I haven’t fully thought through this and my reactions remain primarily emotional so I’ll try to keep this brief: I am disappointed by the results of the recent vote by members of NASPA and ACPA to not merge these organizations. Although I am disappointed in the result, I am much more disappointed by the process, specifically the fact that NASPA disenfranchised its graduate student members and associate affiliate members. Graduate students alone make up nearly one quarter of the organization’s total membership and a straw poll indicated very high support (82% in favor) for consolidation among graduate students so it’s likely that had student members been allowed to vote the outcome would have been different, especially given how close the vote was without our voices being included (62% of the votes were for consolidation, just shy of the 66% needed).
I’ve written about this in the past and I was part of a failed effort to allow graduate students to vote on this important issue. My feelings have not changed and in fact they are being amplified by the fact that this important vote failed likely because so many members of NASPA were not allowed to vote on the future of their organization (Edit: I’ve looked at the numbers and it is indeed likely that graduate student members would have changed the vote had they been allowed to participate).
NASPA’s Board of Directors has released a statement responding to the vote and indicating some future directions. To their credit, the first on their list of “areas for change and innovation” is “Governance review, including voting eligibility.” That is absolutely necessary to correct what appears to me to be the stinging hypocrisy of an organization that proclaims to value students and its members but doesn’t allow student members the right to vote on the future of their organization. NASPA likes the proclaim that “NASPA is its members” but right now it’s more like “NASPA is [three quarters of] its members” and that must change.
But I don’t know if changing the bylaws now are sufficient. For reasons I won’t discuss publicly, I can’t shake the feeling that part of the reason why some opposed allowing student members to vote is that student member were so firmly in favor of consolidation. Moreover, it really bothers me that student and associate affiliate members were denied the right to vote in the first place and I can’t help but wonder what that says about the power structure and influences in NASPA over the years. I don’t know if I can continue to be a member of this organization given the disconnect between its espoused and enacted values especially given the way that this important vote was affected by the disenfranchisement of so many of its members.
Finally, I feel horrible that I did not notice and act on this issue until it personally affected me. I like to think that my reactions and emotions would be the same if I were still a full-time professional and eligible to vote. I don’t hold myself singularly accountable but now that I know about it I can’t turn a blind eye, even as I begin to move toward the end of my student career and start to look at rejoining the ranks of those employed full-time. But right now I don’t know the best way for me to move forward. I don’t know if I can in good conscience continue to advocate for this from the inside or if it’s time to move on from an ethically unacceptable situation.