Five Questions With PSU-AAUP Past President Nic Helms

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Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your “PSU story” – your history with the institution, the nature/quality of your work here?

I came to PSU in mid-2020, at the start of the pandemic. And one of the first things I saw was PSU-AAUP quickly and effectively advocating for remote work, flexible accommodations, and humane working conditions in such a difficult time. I signed up for the union as soon as I could!

What’s the formal “job description” of your position?

I just finished a term as chapter President on June 30th. From our chapter bylaws (pg 7, available on our Teams): 

The President: shall assume executive responsibility for all Chapter activities; shall carry out the policies and decisions of the Executive Committee; shall act as chairperson of the Executive Committee; shall preside at meetings of the Chapter; and shall be a non-voting ex-officio member of every committee. The President, shall, with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee, call meetings pursuant to Bylaw D, as well as appoint members and designate chairpersons of committees established pursuant to Bylaw B.

My summary: the President is AAUP’s human switchboard!

What have you learned in this position? Has anything surprised you? Is there anything you think would surprise readers of this interview?

The title “president” often comes with a presumption of strong executive powers, but the role of a union chapter president is foremost to listen and to pass on the most salient bits of what one hears, to chapter members and from chapter members, always advocating for the value of a sustainable public higher education system in New Hampshire.

What about serving in this position has been rewarding for you personally?

I’m at my most passionate when I can help others do their best work. It’s what I love most about teaching, about co-writing and editing, about directing theatre. And that passion is active at all levels of union service, which is primarily about protecting and improving working conditions for us all.

What would you tell a union member who wants to be more involved, but is nervous about running for an elected position?

It’s true, there’s a lot to be done in the fight for public higher education! But that also means that there are countless little tasks to be taken up, and every single one of them is crucial. Union service is PSU service, and even if you’ve only got a sliver of time to offer (work-life balance!), that time can be valuably spent to support better working conditions at PSU.

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