February 29, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

History of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

3 min read
Yellow Terror

Yellow Terror / Racist Anti Asian-American

Professor Edward Ross
Professor Edward Ross

Who would have thought the actions of Jane Stanford, widower and Stanford board of trustee member,  would spark an educational revolution? When Professor Edward Alsworth Ross raised issues insulting the Stanford name, in his classroom, an immediate stop was put not only to the lessons, but to his employment. Stanford University President David Starr Jordan, upon the request from Ms. Stanford, fired Edward Ross “for radicalism and racism.” [1] He was known for his “affinity for free speaking” and expressing his hostility towards other races. He was an early supporter of the “Race Suicide” doctrine and used crude language in public speeches. [2]

It was 1900, racism was still popular; America was founded on racism towards Native Americans and then built on the backs of African-American slaves.  So what is the issue? Why fire a professor over racism? If you aren’t familiar with Stanford’s location, it is in California. This is important because of the large population of Asian-Americans that had immigrated here. Chinese immigrants were imported as cheap labor to help mine during the Gold Rush. In 1849, there were only fifty-four (54) Chinamen. By 1876, there were one-hundred and sixteen thousand (116,000). [3] As the Gold Rush started to slow, the Asian-Americans became key to the successful construction of railways. Railroad construction companies such as Southern Pacific, which was part of the “First Transcontinental Railroad”, prospered because of the cheap labor of these immigrants. Professor Ross had a hatred, not only for these immigrants, but for the economics behind the cheap Chinese immigrant labor.

Yellow Terror
Yellow Terror / Racist Anti Asian-American

I still have yet to address the issue with his “racism.” While he was racist towards Chinese immigrants (as I am sure most of the board of trustees at Stanford were), the problem with Ross is that he attacked the railroads. He used remarks such as “A railroad deal is a railroad steal.” As Jane Stanford’s husband was a railway tycoon and built his railroad empire, Southern Pacific, on the backs of Chinese immigrant laborers, this was unacceptable. Edward Ross was fired and in protest, several professors at Stanford resigned. As professors across the country feared their loss of “freedom of expression” and losing “control of universities by private interest”, they created the American Association of University Professors. [4]

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was founded in 1915 by Arthur Lovejoy and John Dewey. The main objective of this organization is to promote and protect “academic freedom.” In fact, there motto is “Academic freedom for a free society.” In 1925, the AAUP published their Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. This was a two-part document that covered academic freedoms and tenure. The academic freedom portion was made up of three (3) principles:

  1. full freedom in research and in publication of the results
  2. freedom in the classroom
  3. free from institutional censorship

The tenure portion consisted of five (5) principles:

  1. terms and conditions of every appointment should be stated in writing
  2. appointment to the rank of full-time instructor or a higher rank, the probationary period should not exceed seven years
  3. During the probationary period a teacher should have the academic freedom that all other members of the faculty have
  4. the expiration of a term appointment, should, if possible, be considered by both a faculty committee and the governing board of the institution
  5. Termination of a continuous appointment because of financial exigency should be demonstrably bona fide
AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure
AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Almost one-hundred-years-old, the AAUP still actively attempts to deter the thumb of oppression which curbs teachers’ teaching materials and their research and writing. Even today the AAUP receives thousands of requests each year asking for guidance regarding “threatening professional attacks.” [5]

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31302

[2] http://www.asanet.org/about/presidents/Edward_Ross.cfm

[3] Norton, Henry K. The Story of California From the Earliest Days to the Present. (1924)

[4] http://www2.asanet.org/governance/Ross.html

[5] http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/about/history/