Advancing Academic Freedom

Advancing and protecting academic freedom is the AAUP's core mission. Academic freedom is the indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education. As the academic community's core policy document states, "institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition" (1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which has been endorsed by more than 250 national scholarly and educational associations).

In 2024–25, the Mellon-funded Center for the Defense of Academic Freedom at the AAUP is examining and confronting the recent surge of political and ideological attacks on American higher education. 

For a century, we have been developing standards for sound academic practice and working for the acceptance of these standards by the community of higher education.The Association has long been viewed as the authoritative voice of the academic profession in this regard. Selected statements, reports, and policies dealing with academic freedom, as well as with other key issues, are published in the AAUP's Policy Documents and Reports, also known as the "Redbook."

The AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure promotes standards of academic freedom, tenure, and due process in higher education through the development of policy documents and reports relating to these subjects and the application of those standards to particular situations that are brought to its attention. 

Each year, the staff of the committee receives thousands of questions about these standards and complaints of departures from them. The staff provides advice and assistance, including mediation. In serious cases, it may initiate a dialogue with the administration regarding apparent departures from AAUP-recommended standards. In a few extreme cases annually, it will recommend a formal investigation. 

Such investigations may lead Committee A to recommend to the Association’s national Council that the administration of an institution be censured for failure to adhere to principles of academic freedom and tenure. See the list of censured administrations.

Members of the AAUP staff, acting on behalf of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, communicate during the course of each year with administrations under censure. The staff offers its assistance and that of Committee A in bringing about developments at the institutions that would enable the committee to recommend that the censure be removed. A summary of significant developments at institutions on the censure list appears annually in the spring issue of Academe.

The AAUP offers an award to recognize outstanding contributions to academic freedom by administrators or trustees.

See FAQs on academic freedom or more resources on academic freedom issues.