Dennis Meissner, MHS, SAA President 2015-11-23 13:40:06
Issues We’re Facing Greetings, colleagues and friends! In my first column two months ago, I called attention very briefly to several initiatives that were in front of SAA. In this second outing I want to dig a bit deeper into a couple issues that are particularly important at this moment, and surrounding which members have expressed a good deal of interest and concern. The first of these is the proposed dues increase; a member referendum should be in midstream as you receive this issue. At the annual membership meeting in Cleveland in August, discussion concerning the plan for the dues increase brought two issues to light. The first of these was that the incremental increase that the Council had proposed for each of the seven individual dues levels, when taken as a whole, actually appeared to be somewhat regressive (as the dues schedule has been since its inception). Members in the lower tiers could end up bearing a higher percentage increase than members in the higher tiers. As a result of this observation, the Finance Committee is taking another look at the recommended increases and will be making adjustments throughout the scale to correct any regressive characteristics—even if that may mean correcting it over a period of three years. A second dues-related appeal from the membership meeting discussion was to add an eighth dues level at the top of the existing seven individual levels. Doing so would cap level ID7 at $90,000 (or thereabouts) and create a new, higher dues level for those earning in excess of that amount. The obvious logic is that it increases the total revenue achieved by the dues increase and increases the progressivity of the dues structure overall. Although this substantive change may not make it into the language of the dues increase referendum, the Council is in agreement that this change should happen and will introduce it as soon as practicable. The second big issue is the major structural change recommended for SAA component groups. The proposal would 1) eliminate the distinction between sections and roundtables and collapse them into a single group type to be called “SAA Affinity Groups” and 2) create “Virtual Communities.” The first proposed change, especially the particular rules that would govern the creation and continued existence of the Affinity Groups, again received vigorous and pointed discussion at the membership meeting. The Council discussed the member reactions immediately after the membership meeting and decided that it was sensible to defer any further action until we could gather and consider more extensive feedback from the broad membership. As a result, the open comment period was extended from September 1 until September 15. That accumulated feedback will be discussed by the Council at our November 8–10 meeting. Following that discussion, we will either open a second member comment period (to seek reaction to a significantly revised proposal) or simply adopt a revised proposal if member comments suggest a clear alternative. Changing the component group structure can help SAA achieve real efficiencies, can improve communication with and among members, and can provide a more effective structure for members to work together to achieve important goals. But change on this level is difficult and must be done carefully. It must be change that truly serves expressed member needs while striving to achieve its other objectives. These two big issues in front of SAA, although they are very important, are certainly not the only significant things on the horizon. I call attention to them in particular for another reason, and that is because they are exemplars of something that gives me great faith in SAA as an association whose abiding purpose is to provide excellent service to its members. In each case, the Council studied and then made recommendations for changes that we felt were necessary for the sustainability and effective functioning of the organization. We presented those recommendations to the members and then listened to member criticisms. We then took the most convincing critiques to heart and made plans to revise our recommendations to accommodate those suggestions. I do believe that SAA operates in this fashion almost all the time. It is an association that seeks to serve its members as its highest goal. It listens to its members—individually and through its many component groups—and incorporates member suggestions into its plans. There are strong processes for bringing members’ ideas forward, and there is an equally strong will to do so. This is an important and enduring characteristic of SAA that has always made it an organization that I am proud to belong to and to serve.
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