This was originally posted on April 12 in the public Facebook group “AAUW: American Association of University Women” –

Much of this discussion has focused on our name and whether or not it matches our membership requirement.

I’d like to move on to whether our PURPOSE has anything to do with the our degrees.

Yes, in the 19th century, our documents said:

“The object of this Association shall be to unite alumnae of different institutions for practical educational work.”

That language carried into the 21st century as in the Bylaws of 2003:

“The purpose of the Association is the uniting of the graduates of different institutions for practical educational work, for the collection and publication of statistical and other information concerning education, and in general for the maintenance of high standards of education.”

But those who remember the “change or die” discussions of 2005-2007, the vote in 2007 to change, and the hard work to come up with a new structure and documents for approval in 2009, know that it was in 2009 that we changed our Purpose (Article II of the Bylaws) to say:

β€œThe purpose of AAUW is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.”

That change in purpose was made at the same time that the membership organization was folded into the Educational Foundation and became a 501(c)(3), a public charity. The new bylaws that so many members worked on for so long also dropped the degree requirement for membership. That was put back in on the Convention floor with no consideration of how it was inconsistent with the new purpose — just because many members thought that it could not be separated from the AAUW they knew and loved.

But the fact remains that if we say we are about gender equity (not uniting graduates), if we are a nonprofit serving the public (not a club), then there is no logical reason to require those who work with us to have a degree.

If you want to keep the degree requirement for membership, how would you rewrite the Purpose to be appropriate for a 21st century national 501(c)(3) organization — but still restrict membership to those with degrees?

Bottom line: We have already changed. Our allies see the “new” us, and scratch their heads at the degree requirement.

Please vote and encourage others to vote to root out this inconsistency and let us move forward as the powerful organization working for gender equity that we really can be.

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