Celebrating at Long Last An AAUP Centennial: Its Constitution!

BY PETER N. KIRSTEIN

“Yes Virginia, there is a constitution”: an AAUP constitution. While inexplicably not included in the “centennial” edition of the Redbook, (American Association of University Professors Policy Documents and Reports, 2015, Eleventh Edition) there is indeed an AAUP constitution. It does appear along with an excellent preambular historical statement on pp. 283-90 in the tenth edition and in earlier editions as well.

However, the tenth edition of the Redbook contains an earlier version of the constitution. The constitution was amended extensively with significant additions and deletions in 2013. This was not merely stylistic emendation such as inclusive language but substantive changes that reflected the structural trifurcation of the Association. Article X, for example, added the Foundation to the preexisting AAUP and Collective Bargaining Congress (CBC). The constitution was even renamed the “American Association of University Professors Constitution.” It had been “Constitution of the Association” which seemed accurate enough since the constitution declares two separate but equal titles of the organisation: either AAUP or the Association.

In fact, Virginia, we are celebrating, or at least I am, the centennial of this formative document in the 101-year history of the AAUP. The constitution was adopted in 1916 following the AAUP’s inception in 1915. It is somewhat unusual that the establishment of an organisation precedes its written constitution, much less by a full year. Constitutions normally are the genesis, the founding document that creates structures, powers and other rudiments of governance.

While the AAUP constitution, here is somewhat formulaic, I find that its statement of purpose remains relevant, powerful and worthy of a centennial tip of the hat:

ARTICLE I – PURPOSE

The name of this Association shall be the American Association of University Professors (“AAUP” or “Association”). Its purpose shall be to facilitate a more effective cooperation among teachers and research scholars in universities and colleges, and in professional schools of similar grade, for the promotion of the interests of higher education and research, and in general to increase the usefulness and advance the standards, ideals, and welfare of the profession.

It is brief, but powerful. It recognises teaching and research are inextricably related. Its referencing professional schools adds to its inclusiveness. I like the non-specific sequence of “standards, ideals, and welfare.” Indeed, let history evolve and later generations define and reimagine what they mean. Remember this was written in 1916 during World War I when women, African-Americans, openly gay or lesbian faculty, and pacifist faculty need not apply!

So Happy Birthday AAUP Constitution! It’s your birthday and I shall celebrate it during the otherwise martial 4th of July.

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