FAQs about Proposed Restructuring of the AAUP’s Organizational Structure

Why are we making changes to our structure right now?

Like every other organization with a large unionized membership, we are reassessing how best to use our resources in light of the 2018 Supreme Court decision that unions may not assess agency fees to cover the costs of negotiating collectively bargained contracts (the Janus decision). The AAUP Council and the executive committee of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress have been looking at how best to streamline our governance and organizational structure to ensure that we are using our resources to support our chapters and conferences. But even without the Janus ruling, we would have wanted to reconsider organizational structure at some point. The current tripartite structure is cumbersome and it creates an unnecessary divide between advocacy and collective bargaining members. We must remain united in the fight against those who would destroy higher education as a common good.

What is the process for changing the structure of the AAUP?

At their November 2018 meetings, the Council of the AAUP and the AAUP-Collective Bargaining Congress Executive Committee decided to move forward with changes to our shared organizational structure. Following that vote, these governing bodies directed that detailed revisions to governing documents and other policies that would implement the approved changes be drafted for their review. The Council and the AAUP- CBC Executive Committee met on March 29 and 30, 2019, to consider these detailed draft revisions. They voted overwhelmingly to recommend a package of changes to the June 2019 AAUP annual meeting and AAUP-CBC regular meeting. Formal notification about the proposals and vote was sent to all AAUP members the week of May 7, 2019. The changes, should they be approved at the June meetings, will streamline our governance and organizational structure.

How does the proposed reuniting of the AAUP and the AAUP-CBC help us better achieve the AAUP’s mission?

The AAUP’s mission is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post‐doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good. We are one profession regardless of institution type, tenure status, rank, job title, or collective bargaining status. We believe that the best way to achieve this mission is to shape our organization to reflect this reality.

How do these changes reflect the AAUP’s vision going forward?

The proposed changes reflect the shared priorities and organizational vision of the AAUP and the AAUP-CBC. We are strongest when we focus on building and supporting chapters and empowering our members to effect change at the campus level. At the same time, we need to recognize that higher education and other public goods are under attack as never before in our lifetimes. We need governance and organizational structures that allow us to focus more resources on supporting our chapters in their defense of higher education as a common good. We believe the proposed changes best achieve this and will result in a stronger AAUP, one that is well situated to thrive for another century.

Do the proposed changes mean that the AAUP is no longer committed to collective bargaining?

No. Well over 75 percent of our membership is currently in collective bargaining chapters, and collective bargaining remains one of the most effective means for advancing the AAUP’s core principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure. In 2018, we organized (with our partners at the American Federation of Teachers) a unit of 2,500+ at Oregon State University; we also organized a solo AAUP union chapter of 150 at the Oregon Institute of Technology. In February 2019, in another joint organizing venture with the AFT, a group of 1,600 full- and part-time faculty at the University of New Mexico filed for union recognition. We continue to work with faculty and other academic workers around the country to organize collective bargaining chapters as well as advocacy chapters. We provide services and support to our collective bargaining chapters around the country and will continue to do so.

What about support for advocacy chapters?

The AAUP remains firmly committed to organizing all those who teach and do research in higher education. In the past two years we have seen significant growth in advocacy membership in the AAUP and have added or reactivated forty-two advocacy chapters. We are committed to working with all faculty and other academic professionals who want to organize on their campuses.

What changes are being considered?

The AAUP Council and the AAUP-CBC Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly to pursue changes to our governance and organizational structure that would result in combining the AAUP and the AAUP-CBC into one organization, the AAUP. We are also looking at changes that would result in a smaller governing board. This board would be made up of three officers, five regional members, and three at-large members. Finally, we are looking at moving from an annual meeting to a biennial meeting schedule and to holding officer and Council member elections at this meeting via a vote of all chapter delegates. 

Why consider a smaller governing board?

Under our current three-part structure, we have fifty-three elected leaders for an organization with 41,000 members. This structure is costly and convoluted and tends to make good decision-making difficult. Best practices for governing boards as well as research into similarly sized unions and professional organizations indicate that most organizations of our size have boards of ten to fifteen members, as this allows for more effective decision-making.

How would officer and Council elections take place?

Elections would be held every two years at the new biennial meeting. Elections would be held via secret ballots cast by the delegates at the meeting, and delegates would vote chapter strength.

What happens to the current AAUP Council members and the current members of the AAUP-CBC Executive Committee?

