Building Chapters, Strengthening the Professoriate: Notes from the IL Conference
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 due process 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.
While both the National AAUP and state conferences 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, 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.
Over the course of the last six months, the Illinois Conference of the AAUP has made a concerted effort to increase the number of advocacy chapters in the state of Illinois. As part of that effort, I have been visiting several campuses in Illinois and speaking to interested groups of faculty. While the kinds of institutions that I have visited have been quite diverse, including community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and a state university, the concerns that emerge at many institutions – attacks on academic freedom and shared governance, or the overuse of contingent faculty – are common to many kinds of institutions and are those an AAUP chapter can help address.
Our chapter development work started with contacting AAUP members at several institutions in the state. After an initial contact was made, we offered an overview of chapter development at a State Conference meeting to interested faculty. Such overviews can point out the wealth of existing resources, such as the material for chapter development at the AAUP'S web page, or the sample chapter web pages on Cary Nelson’s web site. In addition, Cary Nelson’s web site has a Powerpoint presentation for campus visits that outlines the mechanics of forming and best practices for running an active chapter. In addition, experienced chapter leaders can provide helpful examples of the work a new chapter can undertake. State conferences can also offer chapter development grants, like the ones offered by the Illinois State Conference.
Whether helping to form a new chapter or revive an existing chapter, chapter development can be a very rewarding activity for state conferences and one that is likely to pay off by increasing the presence of the AAUP in your state.
Hans Joerg Tiede, Illinois Wesleyan University