"Why Not the Best?"
“Why not the best?” Admiral Hyman Rickover frequently challenged his naval officers. When setting goals, he pushed them for nothing less than excellence.
For student affairs, higher education, for our students and the future of our profession, we ask – why not have the best possible professional association?
Why not bring together the best of student affairs to focus on and pursue key issues and opportunities?
Why not eliminate redundancies in programming, services, and administrative expense by consolidating?
Why not benefit from the strongest possible leadership, working together on common goals?
Why not bring the sharpest possible focus to our field in the areas of research, scholarship, and publications?
Why not provide the strongest possible voice within the higher education leadership community, to better present and represent our profession and our priorities?
Why not provide for new networks and affinity groups, allowing members to concentrate their professional efforts or work closely with those of shared interests and focus?
Why not have the strongest possible organization and management through the most skilled professional administrators?
Why not gather annually (one time and one place) all members to consider best practices, learn from the best, and focus on key concerns and renew commitments?
Regardless of consolidation, why not maintain the good work of the foundations, in whatever ways they chose, on their missions of student affairs research and support?
Regardless of the financial status of ACPA or NASPA, why not combine assets for greater investment in the advancement of the student affairs profession and the development of professionals, with the greatest possible results?
Why not create the strongest future, bringing the clearest thinking, the greatest resources, and the best research together to promote a strong, united future, building from a positive but somewhat fragmented past?
There are two editorials in this special consolidation e-mail, each proposing a different future for our professional associations. We do not doubt that each of the writers cares deeply about NASPA – we simply possess divergent views on how to demonstrate that care. The proposed consolidation will have impact beyond merely dissolving ACPA and NASPA as we know them. No doubt, whatever the unknown future potential is for these two fine organizations, its potential will never be realized. The histories of each will in a way be frozen in time.
We believe the dissolution of each association as we know them will open up future possibilities that neither of the two can create individually. However, in order to conceive of these possibilities, we must allow ourselves to move beyond merely thinking about the consolidation as being about what happens to NASPA and ACPA as individual entities. Our decision should be much more about what will be the future of the student affairs profession and how our profession can influence the landscape of higher education. We are in a way deciding between whether we want to pursue the future that calls us or stay anchored to the past that we do not want to let go of.
By consolidating our associations with a strong governance model, we will be much better positioned to participate in the Washington, DC higher education governance landscape, as well as influence federal policy considerations. Consolidation presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform our national and international presence. While we admire much about what our current associations do and what they have accomplished, we can't help but believe that the "noise" created by having two associations, both claiming to represent student affairs in high-stakes deliberations, diminishes our potential influence. The complexity of the world in which we function and the sophistication of the issues facing higher education requires any association representing student affairs to elevate its governance and leadership capacity, if it is to be taken seriously and act on the responsibilities inherent in our profession's mission.
We must move beyond being bounded in our decision making by what we have today and what the history of the two associations are individually and in regard to each other. Other higher education niche groups demonstrate for us the prudent way to approach leadership on the national landscape - groups such as APLU, NAICU, ACE and others offer models of focused, aligned leadership. Why not us?
At this point, we see an exciting opportunity for a new student affairs association. After decades of competition, we have an opportunity to begin a new era of positive change and cooperation through consolidation.
Instead of a house divided, why not move forward united? Instead of competing with each other, we have a unique opportunity to better “complete” and provide leadership on behalf of our students, our institutions, higher education and society. Why settle for the same or just better when it comes to our professional association and our profession? Why not the best?
Dennis R. Black
Vice President for University Life and Services
University at Buffalo
Larry D. Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
Oregon State University
The Case for NASPA in the 21st Century: Decades of Service and Excellence
NASPA Yes! Consolidation No!
Reasons NASPA Should Not Consolidate With ACPA
The history of NASPA begins with a meeting of three deans of men and three faculty members at the University of Wisconsin in 1919. Its longevity is the result of a healthy organizational culture that welcomes change in order to evolve with the times. As a result, NASPA has established itself as the premier student affairs organization in the United States. The vast majority of the leaders in student affairs for the past nine decades have been members of NASPA. We should continue our practice of maintaining a strong and responsive organization that supports the needs of its membership.
Save NASPA from being abolished!
We are now being asked to eliminate NASPA for the “good of the profession.” Eliminating NASPA will not be good for the profession. In fact, no compelling argument has been presented that warrants the drastic step of erasing NASPA from the landscape of higher education. We should not accept, no matter how well intended, the new association as a proposal for something better. Those involved in this effort were well intentioned, but they missed the mark.
