Yes, the discussions are starting about an amendment to national bylaws to drop the degree requirement for membership.
There’s one discussion, though, that’d I’d like to nip in the bud, namely:
If we drop the degree requirement, we’ll have to change our name.
Nope. We’ve admitted men since 1987, and no one is confused by the “W” part of the name. The National Organization for Women, NOW, may have named themselves and chosen a more appropriate preposition to acknowledge our male allies, but it is pretty clear that our core efforts surround equity for women.
Now things would be easier if we’d stuck with the plan to use “AAUW” instead of the “words” of the name. If we’d been more consistent when asked “what does AAUW stand for” with answers like
- It’s not an abbreviation, but the name of an organization that promotes equity for women and girls.
- We’re a national membership organization that works for equity for women and girls and our local projects are …
- We have a strong advocacy program that’s working for laws and policies that …
- Or whatever your favorite elevator speech might be
instead of taking the easy way out and saying
- American Association of University Women
which just raises more questions like, “Oh, at which school do you work?”
In addition, our degree requirement for membership has little to do with the wide range of campus programs we support for College/University Partners
- Workshops like Elect Her and Smart Start
- Campus student organizations and the annual national student conference
- Grants for Campus Action Projects and Campus Outreach Program
- AAUW’s long history as one of the largest funders of graduate student women through its fellowships program
So the “U” is firmly embedded in our organizational DNA, and welcoming those who have chosen a different path but wish to join us in our fight for equity will not change that.
The strength of AAUW is its mission, not the background of individual members. When ALL who share the mission work together, we will be a better organization. The time for focusing on the individual letters in our name is long past – we allow men to join. We should not create or maintain barriers for the involvement of any woman who supports our mission and wants to contribute toward our goals.
-Jamie Pardau, AAUW Kona (HI)
June 20, 2015
Join Marsha Miller and take a picture of yourself with this sign showing your support for open membership.
If you wish, upload the picture and post a link in a comment. You may also email the picture to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we get enough we’ll post a gallery of the supporters.
But do share to your networks!
We must practice what we preach about diversity and inclusiveness, and provide a place where girls and women seeking to further their education can find role models and mentors.
-Marti Sladek, AAUW Downers Grove (IL)
May 23, 2015
I understand and greatly appreciate the reasons why the 1881 founders and their descendants stuck to the degree requirement. As a 30-year member, I had no problem with it when I joined. As a member in 2015, the degree requirement is not only fairly meaningless, but it is becoming dangerous. We see ourselves as inclusive but others may see us as cliquish. Just as other AAUW initiatives, especially the Legal Advocacy Fund, have grown beyond their barriers, unless we make the possibility open to the widest reasonable group, I think this stance will lessen our appeal and make some difference, even a small one, in our efforts to grow, reach prospective members of ALL ages, thrive and be relevant.
-Marsha Miller, AAUW of the Wabash Valley (IN)
May 18, 2015
I was the one who proposed the membership amendment to the 2015
AAUW by laws. I am delighted to find this website that supports open membership. I fail to understand how we can continue to support non-discrimination if we insist on discriminating. We are no longer the 19th nor 20th century AAUW. We have much work to do to break through barriers for women and girls and I firmly support opening up membership to ALL who support the mission of AAUW and pay their dues.
-Adrienne Lesser, AAUW Mt. Lakes (NJ)
April 23, 2015
Yes, this discussion may seem familiar to many of you. The group that’s supporting this site came together in 2005, and will likely continue in some form until AAUW has an open membership. This year, 2015, will be the first time the entire membership has had a chance to vote on the question and if that vote results, as in 2005 and 2009, in a majority in favor of the change we do hope it will not take too long for the 2/3 to agree.
This is the site that grew from the 2009 efforts. If you are looking for the 2005 materials, see openup.bbvx.org.
If someone is passionate and committed to our AAUW issues, she should not only be allowed to join us, that person will also most likely be a great member because of that passion. Every branch benefits from such committed, active members, helping the branch be a vital part of the local community. They often take on leadership positions, too. This is also a boon to branches in small towns with a finite pool of potential members.
Caroline Pickens, AAUW McLean Area (VA)
April 8, 2015
I’ve heard the arguments for and against open membership. I’ve been a member since the late 1990s and attended the convention when we voted for membership with an associate degree. I believe it’s time for AAUW to open the membership to people who support the mission, no matter their education status. I welcome those who believe in equal opportunity for all.
Kathy Shaw, AAUW Marshall (MI)
April 6, 2015
It is incredulous that an organization that promotes “equity” for women is exclusive. In my years of membership, I’ve heard many times when I approach people who are obviously qualified about membership, they are turned off because of our membership requirement. As we work with businesses in creating partnerships, it’s embarrassing to explain how we can be working for equity – when membership is not open to all. If people support our mission, they should be able to be members.
Sandy Hansen, AAUW Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin (CA)
April 6, 2015