Over the three years of my involvement with the AAUP, I’ve watched this venerable faculty institution complete a reorganization and begin a process of revitalization that is already placing it at the forefront of faculty advocacy, reaching far beyond what had been envisioned for it less than a generation ago. As a defender of academic freedom, shared governance and, since 1976, a collective-bargaining umbrella organization through the Collective Bargaining Congress, the AAUP has spent a century as a major faculty organization. In recent years, however, it has begun to be something more, an assertive proponent of faculty of all types and in all institutions. Adjuncts and contingent hires are becoming as important to the AAUP as those tenured or on the tenure track. Community colleges are beginning to be as represented within (and by) the AAUP as the venerable institutions whose faculty first founded the organization.
Part of the reason for this, quite frankly, is the internet. Social media now allow the AAUP to reach out in new ways and for those once beyond it to reach in. This blog, to take just one example, has gone from some 56,000 views in 2012 to what will be over 600,000 this year. In total, the blog has hosted over 2700 posts covering everything imaginable that might be of interest to members of the faculty. The national organization and local chapters have all started to use new means of communicating—and of acting.
In my online essay for the current issue of Academe, “The AAUP in the Digital Universe(ity),” I explore some of the implications of a changing media universe for an organization that has also been going through change. I write that “the AAUP, like every other organization, is having to deal with this new reality [of digital tools and media] both in its advocacy and in the way it defines and approaches core principles such as academic freedom.” I conclude:
The organization has been fortunate, so far, to have had the infrastructure in place to respond quickly and effectively to violation of academic freedom principles within the new electronic environment. In the future, the AAUP will have to begin to organize these resources into a considered frame both for action and for advancing understanding of academic freedom in this new universe surrounding our universities.
We—all of us who are involved with the AAUP, who are members or simply support our goals (and who should, of course, become members)—face a real possibility of redirecting higher education through our efforts. The neoliberal and corporatist forces of the past fifty years are beginning to fracture, the weaknesses of their structures finally showing and causing alarm. We have always offered an alternative (though both older and newer) path and are finally in a strong position for promoting it. Digital media have made this possible.
Now, all we need to do is take advantage—and organize. That means making sure we are all members of the AAUP as well as of our local collective-bargaining units (whether they be affiliated with the CBC or not), that we establish chapters on our campuses where there are none, that we share articles from Academe and the blog as widely as possible, that we contribute to this blog (and others), and that we encourage our campus communities, in as many ways as possible, to support the faculty and, through them, the students.
Articles from the current and past issues of Academe are available online. AAUP members receive a subscription to the magazine, available both by mail and as a downloadable PDF, as a benefit of membership.