Chapter History

A Brief History of AAUP at Mount Holyoke

Daniel Czitrom

September 2009

The American Association of University Professors was founded in 1915, and the Mount Holyoke chapter formed in 1916 with the object of “cooperation with the Administration in advancement of the standard and ideals of teaching and research” at the College. The rich archives of AAUP at Mount Holyoke make clear that the chapter has played a central role in College life for nearly a century. From its beginning, AAUP has been most engaged with three broad concerns: governance of the College, the defense and promotion of academic freedom here and around the nation, and improving the material conditions of the faculty.

Here are a few highlights:


  • AAUP worked toward establishing a pension for retiring faculty. (This was the moment when the Carnegie Foundation midwifed what would eventually become TIAA-CREF)

  • AAUP called for faculty consultation on appointments and dismissals. (Previously, this was done solely by the President and Deans).

  • AAUP also insisted upon (and won) the right of faculty to be consulted in the granting of honorary degrees.


  • In a 1924 letter to President Mary E. Wooley, the chapter noted that “Mount Holyoke is the only woman’s college of equal rank that does not offer definite financial assistance to her faculty toward the expenses of sabbatical years.” AAUP’s research and agitation on this issue changed College policy.

  • In 1925 AAUP successfully pushed for creation of a faculty conference committee, to communicate faculty concerns to the Board of Trustees.

  • In 1929 the chapter joined a national a campaign opposing the censorship of foreign literature by Customs officials.

  • Throughout the interwar years, the chapter averaged 60-70 national members, or more than half of the roughly 110 total faculty. Membership included some of the best known faculty of the day, such as Ada Comstock, Emma Carr, Amy Hewes, Ada Snell, J.M. Warbeke, Viola Barnes, Valentine Giamatti, and Jeannette Marks, among others.


  • In 1935 the chapter joined a campaign to oppose Teacher Loyalty Oaths in Massachusetts, which singled out teachers for a special oath of allegiance as a condition of employment.

  • Chapter offered regular and detailed analysis of the College budget, and ideas on how to struggle through the Great Depression.


  • From 1951-53, the chapter regularly protested violations of academic freedom endured by colleagues at U. of Oklahoma, U. of Washington, and other campuses during the height of McCarthyism.

  • In 1957, the chapter issued a “Statement on Faculty Salaries,” directed to the President and the Trustees, offering a deeply researched analysis of the “current salary crisis.” At the time, the mean salary for the MHC faculty was $5,700. The report concluded: “We urge the adoption of a policy which makes the hiring and retention of professional personnel the initial claim on the financial resources of the College.”

  • In 1959 the chapter voiced opposition to Loyalty Oath requirements imposed on recipients of National Defense Education Act (NDEA) grants.


  • Perhaps the height of AAUP strength, with 85-90 national members and 8 standing AAUP committees researching and suggesting policy changes on salaries and benefits, retirement policy, faculty work load, faculty participation in administration, the growth of the College, and graduate work.

  • Dec. 13, 1962: Chapter sent a letter of support to AAUP colleagues at University of Mississippi congratulating them, “on the courageous position they have taken in regard to the integration of the Mississippi campus, offering them our continued moral support, and asking them if there are more tangible ways in which we can make that support effective.”


  • Chapter revived, reaching 120 national members. AAUP had real success on a number of fronts, including improving faculty salaries; identifying and addressing gender inequities in salary and rank; increasing money available for faculty research; creation of a professional child care center; and a successful campaign for a more transparent and open budget process at the College.

  • 1989: Chapter received the Beatrice G. Konheim Award from National AAUP, given for

“outstanding achievement in advancing the Association’s objectives in academic freedom, student rights and freedoms, the status of academic women, the elimination of discrimination against minorities, or the establishment of equal opportunity for members of college and university faculties.”