The American Association of University Professors, founded in 1915, develops and advances principles and standards of sound academic practice governing the relationship between faculty and their institutions. The value of these principles and standards lies in their wide acceptance throughout the community of higher education. The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, issued jointly by the AAUP and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, has been endorsed by more than 240 learned societies and educational organizations, and hundreds of colleges and universities have incorporated its provisions in their faculty regulations or handbooks. Noting this wide acceptance, courts have often referred to AAUP principles and standards in addressing what is customary in the academic world.
Much of the AAUP's work involves the application of these principles and standards to particular cases on campuses across the country. In telephone conversations, e-mail exchanges, and other correspondence, the AAUP's staff is often able to answer questions and offer suggestions that resolve matters under dispute. When an administration takes serious action against a faculty member that entails a major departure from AAUP-supported standards, the staff may initiate a dialog with the administration in an attempt to achieve a resolution that honors those standards. Occasionally, when all such efforts fail, the Association initiates a process that may result in censure of the institution's administration.
Censure results from the Association's findings that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. The 1940 Statement of Principles asserts that institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good, and that the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression. An institution that disregards the concepts of academic freedom and tenure will have difficulty in fulfilling its basic purpose
The AAUP's practice of censuring administrations began in 1930, and there are currently 56 institutions on the censure list. The AAUP follows a careful process in considering whether the action by an administration in a specific case warrants censure. When efforts to resolve a case remain unsuccessful, the AAUP's general secretary may, upon the advice of the AAUP's staff, authorize appointment of an ad hoc committee to investigate and prepare a report.
The members of an investigating committee are faculty members who have had no previous involvement in the case. The committee is asked to visit the institution where the event(s) under investigation occurred, to meet with the principal parties, and to prepare a report for submission to the AAUP's national Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The investigating committee's draft report recounts the facts of the case, and sets forth conclusions as to whether the actions of the administration were in procedural and substantive compliance with the principles and standards supported by the Association.
Committee A may call for revisions of the report prior to its release and its potential publication. With Committee A's approval, the revised text is sent to the principal parties for their corrections and comments.The responses are taken into account in preparing the final text for publication in the AAUP's bimonthly magazine, Academe.
Committee A, during its spring meeting, considers the reports of investigating committees that have been published during the past twelve months, and may recommend that an institution be placed on the list of censured administrations. The responsibility for imposing censure rests with the AAUP's annual meeting of members and delegates, normally convened in June.
The annual meeting is similarly responsible for the removal of a censure. In preparation for this decision, the assembled AAUP members hear a report from Committee A about the case which led to the censure, about relevant institutional policies, and about current conditions at the institution relating to academic freedom and tenure. The Association celebrates the removal of censure as a sign of an institution's academic health and of the continuing vitality of the principles and standards to which it has committed itself.