Board of Directors Statement of Support for Joint Statement by Scholarly Associations on Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities shares both the principled commitments and the grave concerns expressed by nearly two dozen scholarly associations in a recent statement on academic freedom and tenure issued on June 11, 2015.  Their statement was prompted by legislative proposals in Wisconsin that would modify substantially that state’s approach to issues of tenure, shared governance, and academic freedom throughout the University of Wisconsin public system of higher education.

While the scholars’ expression of concern engages specific developments in one state, the issues addressed are relevant and important to the entirety of higher education.

Academic freedom is the bedrock foundation of rigorous scholarship and of students’ development of evidence-based reasoning, a critical goal of liberal education.  As the Association of American Colleges (AAC&U’s name prior to 1995), AAC&U helped shape several of the core documents that have supported both tenure and academic freedom in the American academy.  Throughout its history and today, AAC&U remains committed to the principles that support these practices and to the vision of shared governance among trustees, administrators, and faculty. 

We encourage all our members to proactively discuss with their trustees and campus leaders both the recent statement from the scholarly associations and the AAC&U Board of Directors’ own earlier statement on “Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility” issued in 2006.   

We hope, of course, that the Wisconsin state legislature and leadership of the University of Wisconsin system will fully reaffirm and provide protections for their historic commitments to academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance.  But whatever happens in Wisconsin, these principles must remain central to higher education’s thinking and planning for continued improvement of student learning, sustained faculty vitality, and the ongoing connections between the capacities developed through liberal education and the quality and strength of our democracy.