Home » Articles » Topic » Groups and Organizations » American Association of University Professors

Written by Martin Gruberg, published on January 1, 2009 , last updated on February 18, 2024

American Association of University Professors

The American Association of University Professors is the largest organization representing the academic profession and has been at the forefront of promoting academic freedom. Here, AAUP President Rudy H. Fichtenbaum speaks at a summer conference in 2014. (Image via AAUP on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is the largest organization representing the general interests of the academic profession in the United States.


Chiefly concerned with the defense of academic freedom and tenure, it also addresses issues of governance, professional ethics, accreditation, and teaching standards and procedures.


AAUP’s founding prompted by dismissal of university sociologist in 1901


Among the events leading to the founding of the AAUP was the dismissal of sociologist E. A. Ross from Stanford University in 1901.


Ross opposed the gold standard and had investigated the problems of immigrant workers, including Chinese laborers on the Southern Pacific Railroad. University founder Leland Stanford Jr., head of the Southern Pacific, intervened at the university to have Ross dismissed. In 1915 philosophers Arthur O. Lovejoy (of Johns Hopkins University) and John Dewey (of Columbia University) organized a meeting to form an association to ensure the academic freedom of faculty members. Dewey became the first president of the AAUP.


The AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, jointly authored with the Association of American Colleges, is the definitive articulation of the principles and practices of academic freedom and tenure and has been endorsed by about 150 learned societies and educational organizations.


AAUP provides assistance to protect First Amendment academic freedom


The AAUP responds to complaints of violations of academic freedom and tenure by providing consultation, mediation, and assistance in obtaining due process. Grave violations often result in an on-site investigation by the organization’s Committee A and censure of the school’s administration. The organization’s legal office files amicus curiae briefs before the courts on significant issues of academic freedom. During the Cold War, the AAUP opposed loyalty oaths.


Committee R (Government Relations) coordinates and engages in lobbying activities in Washington, D.C., and state capitols. It also monitors legislation and provides expert testimony, offering a faculty-oriented perspective on matters of equal opportunity, funding for research and student aid, and freedom of expression in the classroom.


Other AAUP committees include B (Professional Ethics), C (College and University Teaching, Research, and Publication), D (Accreditation), E (Retirement), F (Chapters, Conferences, Members and Dues), G (Part Time and Non-Tenure Track Appointments), H (History of the Association), I (Association Investments), L (Historically Black Institutions and Status of Minorities), N (Representation of Economic and Professional Interests), O (Organization), T (College and University Government), V (Junior and Community Colleges), W (Status of Women), Y (Taxation), and Z (Economic Status).


Membership in 2007 stood at approximately 45,000, with more than 500 local campus chapters and 39 state organizations. In addition, the association had more than 70 chapters and affiliates, mostly at public institutions, with faculty collective bargaining representation. The Collective Bargaining Congress governs the organization’s collective bargaining activities.


AAUP’s annual report on faculty salaries and benefits, a key barometer of professional academics, is widely used and quoted.


Academe, the association’s magazine for higher education, appears six times a year, offering news, analysis, and discussions on matters of concern to faculty. It often highlights First Amendment issues related to academic freedom. Redbook is a collection of AAUP policy documents and reports concerning the rights and responsibilities of members of the academic profession.


This article was originally published in 2009. Martin Gruberg was President of the Fox Valley Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin.


How To Contribute

The Free Speech Center operates with your generosity! Please donate now!