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Re: [atlarge-discuss] Draft Bylaws 2. Membership

At 20:32 -0800 2003/02/28, Jeff Williams wrote:
>> 2.2 Members' obligations (dues, etc.)
>> 2.2.1  The membership dues payable by voting members will be
>>           established from time to time by a 2/3 majority of
>>           votes cast at a General Meeting or in a referendum.
>  Does this include or inclusive of all members?  Or only those

The usual wording is "majority of votes cast" and it means
actual votes, not trying to guess what those who didn't vote
would have said had they voted. You can only count the ballots
you actually receive.

>> 2.2.3  To become or remain a member in good standing, the member
>>           must either
>>           a) pay the appropriate dues, or
>>           b) obtain a waiver of dues in accordance with a
>>              procedure to be established by the Board
>>        within 2 months of receipt of notice that dues are payable.
>  The members themselves should be required to approve such
>a provision or process before enactment.  We want a bottoms-up
>approach I would assume, not a top-down.  Hence the Board
>proposes and the members determine or disposes.

Actually, yes. In practice, though, there are essentially two options:

a) require a full membership vote every time a member asks for
   dues (if we ask for any) to be waived;
b) let somebody -- the Panel, Board, Executive Council or ??? --
   write a procedure which the members ratify as a bylaw, and
   then have the Panel, Board, or Executive Council follow
   that bylaw in processing the requests for waivers as they
   come in.

It seems impractical to me to expect the whole membership to
write such a bylaw spontaneously or be responsible for its
case-by-case application. In most organizations, such a request
would be brought to the Board by the Secretary of the organization
and the Board would vote yes or no, after which the Secretary
would add the member to the roll or not, as the case may be.

>> 2.6 Disciplinary measures (suspension and/or expulsion)
>> 2.6.1   A member who acts contrary to the interests of the
>>         organization or contravenes its bylaws will be given
>>         warning that this conduct must cease or it will lead
>>         to his or her suspension.
>> 2.6.2   The member who has received such warning may be
>>         suspended from membership in good standing for a
>>         period of 30 days by a resolution of the Board if
>>         the offense is repeated. On expiry of the 30 days,
>>         the member will be automatically restored to good
>>         standing.
>> 2.6.3   Any member who reoffends after the above suspension,
>>         or who is discovered to have used a false identity
>>         or worked against the aims of the organization in
>>         registering as a member (whether with fraudulent or
>>         merely malicious intent) may be summarily expelled
>>         by a resolution of 2/3 of the Board and will not
>>         be eligible for readmission for a period of one year.
>  Bad idea here.  The membership should be baking this decision.
>The Board proposes, the membership disposes.

Here again, the membership has to approve the procedure and make
it part of the bylaws. If they don't, they don't. If they do,
they are unlikely to want to hold a vote of the whole membership
up to three times per offender, and it's most unlikely that a
warning would be much use if behaviour contrary to the bylaws
were only reprimanded three months later.

Assuming that the membership has approved the criteria and
process, its actual application is primarily an administrative
matter. I would hope that such a situation will arise very
rarely if at all, and that a prompt warning would be enough
to remind any member that he or she is risking disciplinary
action for contravening the bylaws.

Maybe it's as well to remind you that this provision is *not*
about an inappropriate posting to a mailing list -- it's what
one applies if somebody behaves in a way that subverts the
mission or violates the rights of other members, short of
committing an outright crime. For example, if a member of the
hypothetical Entertainment Committee steals the organization's
sherry for his personal stock, you might not want to take him
to court over one bottle but you do need some kind of recourse,
and it shouldn't take a full-scale referendum to apply it!

>> 2.8 Privacy and security procedures
>> 2.8.1   Because there can be unwanted political and social
>>         consequences to membership in organizations, any
>>         individual member may request that his/her real name
>>         and contact information be kept confidential, and
>>         may choose a pseudonym by which to be known openly.
>>         In such cases, the person's true name and contact
>>         information must be provided but will be stored
>>         in encrypted form and will be decrypted only if it
>>         becomes necessary to the member's authenticate identity.
>  Too open for interpretation here.  No security is provided here
>of any meaningful measure in this provision.  These sorts of
>provisions have recently been called to task in US Federal
>court, and found wanting...

