Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is the indispensable quality of institutions of higher education. As the AAUP's core policy statement argues, "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).

Through its Academic Freedom Fund, the AAUP Foundation supports projects that safeguard academic freedom to encourage free inquiry, promote the expansion of knowledge, and create an environment in which learning and research can flourish, thereby enhancing the quality of higher education and benefiting society. 

Recent Academic Freedom Grants

  • Assisted with chapter legal expenses in response to political interference. The University of Pennsylvania AAUP chapter enlisted the services of an attorney to protect the chapter from legal jeopardy as the university was being investigated by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce. (2024)
  • Funds production costs for the AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom. The open-access Journal is published annually in an electronic format and is the only academic journal that focuses exclusively on the global analysis of academic freedom and related issues. (2023; 2021–2022; 2020–2021; 2018–20; 2014–18)
  • Provided funding for outreach and networking to oppose educational gag orders. Historians for Peace and Democracy, as part of the Historians-on-Call network will hire a part-time organizer to connect K–12 teachers, parents, and community activists to history faculty members with relevant expertise to counteract legislative threats to academic freedom. (2023–24)
  • Covered travel costs for workshop facilitator at the Louisiana state conference annual meeting. Bethany Letiecq of George Mason University led a workshop focusing on proposed state legislation that would impose educational gag laws and undermine tenure, with participants producing and circulating a resolution that attracted statewide media attention. (2023)
  • Supported research project on targeted harassment of faculty. AAUP member Isaac Kamola of Trinity College will oversee and conduct ongoing research and monitoring for his Faculty First Responders project with the assistance of a program coordinator. (2022–23)
  • Funded expenses for a chapter-organized forum on academic freedom. The AAUP Oklahoma City University Advocacy Chapter organized a one-day university-wide forum, "What is Academic Freedom?," featuring invited speakers and open to faculty members, university administrators, and graduate and undergraduate students. (2022)
  • Provided major funding for special report on the University of North Carolina system. A special committee of the AAUP will prepare a report on a pattern of egregious violations of principles of academic governance and persistent structural racism in the University of North Carolina System. (2021–22)
  • Provided major funding for omnibus governance investigation. Launched in fall 2020 and extending through June 2021, the AAUP's investigation of the crisis in academic governance that has occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will focus on eight institutions: Canisius College (NY), Illinois Wesleyan University, Keuka College (NY), Marian University (WI), Medaille College (NY), National University (CA), University of Akron (OH), and Wittenberg University (OH). Support for the investigation is also provided by the Contingent Faculty Fund and the Glick, Rappaport, Tristman Memorial Fund. (2020–21)
  • Covered costs for editing and publication of Academe magazine materials addressing academic freedom. (2020; 2019)
  • Supports costs of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure investigations, meetings, and reports. The AAUP conducted investigations of Nunez Community College in 2018–19 and University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2018. Investigations in 2017 included Community College of Aurora (Colorado) and Spalding University (Kentucky). Investigations in 2016 included the College of Saint Rose (New York), the University of Missouri (Columbia), and the Community College of Aurora (Colorado). Investigations in 2015 included Felician College (New Jersey), the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2121; 2020; 2019; 2016–18; 2015)
  • Funded publication and distribution of portions of the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors addressing academic freedom. The annual Bulletin includes the previous year’s academic freedom and tenure investigative reports, reports of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and committee reports on topics related to academic freedom. (2016–18)
  • Provided funding for an academic freedom conference for community college faculty. A grant awarded to the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges Education Institute  supported the organization of a 2020 conference in Southern California to provide faculty with a deeper understanding of academic freedom and of their rights. (2019)
  • Covered travel expenses for a conference presentation on academic freedom issues in the US, Russia, and Hungary. Funds supported a November 2019 presentation by Dmitry Dubrovsky of the Center for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Annual Conference in San Francisco. (2019) 
