Letter from Louisiana: Advocacy Organizing in Red America


For red state advocacy members, it is heartening that the national leadership and staff of the AAUP are planning a renewed emphasis on organizing in advocacy situations, as announced at this year’s June meeting.

Advocacy organizing in red states has a number of distinctive features, as I learned from decades of work in a state located in a large and contiguous region that itself has become increasingly red (a condition common to many red states).

In red states, institutions are often widely scattered over a large territory, which isolates them from one another. And at red state institutions, the proportion of faculty members willing to publicly identify with the AAUP is often small. While becoming an AAUP activist gains the respect of many colleagues, it often also puts a target on one’s back that will be aimed at not only by the administration but by faculty members who have decided to cooperate with or pacify the administration and/or the state legislature. At large institutions, the AAUP chapter is visible to disapproving members of the legislature—frequently the majority—which can intimidate faculty who have not committed to becoming activists themselves. At smaller institutions, public and especially private, it can be difficult to arrive at the minimum number of seven to form a chapter.

In the spirit of assisting the new national campaign to achieve the highest level of success, I offer a few suggestions for our leaders and staff.

Local Leadership in Decision-Making
Advocacy people want to choose their goals on the basis of their institution’s situation (e.g., revisions to the faculty handbook that improve provisions for faculty governance and professional functioning, tenure, and academic freedom). They also want to choose the best means by which to pursue them because they know the limits of tolerance of their colleagues and their administrations. Once that has been done, support by the national AAUP in the form of advice, research, finances, speakers, and other resources is most helpful.

Because of the extreme hostility to labor unions in many red states, a hostility that legislatures may be more than willing to turn into the withholding of funds or attacks on the faculty, an emphasis on the AAUP as a professional association rather than as a labor union is the more functional approach in attracting members.

Conferences and Regional Groupings
In red states, state conferences are of particular importance. The conference can counteract the isolation otherwise felt by chapters, by providing shared experience, support, and clout. Conferences also provide a home for AAUP members who do not have an institutional chapter or who have chosen to remain anonymous even to their campus AAUP leadership, a common red state situation. Also very helpful are the kind of inter-conference regional groupings that AAUP activists have already been forming and that provide additional opportunities to gather with like-minded colleagues to find solutions to common problems.

Election Methods and Regional Delegates to National Council
The move at the 2019 national meeting to elect national leadership through delegates to the national meeting, as well as the change in voting procedure from nomination and election of regional delegates by regional members to their nomination and election by the entire delegate body, set several obstacles in the path of attracting and retaining advocacy members. The first is that electing by secret ballot and sending a delegate to national meetings will require chapters and “sections” to divert funds from membership-building activities; in many cases the cost involved in conducting an election meeting Department of Labor standards and the air fare, hotel bill, and conference registration for the delegate will be a significant portion of their budget. The second is that red-state advocacy members operate in an environment of self-motivation and self-determination and their regional representative on Council is their only voice at the national level. The third is that legal advice will likely be required for the chapters and sections to determine what procedures are legally available to them to elect their delegate. There are sure to be questions, and the generic answer “it’s complicated” won’t help. How great these obstacles will be is an open question. Many red state leaders hope that the national organization will quickly remove them by restoring individual-member voting and the nomination and election of regional delegates to national Council by regional members.

Pathway to the Future.
Change always brings challenges, many of which only become visible as one walks down that pathway. But there is no reason for pessimism and, ironically, the current hostility to faculty and to substantive education provides many reasons for optimism as it has awakened many faculty colleagues to the imperative to form a united front. Faculty members, particularly AAUP members, are used to analyzing challenges, considering alternatives, and then working together to overcome them. We can, and will, do that again. But the point is that this process does not occur on its own. Like so many other activities, the solution is to organize—at the chapter, conference, regional, and national levels. Benjamin Franklin’s advice about hanging together so as not to hang separately was never more appropriate.

Guest blogger Linda Carroll is an at-large member of the AAUP national Council, a former president of the Tulane University AAUP chapter, and a former secretary of the Louisiana state AAUP conference.

May 2019 Newsletter

Louisiana Conference AAUP

Newsletter May 2, 2019

Dear Colleagues,
The Conference met Saturday, April 27, at LSU-Alexandria. Present from the Executive Committee were Leslie Bary, President; Hugh Wilson, Vice-President, Kevin Cope, Treasurer (per Constitution, appointed to replace Michael Homan, who has resigned, for the 2018-2020 term), and Ravi Rau, Past President; and conference members/representatives from SELU, LSU-Baton Rouge, LSU-Alexandria, Grambling, LSU-Shreveport. Linda Carroll (Tulane) participated by e-mail.

Business was as follows:

1. Report from Leslie Bary on ASC meeting in March, and from Leslie Bary and Brooks Ellwood (LSU) on National Council meeting, also in March. The proposed changes to the governance structure of AAUP at the national level will be voted upon at the June meeting in Alexandria, Virginia. Louisiana leadership and ASC leadership urge everyone to come to the meeting and vote, and to credential as many people as possible to do so.

