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NEWS SHEET 6. July, 1976. Part 2.
THE CONSTITUTION.Our present constitution was voted on by the Members of the Society last August. It has thus been in force for only some nine months. It brought in a large vote - only three members of the Society voted against it.
Since it has been in force the constitution has given the Society excellent service; it has not failed in practice in any single instance.
Before it was approved by such a large majority last August the Constitution had been on trial for one complete year. This was arranged so that if members wished changes made they could put them forward during this year (1974-75) by a free vote of the Society and without the need for the deliberately rather slow process of making a constitutional changes.
The effect of the Constitution is explicitly to put all responsibility for policy and finance back to general meetings of members - where in fact it has always belonged. There was once a period when the committee seemed to be acting as if it were a kind of governing body of the Society. A search through the existing records reveals that no powers to act in this fashion ever were given to the committee by the general membership. This usurpation of unjustified powers led to a great deal of internal strife. The earlier constitution, such as it was, was not in general circulation. The AGM of 1974 revealed only two copies among the members. Every member of the Society has a copy of the present Constitution.
One did not expect the Constitution to go on forever without change. But one did expect that changes would be made reasonably only when, and where, the Constitution had failed the Society in some situation. The Constitution has not failed the Society in any situation up to now and has, indeed, shown itself capable of dealing with any situation that has occurred.
I did warn in NEWS SHEET 5 (page 16) that changes might easily be proposed without any real cause - especially in Section 16. Section 16 especially its last Paragraph was thought out carefully and deliberately inserted in the Constitution to protect the Society from the activities of a certain class of person; the over-egotistic alphabeteer. By this I mean the kind of person who has composed his own special alphabet and who wants desperately to get for it some kind of official recognition (and sometimes financial aid) from the Society. There is, of course, nothing wrong with composing an alphabet, it is entirely in itself a laudable project. In fact probably most members of the Society have at one time or another engaged on such an activity and many members have their own alphabets which they value highly. This is all fine and members of the Society should be encouraged to discuss and demonstrate their alphabets at the meetings of the Society, in the Society's journals, etc. What is NOT right is for some Member to attempt to impose his special alphabet in some way on the Society and thus upon those members who have their own (perhaps equally good or even better) alphabets. Much of the trouble the Society has had in the past has sprung from the attempts by certain members to get a privileged status for their own special alphabets. Much time has been wasted in meetings when other members have resisted such attempts at gaining special privilege. Anger and bad blood, even, have been generated.
Section 16 was thought out to free the Society from such unconstructive conflict. That it is, in fact, able to do this was shown at last year's AGM and Postal Vote, when a motion to establish New Spelling 1948 as the alphabet of the Society was withdrawn by its proposers after it had been claimed that this was out-of-order under Section 16. This was done even though the motion had won a majority of votes - see NEWS SHEET 5, page 7.
Section 16 of the Constitution affords a very special kind of protection to the Society. It ought not to be altered in any way unless it fails the Society in some important matter. Up to now Section 16 has given clear proof that it works very well.
Another section of the Constitution which is under assault is Section 16, which regulates constitutional amendments. Below is the full text of a constitutional amendment which has been sent in to be considered by the committee. It will be noted that this amendment has been put forward by someone who does not even know the proper name of the Society. This is typical of the sloppy thought which characterises many suggestions put forward for constitutional changes.
PROPOSAL for Amendment of Constitution.
Amend Clause 18 to read:
18. AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION
Any proposition for amending this constitution shall be submitted in writing, duly proposed and seconded, to the Secretary, who shall bring it to the notice of the Committee. The Committee, as soon as practicable and not later than 6 months after its receipt by the Secretary shall arrange for its circularisation to Members. The Committee may attach any comments or recommendations thereon as it thinks fit.
The proposition may be discussed at the next ensuing general meeting of the Society but may not be adopted as an approved amendment.
The Committee shall request an independent authority having no connection with the Society (such as the Electoral Reform Society) to conduct a poll of Members.
