Lessons from Summer Institute 2012

[This summer, a handful of CCSU-AAUP members traveled to Chicago’s Roosevelt University to participate in the 2012 AAUP Summer Institute. The Summer Institute featured workshops on topics like negotiations, grievance administration, institutional financial analysis, direct action campaigns, and organizing. We asked this year’s participants to share some of the lessons that they learned. This post includes thoughts from Briann Greenfield, Professor of History. She can be reached by email at greenfieldb[at] ccsu [dot] edu.]

What did I learn at AAUP summer camp? As a first time attendee at the AAUP Summer Institute, I chose to attend sessions on direct action, messaging, lobbying, and shared governance. Several of the sessions I attended were organized by the Ruckus Society, a group that trains environmental, human rights, and social justice organizers in nonviolent direct action. We learned how to organize rallies, communicate with the media, and present our issues in a way that would resonate with the public. I am looking forward to using some of the techniques on campus. (I also learned about organizing strikes—not applicable to our current campus situation, but a good reminder that faculty are not powerless in the face of educational or economic injustice.)

Although it was three hours of policy statements and PowerPoints, I have to admit that I found the session on shared governance uplifting. So often, shared governance gets watered down to a faculty representative being present at university policy discussions, or the faculty senate ascending to decisions fully crafted by the administration. How nice it was to have confirmation that such practices are ineffectual. In 1966, AAUP issued a Statement on Government asserting primary faculty responsibility and authority for all areas related to curriculum and research on the premise that you get the best results by giving the management of education to people who know something about it. As we head into a year of legislative-driven education reform, that will be my mantra.

I have finally unpacked all the AAUP manuals that I came home with. Time will show how useful those are, but I am already grateful for the perspective attending the conference brought to our struggles at home. Attacks against public education and public employees have forced many AAUP chapters to evaluate their purpose. The conference’s closing session was entitled, “We are All Workers.” Several participants talked about the need to reframe the AAUP as more than a contract defender and to engage in larger social justice struggles. It made me proud that our chapter has given support to the anti-war movement and has spoken out against the student debt crisis.  Those were certainly small steps, but it was important for me to see that other campuses are moving in the same direction.

Note. Creative Commons Flickr photo by AAUP

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