At the annual meeting, members will be asked to vote on a leadership transition plan. This transition plan lays out the structure of the governing board until 2022. Essentially, currently elected members of Council and the CBC Executive Committee would serve out their terms on a combined governing board. This transition board structure would allow the organization to benefit from the institutional knowledge of the current AAUP and AAUP-CBC leadership cadres. It would also allow elected officials to serve out their whole terms.

Why don’t we want to do mail ballots? What happened to one person, one vote?

In the last election, only 8 percent of the membership participated in the mail ballot. This percentage is similar to what we have seen over the last decade in AAUP elections. Mail ballots are costly to run and do not result in strong participation. Other similar organizations use a delegate voting system where chapters vote the membership strength, therefore ensuring that the voices of all members are heard. Furthermore, this is an election system that the AAUP has used before.

Why are we moving to a biennial meeting?

The annual meeting is expensive to run, and attendance has been declining over the past decade. The meeting costs close to $200,000 in direct (non-staff) costs to run. Last year, 180 members attended (many of whom were elected officials of the AAUP). Other like-sized organizations conduct biennial meetings. Given the cost of our meeting and the relative impact on our membership, it seems prudent to move to a biennial schedule.

My chapter is small. What if we cannot afford to send a delegate to the meeting?

Many chapters, both advocacy and collective bargaining, have raised concerns about the expense of sending delegates to the annual meeting. This is one of the reasons we are recommending moving to the less frequent biennial meeting schedule. We are also proposing a system for small chapters in a state to form a section and elect a delegate (or delegates, depending on the size of the section) to send to the meeting. This would be a way to ensure that chapters’ voices are heard and to allow chapters to pool resources and make meeting attendance more affordable.

What is the timeline for these changes?

In November 2018, the AAUP Council and the AAUP-CBC Executive Committee voted to develop constitutional amendments for the annual meeting to consider in June 2019. Documents pertaining to the proposed changes, including the Joint Resolution with the language for the motion at the AAUP-CBC meeting, a summary of the proposed AAUP constitutional changes and a “blacklined” constitution, are available to download here. Formal notification of the AAUP and CBC June membership meetings and the proposed amendments was sent out the week of May 7, 2019. In addition, we have disseminated information about the changes and sought feedback through email, a notice in our magazine, tele-townhalls, and in-person meetings. If the changes are approved, most would go into effect on January 1, 2020, with the elections and board changes effective starting at the June 2020 meeting. (For a short period after January 1, 2020, AAUP-CBC Executive Committee members would be transitional members of the AAUP Council, as we move to the new meeting and election process.)

I am a member or leader of a collective bargaining chapter. How will these changes affect the service and support that my chapter receives from the national organization?

The national organization remains committed to providing programs, services, and support to our collective bargaining chapters (for a review of our current programs and services, click here). Collective bargaining members represent over 75 percent of our membership and our CB chapters are an integral part of our organization. We firmly believe that we are stronger together and part of that strength depends on continuing to support the important work that our CB chapters engage in.

What will happen to the Assembly of State Conferences and the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress?

Under the new structure, both the ASC and the AAUP-CBC will be disbanded. The elimination of the ASC and the AAUP-CBC do not reflect a lessening of support for state conferences or collective bargaining chapters. It is part of the recommendation to get our governance structures more streamlined.

I am a leader in a state conference. How will these changes affect the support that my conference receives from the national organization?

There are no proposals to change the state conference per capita grants or the state conference development grants. We believe that the AAUP is strongest when we focus on building and empowering chapters. The goal of the national organization is to ensure that state conferences are strong and best able to support the chapters in a state. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum has appointed a state conferences working group to develop recommendations on how the AAUP can best support state conferences going forward. This working group is composed of state conference activists from around the country and is being chaired by ASC chair Brian Turner.

How will this change impact dues?

We are proposing rolling current AAUP-CBC dues into the AAUP dues paid by collective bargaining chapters. This would maintain revenue neutrality so that the AAUP can continue to provide services and support to collective bargaining chapters and continue to engage in organizing new collective bargaining chapters.

What will happen to the AAUP Foundation?

The AAUP Foundation is a charitable and educational organization and is a separate entity. It will not be affected by the combining of the AAUP and the AAUP-CBC.

How do I get more information on the changes?

Documents pertaining to the proposed changes are here. If you have questions you may contact us at executivedirector@aaup.org.