If that authority reports that not less than 66% of the votes cast are in favour of the proposition, the constitution shall thereupon be amended in accordance with the proposition.
Comment 1. The purposes of the proposition are:
(a) to simplify the procedure, making it more workable and easier to follow;
(b) to reduce the time scale involved in making amendments;
(c) to eliminate difficulties of interpretation under the present wording;
(d) to reduce the wording (299 words down to 152).
Comment 2. If this proposition is adopted, I consider the procedure still rather costly for the Society, because it really involves a treble circularisation to Members: (i) the original proposition; (ii) the poll by the independent authority; (iii) notification to members of the result of the poll. However, I have preferred as a first step to concentrate upon a simplification of other parts of the procedure."
The proposal to amend Section 16 is accompanied by several comments by its author. Comment 1(a) is "to simplify the procedure." It ought NOT be simple to alter the Constitution: a Constitution is intended to lay down a firm foundation for the activities of the Society. Comment 1(b) is "to reduce the time scale involved in making amendments." This probably, if it means anything, is a rather pompous way of saying "to get amendments made quicker". But it ought NOT to be possible to get amendments made hastily. Some time ought to be spent by members in thinking over constitutional amendments in order that rational decisions be reached about the need for them and about their effect. Time must be allowed to members to think and put forward their own ideas. The present Constitution allows this time. Comment 1(c) is "to eliminate difficulties of interpretation under (sic) the present wording". This, if again it means anything at all, seems to be a verbose way of saying "to make it easier to understand." Yet the author has not offered one single example of where the present Constitution is difficult to understand. No member of the Society has offered even one example of difficulty during the year in which the Constitution was on trial. Comment 1(d) is "to reduce the wording (299 words down to 152)." I am tempted to levity about this comment but presumably the author meant it seriously and so is entitled to respectful treatment. I have always believed that the right number of words for any document is that number which allows it to say clearly what is intended. I do not believe that there is any virtue in brevity for its own sake. We cannot work on a "Me Tarzan - you Jane" basis. If we are asked to alter the Constitution for the sake of saving 77 words it might be wise to think of the probable consequences of this action. Think of the fun that future nit-pickers and logic choppers are going to have in proposing dozens of new Constitutional Amendments. We will be able to forget about spelling reform and spend all our future meetings tearing at the Society's guts. It is no good pretending this won't happen. It always has in the past. One can see what will happen from the list of proposed amendments printed in another place in this issue of NEWS SHEET.
Another thing members should remember is that when this Constitution was first written it was very carefully examined by Mr Leslie Blake who was then our Treasurer. For the benefit of folk who do not know Mr Blake I should say that he has an Honours degree in Law. He is also a fully qualified Barrister at Law and now teaches law at a London Polytechnic. Mr Blake carefully examined the script of the proposed Constitution and made some suggestions for changes. These were included and Mr Blake felt that the result was a very good Constitution. It was duplicated (at no expense to the Society through the courtesy of Mr Herbert Wilkinson) circulated to the Members and approved by the AGM of 1974 for one year's trial in practice. It was approved as the permanent Constitution of the Society by the poll of members for the AGM of 1975.
At present, for the first time ever, every single member of the Society has his/her own copy of the Constitution and so knows what it is about. Quite apart from the expense involved (and this will be large in relation to our scanty and now devalued funds) a great deal of time and work will be involved in circulating these amendments to get them known to the members should any of them be passed. The options will be the production of a new constitutional booklet or of a set of paste-over slips. The booklet will be the most effective - but the more expensive. The paste-overs will have to be stuck into the 300 copies in stock by the Secretary or by paid labour. It's an unpleasant job as I know from sticking down 120 envelopes to send out our journals. Most of the members who get them will forget to stick them into place and so they will be wasted.
