Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2015

Publication Citation

91 Indiana Law Journal 39 (2015)


Universities are extremely reluctant to dismiss tenured professors for incompetence. This reluctance compromises the convincing and broadly accepted justification for the protection of academic freedom through tenure set forth in the 1915 Declaration of Principles of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). After asserting that society benefits from the academic freedom of professors to express their professional views without fear of dismissal, the 1915 Declaration maintained that the grant of permanent tenure following a probationary period of employment protects academic freedom. Yet the 1915 Declaration also stressed that academic freedom does not extend to expression that fails to meet professional standards. Nor, it added, does permanent tenure prevent dismissal for cause, which could include “professional incompetency” as well as misconduct. It reasoned that only fellow faculty members have the expertise to determine departures from professional standards. It, therefore, insisted that a professor is entitled to a hearing by a committee of faculty peers before being dismissed and that professors have an “obligation” to serve on these committees.