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Chapter Building and Action Strategies

Recruitment Letters: An Overview

by Cary Nelson

There are two places where AAUP recruitment letters appear on this web site—on this CHAPTER DEVELOPMENT page and on the WHY JOIN? page. All together, there are quite a few different sorts of letters here; they vary in tone, in audience, and in the means of distribution.

On the "Why Join?" page the first documents--from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Washington, and Louisiana State University--are opening pages from chapter web sites (all collected in 2007) that serve both as introductions to the chapter and invitations for new members to join. They are also, in effect, reminders to current members of the value of membership and perhaps quiet encouragement for members to approach their colleagues about joining. These web texts of course can easily be updated as new local and national issues arise.

There follow on the "Why Join?" page two letters more exclusively focused on recruitment, from Indiana University and Michigan State University. Such letters typically summarize not only current national issues but also local faculty concerns about finance, shared governance, and academic freedom issues. They are thus fundamentally organizing letters grounded simultaneously in discontent and empowerment. The University of Illinois letter recruitment letter with its own link also falls in that category. Such letters are sometimes first sent out by snail mail or email and then put on web sites.

The simplest and most straightforward letters--both distributed by the national office--are the letters to new faculty and to lapsed members that have separate links on this "Chapter Development" page. The tone in these is very different. New faculty, some of them recent PhDs, arrive hopeful about their new jobs and are probably not good prospects to hear a litany of campus problems. Local crises are likely the last thing they want to learn about. So the letter to new faculty draws attention to the AAUP as part of their professional identity. The letter to lapsed faculty assumes they know many of the organization's benefits; it is largely a low-key reminder. Finally, the two "Open Letters" are focused on recruiting graduate student and part-time faculty as members. These constituencies typically require somewhat different activist appeals. Graduate students will benefit from realizing that AAUP membership will help them craft their professional identities. Part-time faculty need to hear about the organization's determination to improve their lot.

Local chapters are welcome to use or adapt these sample letters as they see fit. They could mirror some of the arguments in their own prose, incorporate passages in their own letters, or send both one of these letters and one of their own. Each campus will also have to decide how to balance descriptions of the activities of the local chapter and the national office in its recruitment efforts. There are strong local chapters with high membership that are critical to shared governance on their campus. Yet there are also many devoted members on campuses with no chapter at all. Some of the comments on the "What AAUP Means To Me" page suggest why. Recruitment letters can also be addressed to members of individual departments or to disciplinary groups, which often have common concerns and interests. We use the latter approach in the recruitment videos on this site, an approach a number of campuses have found very helpful.