Although it is reasonable to expect that over passing time the need for revision of some parts of the Constitution will become obvious, it is not reasonable to expect that changes are needed less than a year after it was voted into force by the members, I accordingly suggest to members that they should reject all amendments proposed (until the Constitution has been tried out in practice) for a period of at least two more years. If members keep this in mind when voting (or refraining) on proposed constitutional amendments, it will prevent some silly action.
PLEASE DON'T FORGET OUR SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN THE LAST WEEK OF AUGUST 1977
HAVE YOU YET ORDERED YOUR COPY OF READING & SPELLING?
MESSAGE FROM THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY:We are now entering an expansive phase and we should act accordingly. The Society has had publicity from articles in the Manchester Evening News, from press releases about the Duke of Edinburgh joining the Society as Patron and conference coverage. Even the American Globe has commissioned an article from one of its agents.
Our energies will be divided between devising ways of selecting systems for the spelling trials, comparing texts and finding schools willing to participate in running trials.
It is important that we move with the times and test systems in a scientific manner before we inflict the originators systems on the public.
If we are to retain credibility we must proceed with due care and attention and neglect no necessary checks. Also we need something tangible to show to visitors and somewhere to show it to them.
This year's budget has been drawn from a consensus of opinion of the Society's members.
Good luck in your endeavours.
Richard James Lawler (Financial Secretary SSS)
AGENDA OF MEETING ON 26 JUNE. 1976.
1. Edward Smith proposes that Ralph Cropper be a trustee.
2. Smith proposes that Angus Cheyne Dalgleish be a trustee.
3. Smith proposes that Stanley Gibbs be a trustee.
4. Smith proposes that Maurice Harrison be a trustee.
5. Smith proposes that Sir James Pitman retire from the office of trustee.
6. Smith proposes that Sinclair Eustace should be acting Secretary.
7. Richard J. Lawler proposes that G.H. Unsworth Mitchell be co-opted to the Committee.
8. George O'Halloran proposes that the Committee fix exact dates for our Second International Conference and also for the 1977 AGM as soon as possible.
9. O'Halloran proposes that the Committee invite the Duke of Edinburgh to write a foreword to READING & SPELLING, the Proceedings of the 1975 Conference.
10. O'Halloran proposes that the Committee invite the Duke of Edinburgh to perform the opening ceremony at our Second International Conference.
11. O'Halloran proposes that the Committee co-opt Jack Windsor Lewis.
12. O'Halloran proposes that the Chairman be responsible for calling meetings of the Committee.
13. O'Halloran proposes that the Chairman be requested to ensure that copies of (i) the Constitution (ii) the Financial Regulations (iii) the current Budget (iv) the Rules of the Society (when they are completed) be available at all meetings of the Committee and of the Society.
13. O'Halloran proposes that the Records Secretary be requested to gather together into a single document all resolutions which have permanent effect of both Committee and Society.
14. O'Halloran proposes that the resolutions in (13) be published in single pamphlet under the title of "Rules of the Society."
15. If resolutions 1-5 do not pass unamended Smith proposes that O'Halloran be appointed to find new solicitors and carry out the work associated with appointing new trustees.
16. Smith proposes that the Editorial Board created 30 October 1971 (with Editor, Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer ex officio members) should be responsible for the content of NEWS SHEET and any other periodicals produced by the Society.
17. Smith proposes that all Committee resolutions not of a confidential nature should be reported in NEWS SHEET and, if requested by any Committee member, with a record of how each member voted.
18. The elected members of the Committee shall hold office for one year.
19. A quorum of the Committee shall be one quarter of the members but no less than four.
20. All honorary officers except the President shall be elected for a period of one year.
21. Section 7 - delete.
22. Section 14 - delete paragraph 3 and add:
"Any resolution for an expenditure of more than £25 must have been on an agenda circulated at least one week before the meeting. The only amendment to such a resolution that can be introduced at the meeting is a reduction in the proposed expenditure.
23. Section 15 - delete.
24. Section 16 - delete.
25. Section 17 - delete.
26. O'Halloran proposes that the names of all the officers of the Society be included on the Society's formal stationery.
