«APPENDIX I 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure Prefatory Note At the December 1913 meetings of the American ...»
1915 Declaration of Principles on
Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure
At the December 1913 meetings of the American Economic Association, the American Political
Science Association, and the American Sociological Society, a joint committee of nine faculty
members was constituted to consider and report on the questions of academic freedom and
academic tenure, so far as these affect university positions in these fields of study. At the December 1914 meeting of these three associations a preliminary report on the subject was presented by the joint committee.
At the meeting of the American Association of University Professors in January 1915, it was decided to take up the problem of academic freedom in general, and the president of the Association was authorized to appoint a committee of fifteen which should include, so far as the members were eligible, this joint committee of nine. The committee was therefore constituted
Edwin R. A. Seligman, Chairman, Columbia University (Economics) Richard T. Ely, University of Wisconsin (Economics) Frank A. Fetter, Princeton University (Economics) James P. Lichtenberger, University of Pennsylvania (Sociology) Roscoe Pound, Harvard University (Law) Ulysses G. Weatherly, Indiana University (Sociology) J. Q. Dealey, Brown University (Political Science) Henry W. Farnam, Yale University (Political Science) Charles E. Bennett, Cornell University (Latin) Edward C. Elliott, University of Wisconsin (Education) Guy Stanton Ford, University of Minnesota (History) Charles Atwood Kofoid, University of California (Zoology) Arthur O. Lovejoy, Johns Hopkins University (Philosophy) Frederick W. Padelford, University of Washington (English) Howard C. Warren, Princeton University (Psychology) In view of the necessity of investigating an incident at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Lichtenberger resigned in August 1915, and was replaced by Professor Franklin H. Giddings, Columbia University (Sociology). Professor Elliott, having been elected chancellor of the University of Montana, resigned in October. Professor Ford resigned in December, on account of inability to attend the meetings of the committee.
The committee of fifteen had scarcely been constituted when a number of cases of alleged infringement of academic freedom were brought to its attention. These cases were not only numerous, but also diverse in character, ranging from dismissals of individual professors to dismissal or resignation of groups of professors, and including also the dismissal of a university president, and the complaint of another university president against his board of trustees. The total number of complaints laid before the chairman of the committee during the year was eleven. As it was impossible for the committee to command the time or the amount of voluntary service necessary for dealing with all of these cases, those which seemed the most important were selected, and for each of these a subcommittee of inquiry was constituted. In the case of the University of Utah the special committee began work in April and published its report during the summer. In the case of controversies at the University of Colorado, the University of Montana, the University of Pennsylvania, and Wesleyan University, the committees of inquiry have their reports either completed or in an advanced stage of preparation. The general committee has had several meetings and has advised the committees of inquiry upon questions of principle and of method and procedure; but it has not, as a body, participated in the investigations of facts, and the committees of inquiry alone are responsible for their respective findings of fact. The general committee has, however, examined these special reports, and, accepting the findings of the subcommittees upon questions of fact, has approved their conclusions.
Three cases for which the committee was unable to secure investigating committees of this Association have been reported, after some preliminary inquiries, to the appropriate specialist societies; one case, arising at Dartmouth College, to the American Philosophical Association;
one at Tulane University, to the American Physiological Society; and one at the University of Oklahoma, to the American Chemical Society.
The committee of fifteen has conceived it to be its duty to consider the problem of academic freedom as a whole and to present a report thereon. Such a report is herewith submitted.1 The findings of special committees which have not already been printed will be presented in due course.
The safeguarding of a proper measure of academic freedom in American universities requires both a clear understanding of the principles which bear upon the matter, and the adoption by the universities of such arrangements and regulations as may effectually prevent any infringement of that freedom and deprive of plausibility all charges of such infringement. This report is therefore divided into two parts, the first constituting a general declaration of principles relating to academic freedom, the second presenting a group of practical proposals, the adoption of which is deemed necessary in order to place the rules and procedure of the American universities, in relation to these matters, upon a satisfactory footing.
General Declaration of Principles The term “academic freedom” has traditionally had two applications—to the freedom of the teacher and to that of the student, Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit. It need scarcely be pointed out that the freedom which is the subject of this report is that of the teacher. Academic freedom in this sense comprises three elements: freedom of inquiry and research; freedom of teaching within the university or college; and freedom of extramural utterance and action. The first of these is almost everywhere so safeguarded that the dangers of its infringement are slight. It may therefore be disregarded in this report. The second and third phases of academic freedom are closely related, and are often not distinguished. The third, however, has an importance of its own, since of late it has perhaps more frequently been the occasion of difficulties and controversies than has the question of freedom of intra-academic teaching. All five of the cases which have recently been investigated by committees of this Association have involved, at least as one factor, the right of university teachers to express their opinions freely outside the university or to engage in political activities in their capacity as citizens. The general principles which have to do with freedom of teaching in both these senses seem to the committee to be in great part, though not wholly, the same. In this report, therefore, we shall consider the matter primarily with reference to freedom of teaching within the university, and shall assume that what is said thereon is also applicable to the freedom of speech of university teachers outside their institutions, subject to certain qualifications and supplementary considerations which will be pointed out in the course of the report.
