I’ve received a number of requests for my position on “Bylaws Proposal 1. Eliminate the Degree Requirement for Membership,” which would change the criteria for membership from an associate or higher degree to support for Article II of the AAUW bylaws. (Article II describes AAUW’s purpose, policies and programs, as well as the basis for its 501(c)(3) status.) Procedures for addressing refused admission to membership would also be eliminated. Under both the current and proposed bylaws, payment of dues is required to grant membership.
This is an issue that has generated heated debate for a number of years. Members whose views I respect have spoken passionately for and against changing the membership requirements. Personally I am opposed to this proposal. If it does pass, as a member of the Board I will work to implement it.
Throughout its history, the importance of education has been at the core of everything we do in AAUW. By setting a minimum education requirement for membership, AAUW sends the message that education for women and girls is important for them and for society. While we can point to individuals who have made outstanding achievements without a college (or even a high school) degree, education is more generally a predictor of success in the United States and internationally. Do we want to imply that it is no longer one of our core values?
I do not agree with the rationale that “Requiring a college-degree for membership mistakenly implies that only those with degrees could possibly value or advocate for education for girls and women.” Individuals under age 50 value and advocate for those who are 50+, even though they are not eligible to be members of AARP; and individuals who are not Federal employees/retirees or their beneficiaries support the positions of the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), even though they are not eligible to be members. We should be focusing our energies on building coalitions. The membership requirement should not stop us from networking with other organizations and community leaders to advance our shared public policy goals. Membership should not be a prerequisite for working together.
With its members and network of supporters and with coalition partners, AAUW can and will continue to be a strong advocate for advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.