Members of the two major professional associations for student affairs, ACPA—College Student Educators International, and Naspa—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, narrowly voted against a long-considered merger, both groups announced on Wednesday.
A joint committee had recommended in 2009 that the two associations unite, and ACPA's Governing Board and Naspa's Board of Directors spent two years investigating a possible consolidation. At the groups' annual meetings, each in March, many members wore buttons either supporting or opposing the move. Proponents argued that the associations had become redundant and would be more viable in the future as one; critics pointed to cultural differences and worried about creating an organization that would be too big.
Naspa, which was founded in 1919, now serves 12,000 members. Originally for deans of men, it has retained a reputation for attracting upper-level administrators as members, although both groups have long served student-affairs officers of all ranks. ACPA was founded in 1924 and has 8,000 members. Leaders of the groups have estimated an overlap in membership of about 30 percent.
A merger would have required a two-thirds majority in each association. Eighty-one percent of ACPA members favored consolidation, and 62 percent of Naspa members did. Precisely 42 percent of each group's membership voted.
"Our members have determined that we can most effectively ensure the sustainability of the student-affairs profession by focusing upon and expanding our strengths," Patricia Telles-Irvin, president of Naspa and vice president for student affairs at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
Heidi Levine, president of ACPA and dean of students at Cornell College, in Iowa, said in a statement that her group would continue to support members and students by "advancing social justice on our campuses and identifying emerging best practices to promote student learning."
ACPA's executive director, Greg Roberts, underscored the value of the process in his statement: "This was a very important dialogue for our profession."