The University Senate of Michigan Technological University

(Proposal 17-94)
(Proposal 30-95)

Senate Policy 106.1

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 or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.

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 in freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights. [1]

a. 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.

b. 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 [2]. 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. [3]

c. 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 strive to 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 institution. [4]

This policy statement is drawn from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, with 1970 Interpretive Comments, developed by the American Association of University Professors.

The numerical references in brackets contained within the text connect it to the 1970 interpretive comments. These comments, while not included in the Michigan Technological University Policy Statement on Academic Freedom, are understood to be an essential part of the statement. They provide the primary guidance in understanding the application of the basic statement on Academic Freedom.



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:

  1. That its operation should not be retroactive.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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 Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure have undergone a substantial amount of refinement. This has 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 desginated 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 responsibilties. 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.)
  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.
  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.
  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:

Paragraph (c) of the 1940 Statement should also be interpreted in keeping with the 1964 "Committee A Statement on Extramural Utterances: (AAUP Bulletin 51 [1965]: 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:

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 responsibilties.

Approved by the Senate: 3 May 1995
Senate Approved Provost Recommended Changes: 31 January 1998
Transmitted to Administration: 4 February 1998