1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure
With 1970 Interpretive Comments
In 1940, following
a series of joint conferences begun in 1934, representatives of the American
Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Colleges
agreed upon a restatement of principles set forth in the 1925 Conference
Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure. This restatement is known to
the profession as the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom
The 1940 Statement
is printed below, followed by Interpretive Comments as developed by representatives
of the American Association of University Professors and the Association of
American Colleges during 1969. The governing bodies of the associations, meeting
respectively in November 1989 and January 1990, adopted several changes in
language in order to remove gender-specific references from the original text.
The purpose of this statement is to promote public understanding and support of academic
freedom and tenure and agreement upon procedures to assure them in colleges and universities.
Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the
interest of either the individual teacher (The word "teacher"as used in this document is understood
to include the investigator who is attached to an academic institution without teaching duties) or
the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free
Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research.
Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its
teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the
student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with
rights.(Bold-faced numbers in brackets refer to Interpretive Comments which
Tenure is a means to certain ends; specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research and of
extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession
attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are
indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to
- Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject
to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return
should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
- Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should
be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their
subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the
institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
- College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of
an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from
institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special
obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge
their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be
accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others,
and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the
After the expiration of a probationary period, teachers or investigators should have permanent or
continuous tenure, and their service should be terminated only for adequate cause, except in the
case of retirement for age, or under extraordinary circumstances because of financial
In the interpretation of this principle it is understood that the following represents acceptable
- The precise terms and conditions of every appointment should be stated in writing and
be in the possession of both institution and teacher before the appointment is
- Beginning with appointment to the rank of full-time instructor or a higher rank,
 the probationary period should not exceed seven years, including within this period
full-time service in all institutions of higher education; but subject to the proviso that
when, after a term of probationary service of more than three years in one or more
institutions, a teacher is called to another institution it may be agreed in writing that the
new appointment is for a probationary period of not more than four years, even though
thereby the person's total probationary period in the academic profession is extended
beyond the normal maximum of seven years.  Notice should be given at least
one year prior to the expiration of the probationary period if the teacher is not to be
continued in service after the expiration of that period.
- During the probationary period a teacher should have the academic freedom that all
other members of the faculty have.
- Termination for cause of a continuous appointment, or the dismissal for cause of a
teacher previous to the expiration of a term appointment, should, if possible, be
considered by both a faculty committee and the governing board of the institution. In all
cases where the facts are in dispute, the accused teacher should be informed before the
hearing in writing of the charges and should have the opportunity to be heard in his or
her own defense by all bodies that pass judgment upon the case. The teacher should be
permitted to be accompanied by an advisor of his or her own choosing who may act as
counsel. There should be a full stenographic record of the hearing available to the parties
concerned. In the hearing of charges of incompetence the testimony should include that
of teachers and other scholars, either from the teacher's own or from other institutions.
Teachers on continuous appointment who are dismissed for reasons not involving moral
turpitude should receive their salaries for at least a year from the date of notification of
dismissal whether or not they are continued in their duties at the institution.
- Termination of a continuous appointment because of financial exigency should be
demonstrably bona fide.
At the conference of representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of
the Association of American Colleges on November 7-8,1940, the following interpretations of the
1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure were agreed upon:
- That its operation should not be retroactive.
- That all tenure claims of teachers appointed prior to the endorsement should be
determined in accordance with the principles set forth in the 1925 Conference
Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
- If the administration of a college or university feels that a teacher has not observed the
admonitions of paragraph (c) 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 paragraph
(a)(4) 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.
1970 INTERPRETIVE COMMENTS
Following extensive discussions on the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic
Freedom and Tenure with leading educational associations and with individual faculty
members and administrators, a joint committee of the AAUP and the Association of American
Colleges met during 1969 to reevaluate this key policy statement. On the basis of the
comments received, and the discussions that ensued, the joint committee felt the preferable
approach was to formulate interpretations of the Statement in terms of the experience
gained in implementing and applying the Statement for over
thirty years and of adapting it to current needs.
The committee submitted to the two associations for their consideration the following
"Interpretive Comments." These interpretations were adopted by the Council of the American
Association of University Professors in April 1970 and endorsed by the Fifty-sixth Annual
Meeting as Association policy.
In the thirty years since their promulgation, the principles of the 1940 Statement of
on Academic Freedom and Tenure have undergone a substantial amount of refinement. This
evolved through a variety of processes, including customary acceptance, understandings mutually
arrived at between institutions and professors or 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 numbers refer to the designated portion of the 1940 Statement on which
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 on Professional Ethics, adopted in 1966
as Association policy. (A revision, adopted in 1987, was published in Academe: Bulletin of
the AAUP 73 [July-August 1987]: 49.) Back to Text
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 no relation to their subject. Back to Text
3. Most church-related institutions no longer need or desire the departure from the principle of academic freedom implied in the 1940 Statement, and we do not now endorse such a departure.Back to Text
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 feels that a teacher has not
observed the admonitions of paragraph (c) 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
paragraph (a)(4) 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 (c) of the 1940 Statement should also be interpreted in keeping with the 1964
"Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances" (AAUP Bulletin 51 : 29),
which states inter alia: "The controlling principle is that a faculty member's expression of
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.Back to Text
5. The concept of "rank of full-time instructor or a higher rank" is intended to include any person who teaches a full-time load regardless of the teacher's specific title. (For a discussion of this question, see the "Report of the Special Committee on Academic Personnel Ineligible for Tenure," AAUP Bulletin 52 : 280-82.) Back to Text
6. In calling for an agreement "in writing" on the amount of credit for a faculty member's prior service at other institutions, the 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. (For a more detailed statement on this question, see "On Crediting Prior Service
Elsewhere as Part of the Probationary Period," AAUP Bulletin64 : 274-75.)Back to Text
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 Nonreappointment, endorsed by the Fiftieth
Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors (1964). These standards are:
Notice of nonreappointment, or of intention not to recommend reappointment to the
governing board, should be given in writing in accordance with the following standards:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.Back to Text
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.Back to Text
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
he proceedings 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.Back to Text
For more information:
of University Professors
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