Proposed By-Laws Changes: A Member's Perspective
H. F. Cantrell, Piedmont, S. C.
The current structure of the governing body of the ARS consists of the officers, directors and chapter presidents. The body usually meets three times each year to conduct society business. At times, it is necessary for some items of business to be presented at east coast and west coast meetings in order to get adequate exposure because of attendance problems. The proposed changes in the By-Laws attempt to address this matter by providing for a smaller number on the governing body. This group will consist of the officers plus directors elected from various districts throughout the country. The divisions will be made to provide for equality in representation of members by the directors. The proposal offers several advantages to the present system and may perpetuate some disadvantages. The manner in which the organizational changes are implemented will obviously influence the outcome of the reorganization.
One advantage of the proposed reorganization will be a smaller group of persons involved with conducting society affairs. This assumes that, as directors, each person will attend the board meetings; thus providing for more efficient transaction of business. Also, with directors representing districts, there will be more direct representation of members and chapters at the board meetings. Currently, some chapter Presidents do not ever attend board meetings, national directors do not have specific chapter relationships and thus some chapters are never represented directly at the national level. Even though district directors will serve for the benefit of the entire society, they will be elected by members in the district and should feel a direct responsibility to those members in the district. Currently, chapter Presidents attending board meetings provide the only direct representation for the members or chapters. As indicated above, attendance by chapter Presidents is usually low and is dependent upon the location of the meeting and the cost of attendance.
Additionally, the proposed changes should provide for more feed-back to chapters and members from the district director and eventually a level of dialogue sufficient for members to feel they have a part in society affairs. The reorganization into districts can lead to development of district activities such as have been held in the southeastern states. Joint meetings provide for several chapters to come together for a mini-national meeting with speakers, panel discussions, plant exchanges, garden tours and time for informal social events. From these meetings come opportunities for exchange of ideas in such areas as flower shows, propagation and hybridizing as well as the development of friendships.
The proposed reorganization will have some features that will require attention and effort if the advantages are to prevail. Beginning with the election of district directors, the chapters must select nominees who are able to attend the board meetings. The expense of holding office may eliminate some otherwise capable individuals and chapters should consider provision of travel expenses for the district directors in return for the persons service. In return the district director should realize a direct responsibility to the chapters and have a mechanism for communication and ample representation.
Because of the diversity of interests among chapters and the fact that a district director may represent several chapters there should be a mechanism for chapters to have the opportunity to consider matters to come before the board and to communicate the chapters wishes to their director. This will require planning and open channels of communication. In practice, the director should be able to vote the wishes of each chapter represented.
On the whole, the proposed By-Laws changes represent an opportunity for the Society to develop a more effective operation for board meetings, but it still depends upon good attendance at the meetings and an atmosphere of true representation of the members. The items outlined above are probably incomplete but nevertheless represent some advantages and disadvantages of the proposed charges as manifest by my experiences as coordinator of the joint chapter activities in the southeastern states during the past two years. I believe that the most important elements we can employ in attempting the reorganization are objective thinking and planning and open lines of communication. These, coupled with understanding and a desire for growth of the society, will carry us through a reorganization and to our final goal of a strong and prosperous organization which should and must be our primary purpose.