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Reflections from a Summer Institute Regular

To my AAUP Colleagues,

Jenn Nichols, who coordinates the AAUP's annual Summer Institute , recently asked past Summer Institute attendees for reflections on their institute experience. In short, I find the Summer Institute to be one of the best events of the year—educational, energizing, and, frankly, a lot of fun. I am hoping you can join us in San Diego this summer. If you’ve never attended one, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are a few reasons I find the Summer Institute so valuable and enjoyable.

The Summer Institute is educational beyond belief. The organizers put a great deal of work into scheduling workshops that cover the issues of central concern to most chapters—governance issues, salary and benefit issues, workshops on building and strengthening local chapters, and countless others. The workshop leaders in turn do everything they can to make the workshops of practical value to those attending. I have learned so much from these workshops, and in many years of attending Summer Institute workshops, I have never been disappointed.

In terms of our local AAUP chapter, I can’t tell you how important these workshops have been for us. To give just one recent example, when the most serious challenges to our campus’s governance system and Faculty Handbook that we have ever faced arose two years ago, we sent chapter leaders to attend Summer Institute workshops on exactly these issues. We came back more knowledgeable on these matters than the administrative representatives, and this knowledge was key in refuting administrative claims as to what shared governance “really” is and what “really” should be included in faculty handbooks. The Summer Institute workshops were key in our successful fight to preserve our governance structure and benefit protections. Every chapter faces difficult issues, and I think you’ll find the workshops invaluable in addressing the specific issues on your campus.


Who isn’t feeling at least a bit burned out at the end of each academic year? Our teaching, research, and service duties are enough, and if you’re reading this, chances are you have taken on, or are considering taking on, the crucial but often underappreciated duties of being a faculty leader in your local AAUP chapter. A modest suggestion? Do yourself a favor and join your kindred spirits this summer at the Summer Institute. You’ll come back feeling like the Energizer Bunny.

I recall being so surprised at the first Summer Institute I attended. All the problems and difficulties I thought were unique to our campus and our chapter turned out to be shared by countless others. Just being among kindred spirits, who understood the issues we all face and who had new ideas for addressing problematic items, was so refreshing. Since then, I’ve never tired of attending Summer Institutes. Each time I come back with my enthusiasm and energy tanks fully recharged. I think you will also.


There is a lot to be said for the fulfillment one gets from the educational and energizing aspects of the Summer Institute. But frankly, it’s also a lot of just plain fun. Being surrounded by like-minded AAUP colleagues is fantastic, San Diego is beautiful, and the organizers understand the importance of scheduling events, such as the Friday evening dinner cruise (not to mention the tour of San Diego, mall shopping trip, or Padres baseball game) that are geared toward having fun with wonderful colleagues.

As the Summer Institute flyers have noted, if the word existed this would be called the Summer Funstitute. I think you’ll enjoy yourself. After a long academic year, I’m betting you deserve it.

Online registration closes July 3. Don’t overlook that there may still be scholarships available, especially for those attending the Summer Institute for the first time (although these go fast). For information on funding, contact Jenn Nichols at jnichols@aaup.org . My chapter colleagues and I very much hope to see you in San Diego this summer.

I wish you all the best in your important work at your institution and with your local AAUP chapter.


Rick DeWitt
Fairfield University FWC/AAUP
Fairfield, CT