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AAA Reaffirms Commitment to Academic Freedom
The American Anthropological Association has endorsed the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, originally released in 1940, and updated in 1970. At both of these earlier junctures, conflicts in society prompted vigorous debate on and off campus. AAA leadership at the time felt that in this context, it was necessary to affirm that researchers, teachers, and students should be free to challenge prevailing wisdom and accepted “common sense” in the pursuit of knowledge and as advocates in public policy debates.
The AAUP principles, accepted throughout the academy for several decades, remind us that academic freedom is essential for researchers, teachers, and students to advance the purpose of institutions of higher education in service of the common good. In these institutions, tenure provides an important measure of protection for unrestrained teaching, research, and service. This protection helps the academy, and the disciplines it supports, including anthropology, attract and retain qualified persons.
An especially divisive and rancorous period of public discourse is upon us once again, prompting AAA to reaffirm its commitment to the principles of academic freedom and tenure. Since these principles were first articulated eight decades ago, the vocabulary for talking about academic freedom has been elaborated. New legal protections from hate speech and hostile work climates have been instituted, and colleges and universities are newly sensitive to calls for “civility,” “trigger warnings,” and the creation of “safe spaces” on campus. Meanwhile, the digital age affords new forms of and channels for scholarly communication, as well as outright threats of censorship. Colleges and universities have created expectations, and in some cases have mandated that disciplines, including anthropology, clearly state learning outcomes, offer curriculum maps, and enact other forms of accountability that potentially constrain teaching and learning. At the same time, technical innovations are transforming the very notion of the “classroom,” which now encompasses a wide range of sites for teaching and learning.
Academic Freedom: AAA’s Guiding Principles
To promote public understanding and support of academic freedom in colleges and universities, the American Anthropological Association affirms that:
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Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with 10,000 members, is the world’s largest scholarly and professional organization of anthropologists. The Association is dedicated to advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.