Transition appears to be the operative word at the American Association of University Professors, which has been struggling to recruit members and to raise money. The AAUP is already looking for a new general secretary, once it reviews how the position might change. Last week, the association announced a plan to divide itself into three -- at least from a legal corporate status -- with the idea that some separation could help the AAUP fulfill its various roles.
Currently, the AAUP is classified as a public charity. In place of that single legal status, the AAUP plans to maintain its advocacy work on behalf of academic freedom and faculty interests as a professional association, move its collective bargaining work into a new structure as a union, and create a charitable organization to raise money for the AAUP. All three entities would be part of the AAUP, but the separate legal status would allow the different divisions to do things they can't do now, according to Cary Nelson, president of the association.
For instance, Nelson said that right now the AAUP union dues for those represented by the association for collective bargaining are low, with $5 per member coming to the national office for its collective bargaining functions, but the AAUP as a whole (which is worried about membership) must approve any increase. A separate collective bargaining unit could raise dues and then have more organizers and other staff members to serve the union's members.
The professional association, meanwhile, could spend more resources on lobbying and advocacy than it can now, constrained by limits on how much a charity itself can devote to such activities.
Nelson also acknowledged that some members or prospective members of the AAUP aren't comfortable with the association's union role. While Nelson is an outspoken backer of collective bargaining for faculty members, he said that the shift could help the AAUP attract those who don't agree. "This does separate out the union activities a bit," he said. "The AAUP would be healthier if [collective bargaining] was seen as one of our activities, but not a defining activity as a whole."
There is no firm timetable on when the changes will take place.