About this Site

(from the personal viewpoint of the site developer)

Cary Nelson

Building an Advocacy Web Site—with Thanks!

Beginning early in 2006, I began working on organizing a web site for the AAUP chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We had several goals in mind: 1) to establish a site that could itself help build membership; 2) to make the site useful not only to AAUP colleagues on our own campus but also those elsewhere; 3) to challenge the chapter to grow while simultaneously recalling its history; 4) to link to the national AAUP not only in substance but also by appearance.

We soon found that it is nearly impossible to plan an entire complex site at once. It is often necessary to let the site develop gradually, with additions and reorganizations suggesting themselves as you evaluate what has been accomplished along the way. It was also immediately clear we were not alone. The national AAUP's site has links to a considerable number of chapter web sites, and many have excellent material that can be borrowed.

One thing we couldn't do at Illinois was put our current contract on line. Since we do not have collective bargaining, we have no contract, despite a clear need for our academic freedom and shared governance principles to be enforceable. Most AAUP CB chapters—including Eastern Michigan University, Wright State University, and the University of Cincinnati—have web sites continually updated with current news. During contract negotiations, members often check them daily. Advocacy chapters may have to work harder to generate web site interest.

Some AAUP sites offer inspiration that cannot quickly be emulated. The Northern Michigan University AAUP has a link to an excellent Michigan Historical Review essay on the history of the chapter. We will have to commission comparable work. And we must do so. As with many older chapters, we have shared governance here primarily because of the chapter's hard work. Not that more recent faculty know that. Indeed the University of Illinois was censured in 1963, and many of our better traditions were put in place as part of an effort to get off censure. Once again, very few faculty even know we were censured, though the case produced one of our classic investigative reports. It is far better to get that sort of history recorded while the people involved are still active. A number of other AAUP chapters, including the one at Villanova University, are beginning to get their history on line.

More recently, we've had to defend academic freedom and shared governance very aggressively once again. Luckily we have a former association General Counsel on campus, as well as a number of faculty, many retired, who have been defending academic freedom ferociously for nearly half a century. Yet even when these cases receive significant press coverage, most of the faculty, absorbed in their work, never seem to learn of them. Getting them on web sites, then notifying colleagues by email, is clearly necessary.

On more general topics, there was material on many other web sites we could use. For a section titled "Why Join the AAUP" we copied (with credit) fine statements from AAUP sites at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Washington, Louisiana State University, and Indiana University. To reinforce the sense of a national organization, a section titled "What the AAUP Means to Me" uses testimony from individual faculty all over the country. A section on "AAUP Principles" relies on material from the excellent Wartburg College AAUP site, including an original ordinary language statement about shared governance.

We recorded a series of mock recruitment videos and put them on line to serve three purposes—to help teach AAUP members how to recruit colleagues, to encourage nonmembers to join, and to assist other chapters to build membership. Since the best recruitment videos would be ones starring your own faculty, we hope our somewhat amateur products—filmed in my basement—will encourage other chapters to make their own. All AAUP chapters should add video to their web sites to make them more personal and effective.

Our most ambitious section is titled "Chapter Development and Action Strategies." National Council member Glenn Howze created a powerpoint overview. Long-time local activist Ken Anderson wrote a section on lobbying at the state level. Pat Shaw in the national office wrote a piece on negotiating salary and benefits outside collective bargaining. Gwen Bradley gave us the texts on communication techniques she had prepared for the AAUP's summer institute. We borrowed an excellent Rutgers University program encouraging faculty to recruit two new members, and we added a number of memos the national office has been mailing and emailing to fledgling chapters. The Illinois site is thus a place that showcases the work our national staff and our leaders across the country have done. We thank all these chapters for their superb work.

The Illinois State Conference awarded us a grant to help with expenses. To establish a visual link to the national AAUP, we borrowed some elements of their new web design. We hope many other chapters link to the site and use it. The URL is http://www.aaup-ui.org. As the comments above should suggest, there are many other good web site models out there as well. The University of Tennessee chapter does a fine job of highlighting current issues on its opening page. The University of Vermont has a rich resource titled "United Academic Reports." And so forth. I trust this is enough to encourage you to do some AAUP web site exploration and upgrading.

Thanks to all who helped make this site possible: Ken Anderson, Ernst
Benjamin, Michael Berube, Gwendolyn Bradley, Ann Franke, Peter Garrett, Joe Grohens (our web designer), Mary Heen, Glenn Howze, Richard Jerrard, Rachel Levinson, Maria Lovett, Iris Molotsky, Debra Nails, Pat Shaw, Deb Stauffer, Paula Treichler, Don Uchtmann, Larry White, Bill Williamson, the Planning Committee of our AAUP chapter, and the Illinois State Conference of AAUP chapters, which awarded us a grant to enable us to make the site useful for other chapters.

Cary Nelson, site developer


Please send comments about this site to the chapter site coordinator: Leslie Struble (lstruble@illinois.edu).