Phil Cox is APPA's President-Elect and director of facilities management at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He can be reached at email@example.com.
I am willing to bet that some of you, who are reading this now, still have not renewed your APPA membership for 2002-03. Whatever the reason for not renewing your membership, you still have a golden opportunity to improve APPA's diversity by adding an associate member from your institution as you send in your renewal.
Diversity is not only the right thing to do from a moral or ethical point of view, it makes good business sense too. By tapping into the talents, experiences, and ideas of a diverse membership, our organization can be more effective in innovations, solving problems, and producing higher quality services for our members. Kevin Sullivan, vice president of human resources for Apple Computers, said, "When you are surrounded by sameness, you get only variations on the same." APPA's stated values include growth and development. We are seeking continuous improvement; sameness won't do.
APPA's Strategic Plan, desired outcome #2, "Collaborative Relationship-Building," states, "The organization will engage in symbiotic and collaborative relationships and partnerships. The organization is inclusive and accessible serving facilities professionals, their institutions, and related communities." Similarly, our membership is made up of educational institutions, most of which espouse the value of diversity. I wonder, however, if APPA is adequately reflecting the principles of our constituent institutions regarding diversity. Are we really inclusive and accessible?
There are many facets to the subject of diversity. Besides some of the more obvious ones such as race, national origin, religion, and gender, there are many others such as age, educational level, family status, physical ability, sexual orientation, culture, employment status, thinking style, etc. Diversity is not something to be accommodated or made room for. Rather, our diversity is something to be celebrated and enjoyed. We should be seizing the many opportunities that are made possible by the wide variety of people who make up our profession.
As you complete your annual membership renewal form, please consider your associate members and ask yourself especially about their race, gender, and age. Do the institutional representatives and associates from your school reflect the various races that contribute to your campus population? What about other historically marginalized and previously excluded segments of your campus population?
What about gender? Are we doing all we can to include women in our association and encourage their active involvement? It was disturbing last spring, when the APPA office called a recently-dropped member to find out why she had not renewed her institution's membership, only to learn that she had quit APPA because she had found it difficult to "break into" her particular region. Despite her wishes to get involved and contribute to the region, she did not feel like she was allowed in. I am sorry to report that she said we look like a "good ol' boys club." She left us and joined another facilities association.
As you review colleagues from your institution who are involved in APPA, please also consider age.
Are the associate members all Baby Boomers or older? If we are not including the Generation Xers in our association, we are going to be facing a huge void in leadership positions as the Baby Boomers move on in a few years. More importantly, we are missing out on enormous contributions that younger thinkers could be bringing to APPA.
If all this sounds like an admonition to get with the times, well I guess it is. After all, don't we want APPA to remain our association of choice? Let me close with a quote by Charles Darwin: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."