Well, I'm not sure what U.S. authorities you're referring to but
I get the distinct impression that the Homeland Security Act,
the Patriot Act and the rest of the post-911 changes call for
much *less* privacy -- in fact, for all organizations and ISPs
to maintain personal data on everyone and hand it over without
requiring a court order if anyone in government or law
enforcement makes the request.

Maybe you could explain further what you mean and provide the
amendments you want in the wording?

>> 2.8.2   a)  The membership roll, books and records, and all other
>>         documents which are not expressly to be made available
>>         to the general public will be stored securely at all
>>         times. Appropriate precautions such as encryption,
>>         password-protection and storage on devices not
>>         accessible via the Internet will be taken against
>>         illegal access.
>>         b) It is agreed that this provision will not be used to
>>         prevent disclosure of relevant information to members
>>         in good standing, such as quarterly reports on the
>>         finances of the organization or resolutions of its
>>         Board of Directors. However, information which is to
>>         be published to members only must be distributed in
>>         such a way as to prevent unauthorized access.
>  Again a bad provision in it current wording.  To meet bottoms-up
>process, the members dispose, the Board proposes only.

Here again, I'm not sure I follow your objection. The provisions,
which would have to be ratified by the membership before they
can come into force, substantially demand that the elected
directors and officers a) pay attention to the security concerns
of the membership and b) don't use privacy and security as
excuses to keep information on the organization's operations and
finances away from the members who are *automatically* entitled
to receive such information, but do take steps to ensure that
non-members not entitled to receive the information don't hack in.

Again, have you a better wording to suggest?

>> 2.8.3   Any member who requires access to confidential
>>         information must undertake not to disclose the
>>         information to others and to take appropriate
>>         precautions against unwitting disclosure.
>  Bad idea here is again such would again provide for no
>privacy of any member.

Calling for a confidentiality agreement from anyone who has
need of access (like the Secretary who needs access to the
memberhsip roll in order to keep it up) and spelling out that
they shouldn't leave sensitive information lying around or
be indiscreet is pretty normal. After all, that's exactly
what businesses and governments expect their people to sign
before giving them access to stuff that's not for general

>> 2.8.4   The organization may use informal polling and open
>>         voting for informational purposes; however, all
>>         elections and referenda will be conducted by secret
>>         ballot and by means which do not allow any given
>>         person access to both the identity of a given voter
>>         and the contents of the ballot cast.
>  Again not strong enough here either.  Each members vote
>or poll ballot cast must be kept secret an in a form that
>does not allow for any other member access to that

I know you've stated that belief at least a dozen times, Jeff,
but most organizations I know of rarely go as far as I have

It's quite normal to have most votes on most resolutions
performed by a show of hands or voting-cards at a
face-to-face meeting. For more sensitive matters, a mail-in
ballot using a double-envelope system -- outside envelope
has the data which permit confirmation that the person is
eligible to vote; then it's stripped off by the person who
does the checking, leaving the inner envelope sealed so that
person can't see the ballot, and it goes into a bag or box
with all the other ballots in identical unmarked envelopes,
all of which are opened and counted in the presence of
several scrutineers -- is usually considered sufficient.
That is, if there is no way to connect the individual voter
with his or her ballot and there is no way anyone in the
process can stuff the ballot-box, it counts as a valid and
secret ballot.

Very, very few non-profit organizations have recourse to outside
polling firms to make their internal decisions -- there's no need
and they rarely have money to burn. Besides, if you're that
paranoid about your fellow-members that you don't even trust
them to open the mail, would you not also be afraid that a hired
crew of vote-counters would do whatever they were told to by the
person(s) who hired them? Lord knows, most of the market research
firms do, to the point of rigging the questions to obtain the
result wanted by those commissioning the poll!

Anyway, I suspect you're already well aware that you've spoken
against letting us do much of anything over the past year. I
do appreciate your having expressed your disapproval of my
wording but I'd really appreciate it if you put forward some
amendments or alternatives that the rest of the group could
vote on.



Judyth Mermelstein     "cogito ergo lego ergo cogito..."
Montreal, QC           <espresso@e-scape.net>
"A word to the wise is sufficient. For others, use more."
"Un mot suffit aux sages; pour les autres, il en faut plus."

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