October 3, 2012
Timing a Do-Over on the Proposed Membership Bylaws Changes: Now or Never?
I can only recall one post explicitly supporting the extension of active membership status to commerical vendors. That was published when the issue was first discussed openly. See Greg Lambert's July 18, 2012 post, AALL Membership Proposal -- Let's Have a Conversation on 3 Geeks. Apparently in response to the "open letter" opposing the bylaws changes published on Out of the Jungle and republished on LLB, Tracy Thompson-Przylucki's statement in support of the bylaws changes was published outside the walled garden of AALL web communications on 3 Geeks earlier this week. Both 3 Geeks posts are highly recommended.
Tracy concludes with two suggestions:
If the membership of AALL really thinks this proposed change poses a threat to the Association's integrity, my suggestions would be either:
1. try to describe the very narrow category of people you are trying to exclude and recommend a clause that would cover that instance or
2. consider recommending the revival of an ethics committee within AALL as a more comprehensive solution to the kinds of concerns you are raising.
With respect to Tracy's first suggestion, I think the category of people is fairly clear. Representatives of commercial vendors who are employed in legal information professional tasks should be granted active membership status but those employed in unrelated tasks (e.g., marketing, sales, etc.) should not. Some would argue that current associate membership status for excluded commercial vendors employees is sufficient as is. Others might argue that such associate membership status ought not include being able to vote as currently allowed.
With respect to Tracy's second suggestion, recommendations have been made with respect to a conflict of interests policy being developed after passage of the bylaws amendment or after rejection of the bylaws amendment and in the context of redrafting a membership bylaws change. Personally I seriously doubt any such conflict of interest policy would be enforceable because the term "interest" in the context of "interested in the objectives of the Association" under AALL's bylaws membership clause is just too vague. Even if "interest" was defined someday, would AALL have the guts to enforce a conflict of interest policy?
Both issues could have been addressed had the Executive Board opened the matter by way of rank-and-file crowdsourcing of the draft bylaws. That did not happen. Allowing alternative membership bylaw language to be submitted as part of the voting process was rejected during the Boston 2012 Members Open Forum because the Executive Board had already locked itself into the proposed language and the voting schedule by way of an Executive Board vote at the business meeting conducted before the regular conference commenced. For more about the internal drafting process, see Background on How the Proposed AALL Membership Bylaws Revision Came Into Existence.
Because of the top-down handling of this matter, the best way to address the interrelated issues Tracy suggests is to reject the membership bylaws amendment and then open the process for a productive conversation that includes rank-and-file contributions to resolve this matter.
See also Betsy McKenzie's recent post, AALL Bylaw - Why Are they rushing?
A NO vote will force the Executive Board to move at a more deliberate speed and allow for a more inclusive conversation with the members – US!
Why is there a need for speed on this decision? We were actually assured by several board members that they believed that this would be a year-long process. Obviously, they were as surprised as I was by the fast-track this bylaw change has been put on.