. The publication of such a report may lead to a recommendation from the governance committee to the Association’s Council that an institution be sanctioned for substantial noncompliance with standards of academic governance. Whereas censure by the AAUP informs the academic community that an administration has not adhered to Association-supported standards of academic freedom and tenure, a governance sanction signals that unsatisfactory conditions of academic governance exist at an institution. The AAUP maintains a list of sanctioned institutions. (See “Censure,” “Shared Governance,” and “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.”)

Section: A section is a mechanism to ensure that small chapters’ voices are heard and to allow chapters to pool resources to make attendance at the biennial delegate meeting more affordable. Participation in a section (one per state, formed by two or more chapters with fewer than 250 members) is voluntary. A section is entitled to one delegate for every 250 members, with a maximum number of 10 delegates per section. If a chapter elects to participate in a section then it cannot also send its own delegate to the biennial meeting. Chapters that do not opt in to the section can send a separate chapter delegate to the meeting. AAUP members not in a campus chapter elect delegates through the national at-large chapter. Chapter and section delegates have the same rights and privileges at the AAUP biennial meeting.

Shared Governance: One of the key tenets of quality higher education, this term refers to governance of higher education institutions in which responsibility is shared by faculty, administrators, and trustees. The AAUP emphasizes the importance of faculty involvement in personnel decisions, selection of administrators, preparation of the budget, and determination of educational policies. Faculty should have primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process, according to the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities. (See “Sanction, Governance” and “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities.”)

Showing of Interest: The first stage of a union’s bid for institutional recognition as the collective bargaining agent for a particular group of university employees. During the showing of interest (sometimes called a card drive), the union collects signed cards from individuals who make up the potential bargaining unit. Bargaining unit members who sign the cards show their support for having an election on campus to determine whether or not they will be collectively represented by the union. In most public institutions, the union must collect cards from a minimum of 30 percent of the employees who would be represented by the bargaining agent in order to call an election. In some states, a union can petition for certification when a majority of potential bargaining unit members sign authorization cards, a process known as “card check.”

State Conference: An umbrella organization that brings together AAUP chapters (both advocacy and collective bargaining) and individual members within a particular state. In states where no conference exists, two or more chapters in good standing can establish a conference to work together in advancing AAUP policies and goals.

Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities: Originally formulated in conjunction with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, this AAUP policy document embodies standards of governance widely upheld in American higher education. It rests on the premise of appropriately shared responsibility and cooperative action among the different components of institutional government and specifies the areas of primary responsibility for governing boards, administrations, and faculties. The statement, adopted in 1966, remains the Association's central policy document relating to academic governance. It has been supplemented over the years by a series of derivative policy statements, including those on faculty governance and academic freedom; budgetary and salary matters; financial exigency; the selection, evaluation, and retention of administrators; college athletics; governance and collective bargaining; and the faculty status of college and university librarians. (See “Sanction, Governance” and “Shared Governance”.)

Summer Institute: The AAUP’s premier training event, which takes place every summer at a different campus location. Workshops and seminars offered explore such topics as higher education data and research, contract negotiations, intellectual property, the faculty handbook, faculty governance, strategic communications, membership recruitment, and member organizing.

Tenure: Essential for the protection of academic freedom, faculty tenure is, at its core, a presumption of competence and continuing service that can be overcome only if specified conditions are met. The AAUP recommends that professors should undergo a probationary period (not to exceed seven years), after which individual faculty members should have permanent or continuous tenure, and their services should be terminated only for adequate cause or a bona fide financial exigency or department or program discontinuance. (See “Academic Due Process” and “Academic Freedom.”)

Yeshiva Decision: The 1980 Supreme Court decision (NLRB v. Yeshiva University) in which most full-time faculty members in private institutions were denied the right to pursue collective bargaining under the legal framework of the National Labor Relations Act (see “NLRB”) on grounds that they were “managerial employees” and thereby excluded from the act’s coverage. Part-time (adjunct) faculty members at private institutions do not face this legal impediment to unionization.