The proposed “New Association (as it is referred to in the proposal) is too cumbersome and too complex, and creates a convoluted decision-making process and overlapping centers of power. While calling itself a professional association, it would allow members with no professional status in the Student Affairs field to vote on all association matters, including bylaws. A professional association should be open to those aspiring to work in Student Affairs but professional status is earned by employment in the field.
NASPA President Elizabeth Griego posed a question that identified a single criterion by which to judge whether or not we ought to move forward with the proposed consolidation of NASPA and ACPA. That question was: “Would the proposed consolidated New Association make a significant improvement over what currently exists?” What follows are several reasons that many feel very strongly that the answer to Elizabeth’s well-stated question is an overwhelming “no.”
Complicates governance. The governance structure proposed for the New Association is, at best, convoluted, and at worst byzantine. NASPA has rightfully prided itself on a straight-forward, facile, and responsive governance system. Any member with an idea can fairly easily move a proposal through NASPA for consideration. After reviewing the proposed governance structure, one colleague involved in establishing three Knowledge Communities, asked, “How can anyone get something done under the proposed structure?”
Marginalized voices: Neither the small colleges nor the member communities are represented in the proposed Board of Directors. And, member communities are relegated to a single delegate on the proposed Leadership Council. NASPA has recently made significant strides in addressing the frustration of many small and mid-sized institutions that have felt marginalized in the association. Similar progress has been made in assuring that member communities (including ethnic communities, Native Americans, LBGT colleagues, and women) are fully engaged in association decision making. The proposed New Association does not build on NASPA’s progress in assuring that the voices of all institutional and individual members are a factor in governing the association.
Reduces choice: The proposed New Association reduces choice between two distinct organizational cultures. For example, their governance structures, proposal consideration, and decision-making processes, and the organization and implementation of conferences are quite different. The members of the two organizations value and benefit from the two entities’ differences. How can the elimination of this choice be construed as a significant improvement?
Creates a monstrous annual conference: The annual conference that would accommodate the members of the proposed New Association is unwieldy. Once a decade ACPA and NASPA have a joint conference. By necessity only a few select cities are large enough to host that many people, and doing much of anything in the chosen city is expensive. The conferences are too big to see everyone and opportunities for networking and making connections with old and new friends are diminished. Choices about which sessions to attend are driven by issues of location and transportation rather than by content or quality. Attendees find themselves spending way too much time waiting in long lines for anything and everything. Many, if not most, leave the conference glad that it’s over and grateful that we only do this once a decade. By contrast, NASPA’s annual conference consistently receives high marks from those who attend, and the conference is one of the association activities most valued by members.
Ends the tradition of a volunteer-led association: NASPA and ACPA have both been volunteer-led organizations since their founding. Both associations grew to have staff that provide support for the volunteer leadership and help assure quality service for members. The consolidation proposal, however, calls for a completely different approach in which the New Association would be a staff-led organization. While some think NASPA should modify its current management approach, this is a change we can explore as NASPA. We do not need to abolish NASPA in order to improve how the association in managed.
NASPA has never been stronger!
NASPA has an extremely compelling portfolio that outpaces ACPA in important areas. We have larger numbers of:
- member institutions
- senior student affairs officers
- general members
- registrants for conferences and educational programs
Financially, NASPA is much stronger and healthier than ACPA. NASPA:
- owns its own physical space
- sells more publications
- has more support from external sponsors
This is an important point in our consideration of possible consolidation with ACPA. The fact that NASPA, which has disclosed some financial information, is much stronger financially than ACPA has never been refuted and can only be clarified with full, open, and simultaneous disclosure of both associations’ balance sheets and the full financial proforma for the proposed New Association. We wonder why that has not occurred.
The NASPA Foundation (a separately chartered organization not bound by the actions of NASPA) is on far more substantial financial footing than its counterpart in ACPA. It does not make sense to close NASPA at a time when it is more successful than ever.
If you want NASPA to continue to exist you must vote: The members of the NASPA Yes, Consolidation No Committee, which is comprised of a number of past NASPA Presidents, past NASPA Foundation Presidents, senior student affairs officers, and other leaders in the association do not believe NASPA should consolidate with ACPA. Instead we encourage NASPA to continue to identify ways to partner with ACPA where appropriate. We say, “yes” to collaboration but “no” to consolidation.
If you disagree with consolidation vote “no.” It will take 2/3 of those who vote to approve the consolidation of NASPA and ACPA. Therefore we need “no” votes to total at least 34%.
So if you believe consolidation should not happen and want to affirm the continuation of NASPA, please vote “no” and share this with as many of your NASPA colleagues as you can.
Thank you for giving this your thoughtful consideration.
Michael L. Jackson, Ed.D., Vice President for Student Affairs
University of Southern California
Chair, NASPA Yes, Consolidation No Committee