CSU-AAUP and CSUCONNects

Shifting Public Opinion in Connecticut for the Connecticut State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors

The challenge

The general public in Connecticut held a less-than-favorable opinion about the quality of education to be found at the state university level (excluding UConn). It was described by many as an extension of high school, with few professors undertaking “real” research. Our task was to turn that opinion around so that when the time came to negotiate a new contract with the Board of Regents, the public would be in support of the faculty.

how CSU-AAUP measures "more"

Positive coverage in the local media, increases in enrollment, and legislative support for higher education.

W@W's Plan

Our situational assessment indicated that the general public did not hold the CSU faculty in high regard. We developed a plan to connect with the media and the general public simultaneously using PR and social media. Currently, we manage their communications plan that includes social media, PR, blogging, print, and online digital advertising.

In fall of 2015, Connecticut’s Board of Regents (BOR), the governing body of the four state universities, proposed a contract that would have severe implications for the CSU system faculty. Namely, the proposal suggested the elimination of tenure, the elimination of grant funding for research and travel, and the consolidation and redistribution of academic departments. It was clear that the negotiations were going to be very difficult waters to navigate.

We began working to help CSU-AAUP combat the BOR’s proposal, tailoring the message behind our PR and social media campaigns to demonstrate the necessity of faculty research and the academic freedom that tenure provides. As part of a new campaign, CT Higher Education Matters, we developed a new website to educate the public on these critical aspects of the contract and to encourage Connecticut higher education.

results

Data indicates that 10,000 people have visited the CSUCONNects blog and Facebook pages since we began posting material online in September. Our recent re-evaluations indicate that the public is interested in learning more about faculty research and that the media is very willing to publish positive stories about faculty, students and the quality of research. The BOR has begun to give ground in negotiations, stating that the influx of phone calls and emails from the public—all with a very similar message—has been very noticeable.

Our contract has recently been renewed by union leadership for the third time—the vote was unanimous.