2. Leslie Bary (National Council Representative for District V) and Linda Carroll (National Council At-Large) were credentialed as Conference delegates to vote at the national meeting. Individual chapters can also credential delegates. I can be credentialed for my chapter, or someone else can; Linda’s chapter, having over 25 members, can credential Linda and someone else, or two people who are not Linda. Chapter Presidents, please consider credentialing someone, and consider working with the state conference to cover as many of their costs as we can. (I think Doodle or Survey Monkey would work, and yes we can do an electronic election.) Tulane is nominating Linda and I am self-nominating for UL Lafayette, but hoping there is another nominee.

3. The conference will provide partial funding (registration and hotel to a total of $900) for a limited number of members wishing to attend the national meeting (three is the number we had thought of, but we might consider a fourth), if they are credentialed to vote at the AAUP annual meeting by their chapter or at the Assembly of State Conferences business meeting by the conference.

4. We did not choose delegates to represent us and vote at the ASC business meeting, and we should do so. We can choose four and as noted above, we have partial funding to help defray costs. The delegate form is here and as you will see, delegates must be elected by secret ballot. Linda and I can be credentialed but it would be ideal to fill all four positions. I am asking Vice-President and Secretary of the Executive Committee, along with the chairs of Organizing and Outreach and Chapter Services, to run this election for the Conference. I am nominating myself and Linda, and asking for other nominations and self-nominations.

5. We are able to nominate two people for scholarships to attend the Summer Institute in Chicago. This year’s nominees are Hugh Wilson (Grambling) and a representative from the new chapter at LSU-Alexandria, most likely Christof Stumpf (he will confirm after checking his teaching schedule). Scholarships cover registration, including lodging and some food. The state conference will provide transportation for those who receive scholarships, and work with chapters on registration in the event a scholarship nominee is not funded.

6. Kevin Cope presented a draft of our resolution on state funding of higher education, which we voted to accept with minor changes; when these are made the text will be distributed. A more detailed discussion of the resolution, its purpose and envisioned use will be provided then. It is conceived of as an organizing tool and Monica Owens, political organizer for AAUP, will help with strategies for its promotion.

7. Our next meeting is at LSU-Alexandria on Saturday, September 28. There will be reports on the national meeting and restructuring of AAUP at the national level, and on the Summer Institute; planning of activism in relation to our resolution and of a membership drive; and reports from our Committees A as well as work toward designating liaisons to the state Committee A at individual campuses, especially those with smaller chapters or without chapters. Another goal for AY 2019-2020 is registration with the Secretary of State and reconfirmation of 501(c)(3) status for the Conference and also individual chapters. There are a number of difficulties due to changes in Federal law this century, that make banking noticeably more difficult than it has been, and we should be aware.

In solidarity,
Leslie Bary
2018-2020 President
Louisiana Conference AAUP

President’s Newsletter March 2, 2019

Greetings from Atlanta where I attended the 2019 meeting of the Assembly of State Conferences, conjoined with the Spring meeting of the Georgia Conference. It was a worthwhile event and I thank the Conference for covering my flight. Following are some highlights.

Response to Projected Dissolution of ASC

Brian Turner, President of the ASC, presented the projected changes to the structure of the national organization. ASC will no longer exist and the national meeting will be biannual: how, then, should state conferences coordinate? After some discussion, it was decided that at the national meeting this June, where Georgia Conference President Robert “Scotty” Scott will be along with Brooks Ellwood (LSU), Linda Carroll (Tulane), myself and some others, we should continue conversation on creating an assembly of state conferences for our Southeastern region, which will have only one delegate on National Council from 2020 forward. We need to work together and support each other, and this initiative will be important.

The formulation of this plan made my trip worth it, as Southeastern solidarity and cooperation are really needed. The Georgia membership is well organized and we should work with them and other neighbors. People across our region have been having the same conversation we have been having in Louisiana about the changes to the national organization. It appears to us that the restructuring of AAUP at the national level will effectively throw organizational attention to the Northeast and Midwest, and marginalize the South and West. Importantly, the plan for delegate voting means that our representatives will be elected by all voters, not just voters from our regions, so the one Southern and one Western representative will be effectively elected by members from the Northeast and Midwest. In this scenario we are largely on our own, and must hang together.

State Conference Organization

  1. The Georgia Conference is slightly larger than the Louisiana one but has a similar-sized bank account and income.
  2. It has a paid Executive Director / Legislative Liaison (Steve Anthony, J.D.) who for $3200.00 per annum does a great deal of efficient lobbying.
  3. It obtained a conference development grant to buy and supply copies of the Redbook to chapters and other key individuals. This is a simple thing we could do that would have an impact.
  4. Every year it determines a number of people (2-6) to send to the national conference and the summer institute, and funds each one at $500. This helps them to go (other funding is from chapters, from the scholarships to the institute from ASC, and from self-funding), but being a flat subsidy does not require receipts and thus saves on paperwork/accounting.
  5. It has a Committee A delegate on each campus, whether or not the campus has a chapter, to work as liaison to the state conference Committee A. This is exactly our plan and they have already come up with it and implemented it, and it is working for them.
  6. It is initiating a salary study for gender equity, designed to work toward greater gender equity but also simply to raise their profile – an organizing strategy parallel to our planned resolution on funding, which is designed to work toward increased state funding but also to raise our profile and raise consciousness. (Most Americans do not realize how much state funding for education has been lost over the past decade.)

Leslie Bary