This issue will affect the very survival of the Association.
I believe that in 20 years we will be lucky to have one women’s organization standing. I want that organization to be AAUW. But I want it to be a more inclusive and welcoming organization than it is now. The vote on this issue at Convention is crucial to both our immediate and long range future. Whatever your opinion on this issue, express them becoming a delegate to the Washington convention. The future really is now. - Corky Bush, MT
[I]f AAUW doesn't want to go after the pool of active people in a community because of some artificial hurdle, those folks will find an outlet for their time, talents, and energy. ... [T]hose members who resist change are literally cutting the organization's throat. - Donna Seymour, NY
If there's a chance that work or family might have you moving to a community where all similar organizations are struggling, would you rather find an AAUW with some non-degreed members, or no AAUW branch at all?
Many take alternate routes to education. Let's recognize that.
The bachelor’s degree is not the only route to education and participation. Many people, chiefly women, have not been able in the past to obtain a four-year degree. Often their own careers have had to be put on hold while they helped husbands and other family members obtain their degrees. Often in the past, women were not encouraged or assisted to receive degrees as their brothers were. Some careers have had different patterns, such as nurses who have had three-12 month programs (36 months) instead of four-9 month programs (36 months). Some women have begun teaching under provisional licenses, gone to school their whole teaching careers, had credits equivalent to a 4-year degree but never got a degree because they haven’t done student teaching under supervision. They may even have supervised other student teachers but were not supervised themselves. We should not prevent women from AAUW membership because of some outside bureaucratic convention. - Roger Sween, MN
We need to promote equity and combat elitism.
What is elitism? Consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group. Opponents will insist they and AAUW are not elitist. I would argue that the above definition fits AAUW's membership criteria to a "T." While we have hundreds of thousands of college graduates we could recruit, we miss the point when we ignore the fact that young college graduates are idealists and not interested in giving their precious and limited time to an elitist organization. Walk the talk. It is inherently wrong and the height of hypocrisy for an organization whose motto is "Because equity is still an issue" to restrict membership. - Cindy Hebert, ME
We need to change the public perception of our organization.
The underlying problem whichever way we go on the degree requirement question [is] the public perception of our organization. Too many educated women don't even know we exist. And much of the public tends to think of us (if they think of us at all) as an elitist group, especially in comparison to organizations like the League of Women Voters. It's a description that I've heard repeatedly -- and it burns me up every time I hear it! Yet the accusation of elitism has the ring of truth when you try to explain the logic of retaining the degree requirement. I'm not going to be distressed if the membership requirement stays intact, but I'm with my grandmother on this one -- the AAUW mission is my focus, and I'm happy to welcome anyone who wants to join us to work towards equity, lifelong learning and positive societal change. - Sandy Kirkpatrick, CA
Our standard doesn't mean what it once did. Why retain it when it hurts us?
When AAUW was organized 100+ years ago, things were different. A woman getting a college degree had really accomplishment something. Academic standards were high and women had to work twice as hard to be accepted and graded fairly. Today things are different. ... [M]any 4 year accredited institutions ... have embarrassingly low standards. ... On the other hand, consider for example the education it takes to become a registered nurse. It's incredibly intense and requires a separate state license. Nurses are educated! ... These people who want to join could give our organization new life -- if we would let them. Frankly, they have more to offer us than we do them. ... The organization itself is on life support. Withdrawing from IFUW is only one symptom of its grave condition. I vote to give it a transfusion while there is still time. - Jeanne Lese, CA
There's a disconnect between our policies and our research. Let's change.
At the 1999 Convention, we voted to maintain the degree requirement at the same time we released the Educational Foundation report "Gaining a Foothold" that described women's lives as a cycle of home, work, school and back. What happens when a student affiliates with a branch and then, as is likely according to the report, drops out of school to go back to work before completing her degree? How can we support her during the hiatus? How can we be sure to have her views at our table to improve our credibility as we speak for women in transition? Let's open up to all who share our mission and drop the degree requirement for membership. - Nancy Shoemaker, NC
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