Q1. Why are two separate amendments being offered?
A: Although totally open membership may be desirable and supported by many members, it's not clear that it has sufficient support to pass. Proposal B takes a gradualist approach to first broaden membership to those with an associate degree or equivalent. This requirement seems to satisfy those members who want some standard in preference to a totally open membership. This is a promising first step and one that had majority support on the floor at the 2003 Convention.
Q2. Why shouldn’t AAUW have membership requirements that specify educational level as many other organizations do?
A: In contrast to organizations such as teachers, doctors or lawyers, and many others, AAUW is not a professional organization that requires a level of performance proficiency. Instead we are a voluntary and civic organization. The range of knowledge and talents from non-degreed women who will commit to AAUW can be expected to be just as useful and welcome as that of present members. We will always encourage continued education and degree completion among women whether they are members or not and regardless of their educational level.
Q3. What is meant that the membership is out of sync with AAUW’s mission and policy?
A: Our mission states that we are for equity for all women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change. Our diversity policy states that in principle and practice we value a diverse membership and that there shall be no barriers to full participation in the organization on the basis of gender, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or class. We will give a stronger message and support to these claims if we admit members that disregard the degree requirement that is often a difference among the other named socioeconomic characteristics.
Q4. The degree requirement for membership acts as an incentive or reward for recruiting and gaining members.
A: If membership is a reward for women who have gained baccalaureate degrees, it is not working. While there are approximately 25 million women in the U.S. population with 4 or more years of college education, AAUW membership is below 200,000 and continues to fall. We know several women college graduates in our community who perceive AAUW nationally as elitist because of our stand on the membership requirement.
Q5. If we admit women without degrees will it not change the character and mission of AAUW?
A: The question of what will happen with a change in membership cannot be fully predicted. We should remember that when the question of admitting men was debated, opposing arguments predicted that the organization would change and that men would take over. Presumably AAUW is always evolving and changing gradually, and a change in membership requirements fits better with the changes we have made in our diversity policy than does the present situation. People come into AAUW now because they identify with AAUW’s mission and want to support it. Why would we suspect that people would join AAUW in the future to change it any more than they do presently?
Q6. If we don’t keep the baccalaureate requirement, we will lose our uniqueness and be like every other organization, such as the National Organization of Women.
A: It is not the graduation requirement that makes us different. No other organization is like AAUW because of our mission. We stand for the interrelated combination of three things: equity for women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change. Other organizations may be for one or two of these things, but not all three in combination. You can look in the Encyclopedia of Associations where tens of thousands of organizations in the United States are listed, and not one of them is like ours in mission. Our foundations characterize us further and set us apart. The Educational Foundation is historic and no other foundation matches its size and scope in supporting education for women, related research and community projects. The Legal Advocacy Fund is unique in aiding women across the country at the academic level in fighting discrimination and in recognizing academic institutions that proactively work for women’s rights. These essential characteristics of AAUW would remain.
Q7. If we admit those without degrees, won't we need to change our name?
We didn't change the name when men were allowed to become members, and this question doesn't need to be decided now. However, if we do change it, how about AAUW? It's a very recognized abbreviation, one that we don't need to abandon. AARP used to be American Association of Retired Persons, until they realized they needed to reach out to people 50 years old as they started preparing for eventual retirement. Rather than abandon a recognized and powerful name, they simply kept the initials, which is what most people recognized anyway. AAUW could do the same.