Chapter Building and Action Strategies
Recruitment Letters: An Overview
by Cary Nelson
There are two places where AAUP recruitment letters appear on this web
site—on this CHAPTER DEVELOPMENT page and on the WHY JOIN? page. All
together, there are quite a few different sorts of letters here; they vary
in tone, in audience, and in the means of distribution.
On the "Why Join?" page the first documents--from Virginia Commonwealth
University, the University of Washington, and Louisiana State
University--are opening pages from chapter web sites (all collected in 2007)
that serve both as introductions to the chapter and invitations for new
members to join. They are also, in effect, reminders to current members of
the value of membership and perhaps quiet encouragement for members to
approach their colleagues about joining. These web texts of course can
easily be updated as new local and national issues arise.
There follow on the "Why Join?" page two letters more exclusively
focused on recruitment, from Indiana University and Michigan State
University. Such letters typically summarize not only current national
issues but also local faculty concerns about finance, shared governance, and
academic freedom issues. They are thus fundamentally organizing letters
grounded simultaneously in discontent and empowerment. The University of
Illinois letter recruitment letter with its own link also falls in that
category. Such letters are sometimes first sent out by snail mail or email
and then put on web sites.
The simplest and most straightforward letters--both distributed by the
national office--are the letters to new faculty and to lapsed members that
have separate links on this "Chapter Development" page. The tone in these is
very different. New faculty, some of them recent PhDs, arrive hopeful about
their new jobs and are probably not good prospects to hear a litany of
campus problems. Local crises are likely the last thing they want to learn
about. So the letter to new faculty draws attention to the AAUP as part of
their professional identity. The letter to lapsed faculty assumes they know
many of the organization's benefits; it is largely a low-key reminder.
Finally, the two "Open Letters" are focused on recruiting graduate
student and part-time faculty as members. These constituencies typically
require somewhat different activist appeals. Graduate students will benefit
from realizing that AAUP membership will help them craft their professional
identities. Part-time faculty need to hear about the organization's
determination to improve their lot.
Local chapters are welcome to use or adapt these sample letters as they
see fit. They could mirror some of the arguments in their own prose,
incorporate passages in their own letters, or send both one of these letters
and one of their own. Each campus will also have to decide how to balance
descriptions of the activities of the local chapter and the national office
in its recruitment efforts. There are strong local chapters with high
membership that are critical to shared governance on their campus. Yet there
are also many devoted members on campuses with no chapter at all. Some of
the comments on the "What AAUP Means To Me" page suggest why.
Recruitment letters can also be addressed to members of individual
departments or to disciplinary groups, which often have common concerns and
interests. We use the latter approach in the recruitment videos on this
site, an approach a number of campuses have found very helpful.