New Statement on Discrimination and Equality

In recognition of the dangerous and ongoing backlash against movements for equality, the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure approved a new statement On Eliminating Discrimination and Achieving Equality in Higher Education

The statement appears at a time when fierce assaults on higher education are threatening the progress made on racial and gender equality. Discriminatory attacks on efforts to advance knowledge about race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability are inseparable from a larger and even more dangerous campaign against core academic values—including shared governance, academic freedom, and tenure—and learning itself. Not simply a response to the political moment, the statement reasserts the AAUP’s fundamental and enduring commitment to holding colleges and universities accountable for accomplishing their highest purpose: serving the public interest through teaching, research, and service, thereby enabling an increasingly inclusive democracy to fulfill its role to protect and advance the common good in a complex and interrelated world.

The statement canvasses the responsibility of the academic profession regarding systemic discrimination. It reaffirms the description of affirmative action set forth in the Association’s 1973 report Affirmative Action in Higher Education as “essentially the revision of standards and practices to ensure that institutions are in fact drawing from the largest marketplace of human resources in staffing their faculties and a critical review of appointment and advancement criteria to ensure that they do not inadvertently foreclose consideration of the best-qualified persons by untested presuppositions which operate to exclude women and minorities.” The statement also addresses the role that unconscious bias may play in a range of academic decisions and emphasizes that progress toward substantive equality is tightly bound to the observance of principles of academic freedom, tenure, and academic due process. In response to the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision striking down affirmative-action programs in college admissions, the statement concludes with a call to colleges and universities to meet the challenge posed by the persistence of systemic discrimination.

The statement was also approved by the Committee on Historically Black Institutions and Scholars of Color and the Committee on Gender and Sexuality in the Academic Profession.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 11, 2024