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Chapter Building and Action Strategies
6 Principles and 66 Ways To Implement Them
by Debra Nails
I. Stay visible.
- Get a logo. Get a color. Get going.
- Publish a simple newsletter. The national office provides plenty of copy, and templates are available too.
- When the Academe salary issue arrives, find your peer institutions and publish a comparison.
- Redistribute national materials (e.g., if you cannot put the newsletter together in time, put a flyer in every mailbox on campus.
- Develop a “Meet the Chapter” flyer with names, positions, and contact information, and revise it annually.
- Buy a day-sponsorship on your local NPR affiliate.
- Have consistent chapter stationery and revise its list of officers annually.
- Send personalized letters to new members, potential members, lapsed members (templates are available).
- To save on costs, use campus mail and bundling by department, if available.
- Write letters to the editor, citing AAUP policies; and find opportunities to do this in support of administrative initiatives whenever possible.
- Let the press know you’re willing to talk to them and to answer their questions when they call; give local education reporters your contact details, and reply promptly to their queries.
- Set up a great website that faculty will want as a homepage (links to aaup.org, Google, The New York Times, the library, the registrar, the sports news – whatever the faculty on your campus would want the most).
- Put a link to the chapter’s website on your personal homepage.
- Put campus news and information, as well as analysis, on the website, changing it frequently.
- Develop and e-mail list of members, potential members (and anyone who doesn’t ask to be removed); when sending messages, be sure to paste the list in the blind copy line, mailing the information to yourself.
- Set up a monitored chat room or listserve of all members and any faculty who request information.
- Add a line to your voice mail (“If this is an AAUP matter…”; “By the way, the AAUP meets Tuesday at 4:00 in 555 Nickle – and nonmembers are welcome.”)
- Hold receptions to honor retiring faculty, or to welcome new faculty, and invite the provost or president.
- Offer new faculty orientation sessions in October – an opportunity for collaboration with the administration.
- Offer information and feedback sessions for the untenured – they can ask question of AAUP colleagues that they might hesitate to ask in their own departments.
- Attend meetings that allow input from the public (e.g., trustee meetings), and put in a good word – but be sure you’ve done your homework.
- Caucus before important governance meetings to be sure everyone see the implications of proposals on the agenda; divide the tasks to everyone will feel supported; but don’t expect unanimity. Reasonable, well-meaning people can disagree about goals and their implementation. At the meetings, mention AAUP (“That issue has been raised at AAUP meetings as well … there’s support for … but we need some data on…”).
- Hold well-publicized public meetings or debates on topics attractive to all faculty (comparison of salaries & benefits with peer institutions; administrator evaluation; the athletic program; income-tax deductions for academics; tenure vs. fixed-tem contracts; merit pay vs. salary schedules; “Meet the Media” – inviting the press, radio, TV; “Meet the Candidates” – especially for trustee or state representative for the district; free speech; political correctness; intellectual property; effective lobbying).
- Hold member meetings on topics of interest and to keep the officers in touch with the members (the national AAUP structure and how to use it; what the campus committees do; how governance really works).
- Hold chapter or office meetings to conduct routine business and to plan – have a set day and time, e.g., “first Tuesday” or “lunch on Wednesdays.”
- Meet with administrators about matters of mutual concern, or arrange a regular meeting time.
- Meet with faculty affairs committees when – through AAUP research, consultation, and documentation – members can assist the committee in reaching the right conclusions or doing the right thing.
- The national office is developing templates to make staying visible easier: departmental recruitment letter, letter to new faculty members, letter to lapsed members, letter to part-time faculty members, congratulatory letter to new administrator, thank you letter to nonmember, letter to graduate students, newsletter, stationery, web page design, news release, letter to the editor, invitation to an event (e.g., award-giving, Friday socials in September…), announcement of a meeting (where, when, agenda, contact, etc.), and meet the chapter flyer. (Some are included on the disc; others will be available on the AAUP website.)
- Wear an AAUP badge. Put an AAUP poster on your door. Put an AAUP sticker on your briefcase.
II. Stay alert.
- Study the campus culture and monitor its potential for change.
