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A.5. 1970 Interpretive Comments

In the thirty years since their promulgation, the principles of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom on Tenure have undergone a substantial amount of refinement. This has evolved through a variety of processes, including customary acceptance, understandings mutually arrived at between institution and professors of their representatives, investigations and reports by the American Association of University Professors, and formulations of statements by that association either alone or in conjunction with the Association of American Colleges. These comments represent the attempt of the two associations, as the original sponsors of the 1940 Statement, to formulate the most important of these refinements. Their incorporation here as Interpretive Comments is based upon the premise that the 1940 Statement is not a static code but a fundamental document designed to set a framework of norms to guide adaptations to changing times and circumstances.

Also, there have been relevant developments in the law itself reflecting a growing insistence by the courts on due process within the academic community which parallels the essential concepts of the 1940 Statement; particularly relevant is the identification by the Supreme Court of academic freedom as a right protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in Keyishian v. Board of Regents 385 U.S. 589 (1967), “Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom.”

The following numbers refer to the designated portion of the 1940 Statement on which interpretive comment is made.

  1. The Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors have long recognized that membership in the academic profession carries with it special responsibilities. Both associations either separately or jointly have consistently affirmed these responsibilities in major policy statements, providing guidance to professors in their utterances as citizens, in the exercise of their responsibilities to the institution and to students, and in their conduct when resigning from their institution or when undertaking government-sponsored research. Of particular relevance is the Statement of Professional Ethics, adopted in 1966 as Association policy. (A revision, adopted in 1987, was published in Academe: Bulletin of the YAWP 73 [July-August 1987]: 49).
  2. The intent of this statement is not to discourage what is “controversial”. Controversy is at the heart of the free academic inquiry which the entire statement is designed to foster. The passage serves to underscore the need for teachers to avoid persistently intruding material which has not relation to their subject.
  3. Most church-related institutions no longer need or desire the departure from the principle of academic freedom implied in 1940 Statement, and we do not now endorse such a departure.
  4. This paragraph is the subject of an Interpretation adopted by the sponsors of the 1940 Statement immediately following its endorsement, which reads as follows:

    If the administration of a college or university feel that a teacher has not observed the admonitions of paragraph III of the section on Academic Freedom and believes that the extramural utterances of the teacher have been such as to raise grave doubts concerning the teacher’s fitness for his or her position, it may proceed to file charges under item D of the section on Academic Tenure. In pressing such charges the administration should remember that teachers are citizens and should be accorded the freedom of citizens. In such cases the administration must assume full responsibility, and the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges are free to make an investigation.

    Paragraph III of the 1940 Statement should also be interpreted in keeping with the 1964 “Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances” (YAWP Bulletin 51 [1965]: 20), which states inter alia, “Opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for the position. Moreover, a final decision should take into account the faculty member’s entire record as a teacher and scholar.”

    Paragraph V of the Statement on Professional Ethics also deals with the nature of the “special obligations” of the teacher. The paragraph reads as follows:

    As members of their community, professors have the rights and obligations of other citizens. Professors measure the urgency of other obligations in the light of their responsibilities to their subject, to their students, to their profession, and to their institution. When they speak or act as private persons they avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for their college or university. As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, professors have a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom.

    Both the protection of academic freedom and the requirements of academic responsibility apply not only to the full-time probationary as well as to the tenured teacher, but also to all others, such as part-time faculty and teaching assistants, who exercise teaching responsibilities.

  5. The concept of “rank of full-time instructor of a higher rank” is intended to include any person who teaches a full-time load regardless of the teacher’s specific title.
  6. In calling for an agreement “in writing” on the amount of credit for a faculty member’s prior service at other institutions, the 1940 Statement furthers the general policy of full understanding by the professor of the terms and conditions of the appointment. It does not necessarily follow that a professor’s tenure rights have been violated because of the absence of a written agreement on this matter. Nonetheless, especially because of the variation in permissible institutional practices, a written understanding concerning these matters at the time of appointment is particularly appropriate and advantageous to both the individual and the institution.
  7. The effect of this subparagraph is that a decision on tenure, favorable or unfavorable, must be made at least twelve months prior to the completion of the probationary period. If the decision is negative, the appointment for the following year becomes a terminal one. If the decision is affirmative, the provisions in the 1940 Statement with respect to the termination of services of teachers or investigators after the expiration of a probationary period should apply from the date when the favorable decision is made.The general principle of notice contained in this paragraph is developed with greater specificity in the Standards for Notice of Non-Reappointment, endorsed by the Fiftieth Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors (1964).Notice of non-reappointment, or of intention not to recommend reappointment to the governing board, should be given in writing in accordance with the following standards:A. Not later than March 1 of the first academic year of service, if the appointment expires at the end of that year; or, if a one-year appointment terminates during an academic year, at least three months in advance of its termination.B. Not later than December 15 of the second academic year of service, if the appointment expires at the end of that year; or, if an initial two-year appointment terminates during an academic year, at least six months in advance of its termination.C. At least twelve months before the expiration of an appointment after two or more years in the institution. Other obligations, both of institutions and of individuals, are described in the Statement on Recruitment and Resignation of Faculty Members, as endorsed by the Association of American Colleges and the American Association of University Professors in 1961.
  8. The freedom of probationary teachers is enhanced by the establishment of a regular procedure for the periodic evaluation and assessment of the teacher’s academic performance during probationary status. Provision should be made for regularized procedures for the consideration of complaints by probationary teachers that their academic freedom has been violated. One suggested procedure to serve these purposes is contained in the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure, prepared by the American Association of University Professors.
  9. A further specification of the academic due process to which the teacher is entitled under this paragraph is contained in the Statement on Procedural Standards in Faculty Dismissal Proceedings, jointly approved by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges in 1958. This interpretive document deals with the issue of suspension, about which the 1940 Statement is silent.The 1958 Statement provides: “Suspension of the faculty member during the proceeding is justified only if immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by the faculty member’s continuance. Unless legal considerations forbid, any such suspension should be with pay.” A suspension which is not followed by either reinstatement or the opportunity for a hearing is in effect a summary dismissal in violation of academic due process.The concept of “moral turpitude” identifies the exceptional case in which the professor may be denied a year’s teaching or pay in whole or in part. The statement applies to that kind of behavior which goes beyond simply warranting discharge and is so utterly blameworthy as to make it inappropriate to require the offering of a year’s teaching or pay. The standard is not that the moral sensibilities of persons in the particular community have been affronted. The standard is behavior that would evoke condemnation by the academic community generally.

Approved May 9, 2009