Be an Organizer!
Until recently, I gave scant attention to training and workshops on “organizing.” Our membership rate was already high, and we had important issues to address. In the last year, I have come to understand that, in the words of an NEA guide, “Organizing is … getting people to join together to work towards common goals.” That is the sort of organizing I sought. Now, more than ever, we in the NEA family must exert our collective influence to accomplish common goals. Public school funding is eroding throughout the country. We must work to protect it. Academic freedom is limited by several recent court decisions—we must preserve and defend it. The role of higher education faculty in shared governance is under assault at colleges and universities in every state—we must vigorously guard this central element of our profession. These are only a few of the crucial areas of public education that demand our efforts.
The Maine Education Association’s (MEA) 2009 Fall Conference included an all-day track titled, “Developing a Coordinated Higher Education Issue Campaign.” NEA staff members joined those of MEA to present a positive, practical program on organizing to achieve essential goals. Local leaders from Maine’s colleges and universities left the session energized and equipped to confront the issues we all face.
Last month, local leaders gathered in Maine for a one-day session titled, “Organizing to Increase Funding for Excellence in Our Schools.” We are stemming the tide of budget cuts and freezes that threaten the basic fabric of our society.
In October, NEA convened a diverse group of higher education Association leaders in Washington to discuss NEA’s higher education mission and ways to make NEA truly the “voice of higher education.” The clear message, appreciated by all participants, is that all stakeholders are important in NEA. The efforts of the group were unmistakably directed toward organizing. All of these activities are part of organizing. It goes on all around us. We engage in organizing without realizing it. So, don’t shy away. Be an organizer!
Ron Mosley is a professor of business and law at the University of Maine at Machias. He is president of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine.