Discussion Points

Suggestions for Branch (or Individual) Discussion Points on the Open Membership Question:

Perspective is everything.  For many AAUW members, the issue of membership requirements is wrapped around their viewpoint of what the organization represents, and not all members are familiar with AAUW’s membership history.  In the course of debate and discussion leading up to the 2009 vote on the new AAUW bylaws, this difference in perspective became increasingly apparent.  We’ve identified a number of these differences in perspective between those who oppose open membership and those who support it:

  1. Those who think of AAUW as a professional society vs. those for whom it is distinctly different from the professional societies to which they belong.
  2. Those who think a degree is a specific credential that confers special status and intellectual level vs. those who think there are many ways to gain equivalent skills and knowledge in today’s world (and that, since the late 20th century, some degrees are of dubious value).
  3. Those who think that the credentials of our members add credibility to the positions we support vs. those who believe a broad-based support for our positions would make us stronger and support a culture of equity.

To discuss and analyze the Open Membership question, with these differing viewpoints in mind, here are some suggested questions to guide the discussion:

  • How important is AAUW’s mission to you and why?
  • Have you ever told someone they aren’t eligible for membership?  How did it make them feel?  How did it make you feel?
  • List friends, colleagues, and public figures who haven’t pursued an associate degree or higher and their reasons why. How does it limit them from working for equity?  (For examples, click HERE.)
  • What does a branch gain or lose by accepting members without degrees?
  • What did AAUW lose by expanding membership to men (1987)?  To those with associate degrees (2005)?  Or by accepting all accredited colleges and universities?
  • What message does the degree requirement send to the public about AAUW?
  • How would eliminating the degree requirement hurt our efforts to break through barriers for women and girls?
  • Now that the percentage of women earning degrees is equivalent to or exceeds the percentage of men, isn’t it time to open membership to all people committed to breaking through barriers for women and girls?

For a pdf you can print that includes these questions, click here.