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Chapter Building and Action Strategies
Chapter Builder's Ten Commandments
1. Never forget who you are.
Although we often join for reasons of immediate self-interest, we should
continually remind others and ourselves that we are part of a special mission. We are principled professionals who care. We have an elegant tradition dating back to John Dewey, who also founded the American Civil Liberties Union, and Arthur Lovejoy, the great philosopher at Johns Hopkins University. We are the only organization exclusively devoted to maintaining the standards and ideals of the profession. We are, in a phase, the conscience of academe.
2. Do something besides gripe.
It’s imperative that we as professionals see beyond the crises that create local
chapters. We can be the spearhead of positive leadership in the college or university. Faculty monitoring, tenure and promotion workshops, financial analysis and administrative evaluation are but a few of the many positive roles we can fill. If we don’t, when the crisis that originate our chapters go, so will we. And deservedly so.
3. Be regular.
Faculty are busy people: they are also creatures of habit. Plan your meetings
and book your meeting places far in advance. (It’s easier to cancel than to schedule at the last minute.) Meet regularly in the same place at the same time if possible, whether it be once a month or once a semester. Don’t worry about the numbers; many a chapter of 100 members works from a core of nine or ten who attend regularly – if there are regular meetings to attend. Adopt a special color of paper for all your communications so faculty will come to recognize when you’re on the bulletin board or in the mailbox.
4. Be a communicator.
Newsletters and announcements are the sinews that bind members together
outside meetings. They don’t need to be long (even a page will do), but they need to be regular and worth reading. If you’re short on news, pass on what you’ve read in Academe, the Chronicle, Inside Higher Education, or your scholarly journals. Every meeting is worth three stories: what you’re going to do, a bulletin announcing the time and place, and a summary of what you did. Announce campus events, congratulate student accomplishments as well. Be to the point, but always have something positive to say if possible. People tire of reading whiners quickly.
5. Be a family.
Nourish relationships with your colleagues in AAUP – and outside it, also, for
that matter. Have at least one social occasion a semester, keep people posted about one another. Remember, we’re a special part of academe, and worthy of each other’s company and concern. Don’t forget that there is life outside the classroom and the office worth caring about. If somebody needs help, offer yours. Friendships often bond people to organizations when ideologies divide.
6. Honor all your colleagues.
Celebrate your colleagues’ successes. In your newsletters, in your meetings,
recognize promotions, tenure awards, publications, papers that have been given, good deeds that have been done. While it’s good to give special praise to those inside the organization, don’t forget those who are outside too. Some of them may be attracted to what we stand for when they realize that what we’re about isn’t just warring with administrators. That will be even more the case if non-members realize we’re proud of and caring for all our colleagues, not just the ones inside our chapters.
7. Share the power.
At all costs, avoid one-person chapters. All too often, when a faculty member
goes, so does a chapter of 20, 30, even 50. Delegate and share responsibilities, even if it produces work less exact than yours. Help faculty grow by helping them with the work if necessary, but don’t hog the titles, the credit or the limelight. Make a special effort to find something for new members to do: members with responsibilities stay longer than members with none. You need to be empowering colleagues outside your inner circle constantly. Nobody is indispensable and everybody goes sooner or later.
8. Plan ahead: ready, set, go!
Focus on the future, not the past. This is true for both your chapter and your
institution. The crisis or the nasty administrator that created you chapter can’t sustain you forever. Be ready with at least an annual goal for adding to the quality of your institution and be set to work for its implementation. Equally important, if you’re an AAUP leader, be ready to go; let somebody else take your place. Resist the temptation to serve more than a term or two. If nobody seems to be ready to take over, make a special effort to convince others to take command, regardless of your own special talent. The leadership that doesn’t develop its own replacements and make itself dispensable is a failure. Period.
9. Recruiting: ABC.
Three simple rules suffice here: 1) always be carrying a membership
application; and print them often in your chapter communications; 2) always be closing in discussions about joining. Above all, 3) always be current about dues. Our dues structure is a mystery to just about everybody! Membership drives are good, but they’re not nearly as important as members always prepared with an application blank and continually ready to call their faculty colleagues to their responsibilities. Along with the membership application, keep a succinct explanation ready so you can change the “I ought to join” into a colleague completing the application.
10. Always be in the mailbox.
This sounds simple, almost redundant, but it – like the first commandment
- symbolizes positive, persistent commitment that faculty just can’t ignore, and that will sooner or later bring you members. With your special color on your communications, your messages of vigilance, positive development, faculty cares and accomplishments – yours and those of colleagues not in AAUP – you’ll become a part of the institution’s life. Whether you mail it or deliver it yourselves, be sure your presence is frequent. If you do, the old “Is AAUP still around?” question is one remark you’ll never have to hear again.