James McKeen Cattell



One of the less-frequently mentioned founders of the AAUP is Columbia University psychologist James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944). Cattell was perhaps the most prominent academic gadfly of his time. He publicly called for the creation of the Association in 1912 and helped organize its founding, but never played a role in its leadership.

As editor of Science and several other academic journals, Cattell regularly commented on higher education in his publications and authored  a series of articles outlining his views on reforming academic governance, which he subsequently published as the book University Control in 1913. A fierce critic of Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler and the office of the university president in American higher education in general, Cattell exclaimed “In the academic jungle the president is my black beast.” His detailed proposals on reforming the university included the election of the president by the faculty and of the governing board by the faculty, the other officers of the university, and the alumni. Continue reading

The Hopkins Call

The first call for a meeting to discuss the founding of the AAUP was organized by Arthur O. Lovejoy at Johns Hopkins University in the spring of 1913. It was signed by “most of the full professors” at the institution and sent to the faculties of nine other universities. While several historical documents were published in the March, 1916, Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, the Hopkins Call was not (although an excerpt was published in Science in 1913).

The following is a transcript that I made from one copy of the call. I found this copy in the microfilm version of the Roscoe Pound Papers. It was sent by Lovejoy to Pound, who was perhaps the most highly regarded legal scholar of his time, to ask him to represent Harvard at the organizational meeting.

The date listed in the letter below did not turn out not to be the date of the first organizational meeting. Instead, it was held to coincide with a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences in Baltimore in November 1913. The letter contains two blanks in which to insert who to reply to and by when. They were left blank in the version sent to Pound because that information was contained in a cover letter by Lovejoy who also included  similar letters from the faculties at Columbia and Cornell. The Call includes a list of names of those faculty at Hopkins who signed the letter (not included here). Continue reading

The Location of the AAUP’s Founding

Several reports of the AAUP’s founding mention that it took place in the Chemists’ Club in New York.

While there is a website by the current Chemists’ Club, it moved its location and sold the building in which the founding took place.

I was able to locate information about the original location of the Chemists’ Club, which is 50-52 East 41st Street, down the street from both Penn Station and the New York Public Library. It turns out to be a hotel now, and when I conducted research on the AAUP’s history in the Columbia University Archives over Spring Break, we stayed there.

It’s worth a visit, particularly the restaurant, which is the only room large enough to have held that many people. The minutes of the meeting thank the Chemists’ Club and also “the Women’s University Club for hospitalities to women members of the profession in attendance at the meeting.”

Given how very male-dominated the profession was in 1915, it would be interesting to determine how many female professors were in attendance. There were around 250 attendees total, and several invitees who didn’t attend joined those present as charter members. The Association published a list of charter members who were invited to attend the organizational meeting and who joined during the first few months of 1915.

The Nature of Faculty Representation – Against Confidentiality

This week, the AAUP’s Committee on College and University Governance released a draft statement, entitled “Confidentiality and Faculty Representation in Academic Governance”, which in part originated with the following presentation that I have given at several state conference meetings over the past year.

A couple of years ago, I served as chair of a committee that advocates for faculty and staff on issues related to health insurance on my campus: the Health Care Advocacy Committee. For several years, the primary issue that this committee dealt with was retiree health insurance and its effect on the university’s balance sheet because of accounting rules categorizing the benefit as an “unfunded liability.” The committee was provided with actuarial analyses, including some different scenarios for making changes to this benefit. These analyses, which contained no information about individual faculty or staff members, were provided to the committee under the condition of confidentiality. The main reason that was cited by the administration for requiring confidentiality was that, because the proposals were still in a preliminary stage of consideration, sharing them across campus could lead to faculty or staff being “overly concerned” regarding the details of a proposal that was, perhaps, not even going to be seriously considered. Because of significant pressure by the board of trustees, the plan subsequently adopted by the university completely disregarded the views expressed by members of the committee. At a subsequent faculty meeting, a faculty member asked the president of the university whether an open forum scheduled on the topic of retiree health insurance was going to provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to comment on the proposed changes. The president replied that he had already “consulted” with the relevant committees, so the purpose of the open forums was simply to inform. I distinctly remember my colleague protesting that it was illegitimate to claim that there had been faculty consultation, given that the information provided to the committee had been provided under the condition of confidentiality, thus preventing the faculty representatives to the committee from consulting with their constituents.

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