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Starting a Chapter: Why and How?
Joerg Tiede, Illinois Wesleyan University

The Purpose of AAUP Chapters

As a colleague of mine recently pointed out, having an AAUP chapter on campus is like an insurance policy. While it is true that an AAUP chapter can respond to emergencies, such as assisting a faculty member alleging academic freedom or tenure violations, an AAUP chapter can also weigh in on important campus issues and provide advice regarding AAUP policies to governing boards, administrators, and campus committees. In fact, unlike an insurance policy, having an active AAUP chapter can help prevent emergencies.

Both the National AAUP and the Illinois Conference of the AAUP regularly assist faculty members at institutions that fail to observe the generally recognized principles of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance approved by the AAUP. However, the best way to assure that institutions adopt such policies and principles is for the AAUP to have an active presence on every campus through local chapters. Active AAUP chapters are a first line of defense against violations of academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance. AAUP chapters can review faculty handbooks and make recommendations that AAUP-sanctioned policies be adopted into handbooks.


How to Start a New Chapter

Establishing a chapter is straightforward: it takes at least seven active AAUP members on campus who call an organizational meeting at which officers are elected. A chapter needs to induct at least three officers (a president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer) and adopt bylaws (sample bylaws can be found at the AAUP website). Officers can be inducted at a formal ceremony. The State Conference will arrange for a representative to attend the ceremony. Detailed instructions for starting a chapter can be found at the AAUP website. You can also obtain membership materials for recruitment at the AAUP website. Once the chapter is established, it should inform the State Conference, the National AAUP and the university's administration of the newly formed chapter.

It is a good idea to start a chapter website, which can be linked from the websites of the National AAUP and the State Conference. The AAUP chapter at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has a template for a chapter website. The UIUC AAUP website also contains a wealth of suggestions for chapter activities.


State Conference Efforts on Establishing new Chapters

The Membership Committee of the State Conference will be making a concerted effort over the next two years to increase the number of active chapters in Illinois. Members of the State Council of the Illinois Conference can travel to your campus to speak to groups of interested faculty regarding the formation of new chapters. We can help you with the organizational steps outlined above and with planning activities for your chapter. The Illinois State Conference offers chapter development grant for new and existing chapters.

The State Conference is also planning a workshop this fall for AAUP members interested in forming new chapters and a workshop next spring for leaders of existing chapters. The workshops will focus on skills and strategies for leaders of AAUP chapters and may cover issues such as:

  • membership development
  • shared governance
  • faculty handbooks
  • accreditation

If you have suggestions for workshop topics or are interested in having a representative of the State Conference come to campus, please feel free to contact Joerg Tiede.