27. If 26 does not pass O'Halloran proposes that no officer's names be included.
28. O'Halloran proposes that when discussion of a particular topic has persisted for more than twenty minutes at any committee meeting, any member can ask that the discussion of this topic close. If a majority agree further discussion of this topic shall not take place at that meeting and no vote shall be taken. This does not preclude the topic from being raised at another meeting.
29. Any other business.
Please study carefully the enclosed letter from our solicitor.
John Fergus McBride has not answered letters asking for information vital for the appointment of new trustees.
Smith proposes that John Fergus McBride be suspended from the committee. (This proposal will be withdrawn if McBride contacts Smith).
Smith proposes that the committee recommend to the Society for adoption the Constitutional Amendment suggested by Ralph Cropper.
30. The committee will discuss the views of our Patron on spelling reform.
Our President writes
"I have been negotiating with the International Reading Association (IRA) and I believe that the Simplified Spelling Society will be invited to put on a one hour meeting at the next IRA convention at Miami Beach, Florida, on May 2-6, 1977.
"This will be a great opportunity for the Society and it will be a great help to teachers interested in Simplified spelling from the British point of view."
31. Smith proposes that the committee approve Prof. Downings actions in trying to arrange this co-operation with IRA.
32-39. 7 further proposals circulated separately by O'Halloran.
40. Any other business.
At the Institute of Education we are supposed to finish at 12.30. Therefore we must start at 10.00 o'clock sharp to get through the agenda. Please be on time.
Now follows verbatim the agenda for the Committee Meeting on July 10th 1976.
1. Edward Smith proposes: "Resolved that Ralph Cropper, Angus
Cheyne Dalgleish, Stanley Gibbs and Maurice Harrison be appointed trustees of the
trust deed dated 30th May 1940 in place of Sir James Pitman and resolved that the
resignation of Sir James Pitman as trustee be accepted by the Society."
(This is necessary again because I failed to include deed date etcetera in the resolutions of 26 June, for which I apologise - Edward Smith). The underlining [replaced by italics] is mine - Editor.
2. Smith proposes that all committee resolutions not of a confidential nature should be reported in NEWS SHEET.
3. Smith proposes that any member may object at a committee meeting if he believes another member is making an unjustified or irrelevant statement about any other person. The chairman must determine whether the majority of those present agree. The second time in any one meeting that any member is convicted the Chairman must determine whether the majority of those present wish to expel the offender from the meeting. Following a third conviction (sic) in one meeting, expulsion from the meeting is mandatory and the responsibility of the chairman. Expulsion from a meeting does not affect a member's right to attend subsequent meetings.
4. Mr George O'Halloran proposes that when the discussion of a
particular topic has persisted for more than 20 minutes at any committee meeting,
any member can ask that discussion of this topic close. If a majority agree further
discussion of this topic shall not take place at that meeting and no vote shall be
taken. This does not preclude the topic being raised at another meeting.
5. Mr Stanley Gibbs proposes that resolution 19 passed at the Committee meeting of 26 June 1976 shall be amended with the addition of: "persons present."
Smith proposes the following constitutional amendments to be recommended to the Society
6. The Education Secretary shall be elected for a period of one year.
or 7. The Education Secretary shall be elected for a period of 2 years (withdrawn if 6 passes).
8. The Records Secretary shall be elected for a period of one year.
or 9. The Records Secretary shall be elected for a period of two years.
10. Section 14 - Delete all reference to proxy voting.
11. Section 14 - Replace the last two sentences with the following "Any expenditure of more than £50 must have been on an agenda circulated at least one week before the meeting. The only amendment to such a resolution that can be introduced at the meeting is a reduction in the proposed expenditure."
12. Section 5, Publications Secretary: delete "and shall be Editor of its journals."
13. Delete section 15.
14) Delete section 16.
15) Delete Section 17.
16. Amend section 18 as proposed by Mr Ralph Cropper.
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