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Now is the right time

“Now is the right time.” So reads the front of a thank-you card sent to me by members of a fledgling AAUP chapter that I visited earlier this year. They are doing exactly what many members of the academic workforce are doing in these times—working together to form common cause and to advance the ideals of the profession. Rather than quietly resigning themselves to and privately kvetching about the current conditions and direction of the academy, they are making an effort to change that direction.

If you want to join that effort, join us July 29–August 1 at San Diego State University for the AAUP Summer Institute. You will connect with like-minded colleagues who are working to exercise greater voice in shaping their work lives and their institutions. You will learn from the committed colleagues and AAUP staff members who offer sessions and workshops. Join us for an intense and enjoyable experience.

You might be a tenure-track professor, a contingent faculty member, a graduate student, a postdoc, or an academic professional. You might be new to the profession or to the association. You might be an experienced faculty member who is interested in pursuing an opportunity to learn about academic workforce issues. You might come from a unionized campus or from a campus that currently has an organizing campaign. You might belong to an “advocacy” (non-collective-bargaining) AAUP chapter, or you might simply be an individual interested in learning from us. All are welcomed by the AAUP. And if past institutes are any guide, all will benefit from the experience.

In addition to tried-and-true sessions on a range of topics, this year’s Institute in San Diego has MORE. MORE of the workshops that people find so valuable, on handbook analysis, how to bargain, grievances, communications, government relations. Moreover, we have NEW AND IMPROVED. A NEW, extended workshop on understanding institutional finances by Howard Bunsis and Rudy Fichtenbaum (an accounting and an economics professor, respectively), whose analyses of university budgets have benefitted many AAUP chapters.

And though we will not sing Kumbaya around a campfire, there will be the camaraderie of a group of interesting academic employees committed to working for change.

On my email and in person as I travel the country, I hear a lot. A lot of good, and a lot of bad. But ALL that I hear about the Summer Institute is good. Testimonials. Leaders from all sorts of settings, employment statuses, and fields sing its praises, emphasizing how extraordinarily helpful it has been for them and for their colleagues. Again this year the Institute is in the capable and creative hands of Jenn Nichols, supported by Eizzie Smith, both from our Department of Organizing and Services.

The future of the academy depends upon a reinvigorated faculty and academic workforce. It depends upon faculty and academic professionals organizing ourselves and taking the lead in shaping higher education. The AAUP’s leadership in this regard is evident in the initiative of local chapters, bargaining units, and state conferences that have taken strong stands in these hard times on issues ranging from shared governance to furloughs to punitive post-tenure review to academic freedom. It is evident in the national office’s communications with members, which offer strategies for reframing the negotiation of our current situation, and key information upon which local leaders can draw. It is evident in our national "Speak Up, Speak Out" campaign, which aims to protect the independent faculty voice that is so important in these times of financial problems. And it is evident in the AAUP’s dramatically increased efforts to help the academic workforce organize, in both collective bargaining and in advocacy settings. We are pursuing organizing campaigns both on our own and — at the University of Oregon and the University of Illinois Chicago—through an important joint organizing agreement with the American Federation of Teachers.

Now is the right time. Now is the right time to take action to learn how to organize more members, to better support and strengthen your existing members and units, and to strengthen the academic labor movement. Now is the right time to work to change the course of American higher education, away from a model driven by the logic of the market, which involves disinvesting in and increasingly managing and exploiting faculty. Now is the right time to steer the course back toward core academic missions, serving student populations, and social responsibilities. Now is the right time to join the AAUP and to lead the way.

I encourage you to join us. And I commend to you one extremely useful opportunity for a distinctive type of professional development, the AAUP Summer Institute.

Gary Rhoades
General Secretary, AAUP