Chapter History

AAUP at the University of Washington since 1918

The American Association of University Professors was launched in January 1915 in response to the clear need for a nationwide organization that could represent all faculty, not just those of a particular discipline. From the outset its purpose was to establish a framework that would guarantee academic freedom. From that initial meeting came the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure which explained the necessity of a system of tenure to guarantee freedom of inquiry and expression in academic life. Among the scholars who drafted that document was  Frederick  M. Padelford, Professor of English at the University of Washington. Three years later, in 1918, Padelford and others formed the University of Washington chapter of AAUP.

In the years that followed, AAUP would help to build the University of Washington. Here are some highlights of that eighty-four year history and links to more detailed discussions of some issues.

In the 1920s AAUP played a critical role in developing UW’s reputation while promoting the 1915 statement of principles, arguing for tenure and for a faculty role in the governance of the university.

1930s: Creation of the Faculty Senate

In the 1930s AAUP convinced the administration to create a Faculty Senate,  a faculty code, and a system of tenure. Fragile at first, these institutions survived and matured as a result of subsequent struggles and active faculty vigilance.

1940s and 1950s: The Red Scare

During the Red Scare years after World War II, UW-AAUP followed a contradictory path. In 1948 the legislature launched an investigation to identify Communists and former Communists on the UW faculty. President Raymond Allen then moved to fire six professors, all of them tenured members of the faculty. AAUP waffled,  defending the principles of academic freedom and tenure but failing to stand resolutely behind the six faculty members. Three were fired. At its national convention the next year AAUP took up the issue, but six years elapsed without a report. Finally in 1956 the national body declared that the University of Washington should have been censured for its 1949 abrogation of due process, academic freedom, and tenure. More on the Cold War in Washington State.

1960s: Correcting the abuses of the the Red Scare

For the next ten years  AAUP  campaigned to correct the abuses of the Cold War clampdown on free speech. Working with the American Civil Liberties Union, AAUP challenged the loyalty oaths that were required of all university employees and contested campus bans on political speech and controversial speakers. In an historic case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964, the AAUP-ACLU legal team prevailed, ending thirty years of required loyalty oaths.

1970s and 1980s: Seeking collective bargaining rights for faculty

In the early 1970s, AAUP worked with the Faculty Senate in seeking collective bargaining rights for faculty. At a time when other public employees were gaining the right of representation and collective bargaining, the legislature had declined to cover employees of the 4-year institutions of higher education.  Larry Wilets was UW-AAUP president during the early 1970s. He fills in the story of UW COLLECTIVE BARGAINING IN THE 1970’S: CLOSE–BUT NO CIGAR.

Collective bargaining rights remained a chapter priority throughout the 1980s and 1990s, which saw several more near misses at the hands of the state legislature. Some improvements in the faculty code were realized during those decades, but the principle of shared governance suffered during the presidency of William Gerberding.

1990s: Preventing the dismantling of tenure at UW

As the 20th century drew to a close, the University of Washington was changing rapidly. The faculty was becoming more diverse, and AAUP made it a priority to support affirmative action and to redress salary and promotion imbalances. Ominously, tenure was also under assault. AAUP helped derail a plan to impose a tenure-dismantling form of post-tenure review. When the governor’s 2020 Commission on the Future of Higher Education began to spin expensive Distance Learning pipe-dreams, the more than 900 signatures on AAUP’s Open Letter to Governor Locke and the 2020 Commission helped bring the planners back to earth.

2000s: A victory in the fight for collective bargaining rights

In 2002, the long-sought goal of achieving collective bargaining rights was realized. The UW chapter played an important role in the campaign both on campus and in Olympia. Governor Locke signed the historic legislation on April 4, 2002.

2010s: Fighting austerity

Future challenges

The future presents many challenges. The system of tenure at UW is dying the slow death of a thousand little cuts. Nearly half of all faculty are denied the protections of tenure eligibility and each year more and more faculty positions are taken out of the tenure track. The concept of public education is withering apace, as the legislature reduces its share of the university budget. While faculty salaries fall further and further behind and while corporate sponsorship and other forms of private funding replace the public interest, the only thing clear is that faculty more than ever need to be vigilant and organized.

For more on the chapter’s history read Nassir Isaf’s essay “AAUP at UW: Old Challenges and New Challenges” (written for HSTAA 450, Spring 2002).


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Working for the faculty at the University of Washington