The proposed bylaw change to eliminate the degree requirement for AAUW membership has caused concern among members in the lead up to the AAUW National election. Many have expressed an interest in this matter and indicated they need more information as to the rationale for such a change put forth by National AAUW. A distillation of the AAUW rationale from the Voter’s guide will help.
The purpose of AAUW is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. The notion of restricting membership only to degreed persons is anathema to the AAUW’s strategic planning and constrains AAUW’s influence in the community. Over time, AAUW’s membership requirements have evolved considerably. With each update, AAUW has enjoyed expanding membership and become more relevant in our communities. Members need to recognize the potential benefit to be derived from welcoming anyone who supports our mission. The reasons for change, as stated by AAUW are ethical and practical.
First, AAUW opened membership to men for the first time in 1987. Our demographics have not changed substantially since then, however, the men who have joined have made important contributions to AAUW’s vital work. National AAUW believes we can only benefit by offering that same openness to any person who supports AAUW’s mission irrespective of educational status.
Second, National AAUW has reasoned that requiring a college degree for membership inadvertently lends the impression that only degreed persons value our goals and aspirations to advocate education for girls and women and other important issues relating to women’s lives. A perception that needs repair.
Also, National AAUW asserts that maintaining the degree requirement for membership is a barrier and runs counter AAUW’s stated objective to break down barriers for women throughout society and continuing such a requirement means AAUW is not in accordance with its own goals.
In addition, National AAUW has envisioned that the recruitment and processing of membership would be streamlined and avoid the awkward process of inquiry associated with determining a “qualified” member. In addition, the change will not prevent the continued appreciation and celebration for our members’ educational accomplishments and aspirations.
Finally, and particularly important, College/university partner members, student affiliates and their reduced fees, or the many programs that AAUW supports on campuses across the country would be unaffected by such a change.