- Some opportunities are golden: e.g., when the AAUP chapter can make a principled public statement on an issue that affects members and non-members alike (e.g., a legislative initiatives). Nothing makes administrators happier to have the AAUP on campus than an informed alliance against an outside threat.
- Be eyes and ears for your colleagues: let “Where was the AAUP?” never be said.
- Don’t waste faculty time (in meetings, on the phone, in person, or in make-work tasks).
- Double you vigilance for matters affecting the vulnerable: untenured and contingent faculty.
- Get to know your colleagues’ strengths, their potential.
- Look and listen carefully for the signs of a person who might be considering joining.
- Keep a list of potential leaders so that, when nominations are due for campus committees, it will be easy to find out which AAUP members of others would be willing to serve and to nominate them.
- Know which discount programs are most likely to be attractive on your own campus, and watch for changes (a variety of insurance plans, no-fee credit card, CD and money market accounts, discounts on publications).
- Keep special promotional offers to new members on our radar; and renew them as necessary.
- Work out the implications of proposals and rule changes presented to faculty.
- Keep the chapter bylaws in mind (is there provision for a membership director? A membership committee?)
- Choose your battles carefully; principles are important and one cannot always afford to lose.
III. Be informed
- Know the AAUP website http://www.aaup.org, your 24/7 resource.
- Know the Redbook (Policy documents and Reports)
- Know your faculty handbook and what it takes to amend it.
- Ask for help when you need it form the national AAUP.
- Read Academe regularly.
- Know what’s happening in higher education (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education).
- Attend the Summer Institute; and make sure the chapter always sponsors someone to attend.
- Attend shorter training sessions offered in the spring and fall at a variety of locations.
- Attend the national annual meeting in June and the lobbying day that precedes it.
- Remember who we are. The AAUP defends the standards and policies that benefit higher education and thus society (“AAUP writes academic common law” and “AAUP is the conscience of Academe”).
- Use AAUP resource guides to help your campus be its best: Professors on the Hill: A Guide to Lobbying Campaigns; Faculty Handbooks as Enforceable Contracts; Paychecks: A Guide to Conducting Salary-Equity Studies for Higher Education Faculty; Family and Medical Leave Guide; and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act Guide.
IV. Emphasize the positive
- Be future-oriented, setting reasonable goals and working toward reaching them.
- Don’t hold grudges: “I’m sorry we couldn’t agree this time….”
- Thank people for what they do, and especially for what they do well:
- Never miss an opportunity to praise the good work of an administrator.
- Present a prestigious award (a cash award to a student for an essay, an annual award to an administrator, the occasional award to a trustee – and don’t forget to invite the press)
- Award certificates of appreciation to people outside who help the institution – journalists, librarians, arts councils – and present the award at meetings of the recipients’ organizations (for better publicity).
- Welcome new trustees with congratulatory letters, and give them copies of the Redbook.
- Work hard to develop good relations with administrators and their staffs.
- When you need help from a colleague, make it clear why you are asking: “Because of your success at x, we hope you will be willing to do y for the chapter” (serve on a committee, be the webmaster, review the budget, head a lobbying effort, scan the Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Education).
V. Get a little help from your friends
- Your first task is to reproduce yourself; delegate, mobilize others (it may be easier to do the task yourself, but you won’t be building the chapter). Play to colleagues’ strengths, e.g., someone from Journalism to edit the newsletter, someone from computer sciences to set up the web site, someone from political science to head up the lobbying efforts).
- Send departmental recruitment letters; your closest colleagues may be your best prospects.
- Invite AAUP speakers: State Conference officers, the national staff, and AAUP activists from other institutions in the area. Ask the national office to help you identify potential speakers.
- Have lunch together publicly anywhere faculty gather; a Redbook on the table means “We’re talking AAUP here and you’re welcome to join in!” People will begin to seek you out.
- Fold newsletters and stuff envelopes in a public place, inviting conversation and help.
VI. Widen your circle
- Launch a membership campaign (se Strengthening Your AAUP Chapter and Guide to the Office Visit).
- Listen, cooperate, build alliances and coalitions (announce one another’s events).
- Accept donations form non-members graciously.
- Carry AAUP contact information and a current application form in your wallet so you can share them with colleagues without saying “I’ll get back with you.”
- If you ever say “I’ll get back to you,” follow through.