  • Provided funding for workshops on defending academic freedom and tenure on AAUP chapter campuses. Workshop presenters include senior professional staff of the AAUP's Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance and members of the Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. (2020; 2019)
  • Provided funding for presentations and meetings hosted by Louisiana AAUP chapters. Funds supported the state conference's ability to bring Christopher Newfield of the University of California, Santa Barbara, to present "Undoing the Great Mistake: How to Get Public Universities Back on Track" at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette, Louisiana State University–Baton Rouge, and Southern University–Baton Rouge and to meet with chapter and conference leaders. (2018)
  • Supported costs related to AAUP Committee on College and University Governance investigations and reports. 2018–19 investigations include Maricopa Community College (Arizona) and Vermont Law School. (2018–19)
  • Provided financial assistance grant. A grant was awarded to Saihan Borghjid for financial assistance to the faculty, or to that portion of the faculty which indicates an awareness of the threat and takes steps to meet it, at an institution where a significant threat to academic freedom arises. (2020)
  • Provided temporary financial aid for dismissed faculty members. Nunez Community College terminated the services of professor Richard Schmitt in apparent violation of his academic freedom and without affordance of the protections of academic due process to which he was entitled as the result of having obtained de facto tenure. (2019) St. Edwards University dismissed two long-serving, tenured associate professors, Shannan Butler and Corinne Weisberger, without affording them due process for allegations of "unprofessional" conduct. (2018)
  • Supported expansion of Student Advocacy Programs to provide training related to academic freedom and free expression. Funds enable participation in Scholars at Risk's Student Advocacy Seminars and Student Advocacy Day. (2018)
  • Supported costs of bringing keynote speaker to Ohio state AAUP conference's annual meeting. Funds helped the Ohio conference to host keynote speaker Christopher Newfield of the University of California, Santa Barbara, presenting "Undoing the Great Mistake: How to Get Public Universities Back on Track." (2018)
  • Covered costs for selected Summer Institute presenters on AAUP policies and principles of shared governance. Funds supported travel to the University of New Hampshire and accommodation costs for presenters of workshops specifically focused on shared governance. (2018)
  • Supported legal costs for faculty member penalized for controversy surrounding a social-media posting. Trinity College suspended Johnny Williams after an online targeted-harassment campaign called attention to and misrepresented comments he made on Twitter. (2018)
  • Supported an Academic Freedom Week event. The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York received a grant for an April 2018 Academic Freedom Week event sponsored by Columbia University's department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. (2018)
  • Supported an academic freedom conference. The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges Education Institute received a grant for a September 2018 conference. (2018)
  • Provided funds for legal defense and temporary financial assistance to support professor fired for using profanity. The board of the Academic Freedom Fund unanimously approved the request for funds for Teresa Buchanan of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, who is contesting her dismissal after 20 years at LSU. (2018; 2015)
  • Provided replacement income for faculty member summarily dismissed after criticizing curricular changes. The Community College of Aurora dismissed part-time instructor of philosophy Nathanial Bork after he conveyed his intention to send a letter about the Gateway to Success curriculum to the college's accreditor. (2017)
  • Provided year-long funding for the Scholar Transition Project. Supports Scholars at Risk, “an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission it is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom," in providing training for higher education professionals who require assistance due to political upheaval. (2017)
  • Supported the AAUP’s participation in a conference on current threats to academic freedom.  The Institute for Advanced study hosted this two-day multi-organization meeting, which endeavored to build alliances and networks to support higher education in a challenging political climate. (2017)
  • Covered costs related to the commemoration of the 1967 US Supreme Court case Keyishian v. Board of Regents at the 2017 AAUP Annual Conference. Events will include a panel discussion with Harry Keyishian and experts on academic freedom and a plenary luncheon honoring Professor Keyishian for his courage, integrity, and unstinting commitment to academic freedom. (2017)
  • Provided grants to support production of the documentary Agents of Change and outreach to AAUP chapters and conferences seeking to schedule screenings of the film. Agents of Change examines struggles to create black and ethnic studies programs in the 1960s and their legacy for campus activism today. (2016; 2015)

Donate to the Academic Freedom Fund today!