U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Bleg: OAH Election Ballot Question (Time Sensitive)

I’m in the midst of filling out my 2011 OAH Election Ballot. I’ve selected my Executive and Nominating Board candidates, but have hit a roadblock with the constitutional change issue (slate #7). There are 11 proposed changes. I think I understand all but one of the changes. The problem happens to be change #1. Here’s the text (bolds mine):

1 ? Article III, Section 1 — Membership

Current Wording: Last sentence: “All classes of membership are eligible to participate in the affairs of the Organization.”

Proposed Change: Delete entire sentence.

Rationale: While members can participate in the affairs of the organization, there are different levels of membership therefore different levels of participation permitted. These levels of participation are spelled out in documents related to membership benefits and since these benefit levels change periodically, they should not be included in the OAH Constitution.

This proposed change seems too broad. My concern lies in the vagueness (or not) of the phrase “levels of participation.” Levels of benefits I understand, but participation? Is the OAH contemplating the restriction of certain issues (i.e. “affairs of the organization”) from the membership at large? It seems clear to me that this is a desired future option. What are these issues? Why should they be restricted from participation by all future members? It seems to me that the original sentence was purposely included in the Constitution to force the leadership team into a default democratic position. The original sentence forces the leadership, if in doubt, to present things (i.e. affairs) to the membership for at large consideration.

Finally, “levels of participation” are often determined by economics (e.g. personal and institutional). I understand that one’s personal ideological investment does have some correlation with a willingness to outlay dollars. But in tough economic times that willingness is hampered by external factors.

Perhaps I’m being overly alarmist? Or maybe I’m overly sensitive (as a contingent employee) to the economics of participation?

What say you? Despite the validity and sensibility of the other ten issues, until I hear a solid argument to the contrary, I’m inclined to vote NO on the change. – TL