An adequate discussion of academic freedom must necessarily consider three matters:
(1) the scope and basis of the power exercised by those bodies having ultimate legal authority in academic affairs; (2) the nature of the academic calling; and (3) the function of the academic institution or university.
1. Basis of Academic Authority. American institutions of learning are usually controlled by boards of trustees as the ultimate repositories of power. Upon them finally it devolves to determine the measure of academic freedom which is to be realized in the several institutions. It therefore becomes necessary to inquire into the nature of the trust reposed in these boards, and to ascertain to whom the trustees are to be considered accountable.
The simplest case is that of a proprietary school or college designed for the propagation of specific doctrines prescribed by those who have furnished its endowment. It is evident that in such cases the trustees are bound by the deed of gift, and, whatever be their own views, are obligated to carry out the terms of the trust. If a church or religious denomination establishes a college to be governed by a board of trustees, with the express understanding that the college will be used as an instrument of propaganda in the interests of the religious faith professed by the church or denomination creating it, the trustees have a right to demand that everything be subordinated to that end. If, again, as has happened in this country, a wealthy manufacturer establishes a special school in a university in order to teach, among other things, the advantages of a protective tariff, or if, as is also the case, an institution has been endowed for the purpose of propagating the doctrines of socialism, the situation is analogous. All of these are essentially proprietary institutions, in the moral sense. They do not, at least as regards one particular subject, accept the principles of freedom of inquiry, of opinion, and of teaching; and their purpose is not to advance knowledge by the unrestricted research and unfettered discussion of impartial investigators, but rather to subsidize the promotion of opinions held by the persons, usually not of the scholar’s calling, who provide the funds for their maintenance. Concerning the desirability of the existence of such institutions, the committee does not wish to express any opinion. But it is manifestly important that they should not be permitted to sail under false colors. Genuine boldness and thoroughness of inquiry, and freedom of speech, are scarcely reconcilable with the prescribed inculcation of a particular opinion upon a controverted question.
Such institutions are rare, however, and are becoming ever more rare. We still have, indeed, colleges under denominational auspices; but very few of them impose upon their trustees responsibility for the spread of specific doctrines. They are more and more coming to occupy, with respect to the freedom enjoyed by the members of their teaching bodies, the position of untrammeled institutions of learning, and are differentiated only by the natural influence of their respective historic antecedents and traditions.
Leaving aside, then, the small number of institutions of the proprietary type, what is the nature of the trust reposed in the governing boards of the ordinary institutions of learning? Can colleges and universities that are not strictly bound by their founders to a propagandist duty ever be included in the class of institutions that we have just described as being in a moral sense proprietary? The answer is clear. If the former class of institutions constitutes a private or proprietary trust, the latter constitutes a public trust. The trustees are trustees for the public. In the case of our state universities this is self-evident.
In the case of most of our privately endowed institutions, the situation is really not different. They cannot be permitted to assume the proprietary attitude and privilege, if they are appealing to the general public for support. Trustees of such universities or colleges have no moral right to bind the reason or the conscience of any professor. All claim to such right is waived by the appeal to the general public for contributions and for moral support in the maintenance, not of a propaganda, but of a non-partisan institution of learning. It follows that any university which lays restrictions upon the intellectual freedom of its professors proclaims itself a proprietary institution, and should be so described whenever it makes a general appeal for funds; and the public should be advised that the institution has no claim whatever to general support or regard.
This elementary distinction between a private and a public trust is not yet so universally accepted as it should be in our American institutions. While in many universities and colleges the situation has come to be entirely satisfactory, there are others in which the relation of trustees to professors is apparently still conceived to be analogous to that of a private employer to his employees; in which, therefore, trustees are not regarded as debarred by any moral restrictions, beyond their own sense of expediency, from imposing their personal opinions upon the teaching of the institution, or even from employing the power of dismissal to gratify their private antipathies or resentments. An eminent
university president thus described the situation not many years since:
In the institutions of higher education the board of trustees is the body on whose discretion, good feeling, and experience the securing of academic freedom now depends. There are boards which leave nothing to be desired in these respects; but there are also numerous bodies that have everything to learn with regard to academic freedom. These barbarous boards exercise an arbitrary power of dismissal.
They exclude from the teachings of the university unpopular or dangerous subjects. In some states they even treat professors’ positions as common political spoils; and all too frequently, in both state and endowed institutions, they fail to treat the members of the teaching staff with that high consideration to which their functions entitle them.2 It is, then, a prerequisite to a realization of the proper measure of academic freedom in American institutions of learning, that all boards of trustees should understand—as many already do—the full implications of the distinction between private proprietorship and a public trust.
2. The Nature of the Academic Calling. The above-mentioned conception of a university as an ordinary business venture, and of academic teaching as a purely private employment, manifests also a radical failure to apprehend the nature of the social function discharged by the professional scholar. While we should be reluctant to believe that any large number of educated persons suffer from such a misapprehension, it seems desirable at this time to restate clearly the chief reasons, lying in the nature of the university teaching profession, why it is in the public interest that the professorial office should be one both of dignity and of independence.