AAUW Governance Question Forum
AAUW members, we hear you!
This forum is designed to encourage open dialogue about governance questions between the membership and governance committee. You can send your comments or questions to us at email@example.com and we’ll do our best to answer them here.
We’ve started the conversation. We welcome your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair, AAUW Governance Committee
Q: Why were bylaw amendments presented for vote in 2018?
A: We know that you may have been surprised by the announcement of a vote on bylaw amendments earlier this year. Traditionally AAUW has held votes on bylaws every two years in conjunction with elections and the convention. To follow that pattern, the next bylaw amendments would have been presented for vote in 2019.
However, at the close of the 2017 convention, when it was announced that there would not be a convention in 2019*, there were still bylaws amendments that needed member consideration, such as the amendments to permit staggered board terms, which was recommended as an industry best practice. Bylaw amendments needed to be adopted before the call for nominations could go out if staggered terms were to be implemented in 2019. As neither D.C. Code nor AAUW Bylaws limit the frequency by which bylaw amendments can be brought up for a vote, there was no reason not to hold a vote on bylaw amendments in 2018.
*An email sent out on July 16 explains how AAUW will convene in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
Q: Is voting every year going to become the new tradition?
A: Yes, but there may not be bylaw amendments every year. Four members of the national board will be elected every year by vote of the membership. Bylaw amendments will be presented when there are matters brought forward that require a vote.
Q: Why did the AAUW Governance Committee reintroduce a motion that failed the prior year?
A: We had some feedback questioning a 2018 proposal to open membership and eliminate the degree requirement following on the heels of a similar proposal that did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass in 2017. The question was raised whether it was possible to present the same or a similar proposal in consecutive years, and whether there is a way to limit reintroduction of a motion that failed the prior year.
It is legal to reintroduce a motion that failed. In deciding whether to proceed, the Governance Committee considered the culture and mission of AAUW; the basic rights of members provided for in D.C. Code; the AAUW Bylaws, policies, and procedures; and Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), our parliamentary authority; all of which grant members the right to amend the bylaws. Although D.C. Code and RONR permit an organization to create rules that abridge these rights through amendment of the bylaws, the AAUW Bylaws do not contain such a provision at this time. Introducing such a limitation on the rights of members could have unintended consequences that might limit the organization’s flexibility to react to changing circumstances and would seem contrary to the participatory culture of AAUW.
The Governance Committee continues to review AAUW’s governance policies and procedures. At the July 2018 Governance Committee meeting, we reviewed the hierarchy of the rules by which we operate. That hierarchy is as follows: law (including D.C. Code and IRS Code), AAUW Bylaws, AAUW policies, AAUW procedures, RONR. That is to say that law takes priority over all other AAUW governing documents while provisions in RONR only come into play when all other governing documents are silent. We also revisited issues related to balancing the rights of members to bring forward proposals for member consideration against member frustration with being asked the same question repeatedly.
The agreement we came to was that we, the committee, need to be in open dialogue with you, the members, as we discuss these issues — that dialogue needs to include open channels of communication, governance education, and sharing of best practices.
Send comments and questions to email@example.com.