A Consideration of the New CADE Bylaws

David A. Plaisted

For those who are interested, however few or many that may be, I wanted to comment on some aspects of the new bylaws, proposed by the trustees, that will soon be instituted in CADE. There was not time or space to give all of the issues an adequate treatment before or during the business meeting, and it could be that the outcome was affected by this.

Although the new bylaws have a partial democratic aspect, they limit the effectiveness of this in a number of significant ways. Of course, one of the main purposes of a democratic system is to permit the membership to vote a change in the leadership if there is a need for this. However, the new bylaws make this more difficult in several ways. The problem is that those who are unsatisfied with the system will tend to split their votes among many candidates (unless they are so disgusted as to put the trustee candidates at the very bottom of the list), but those who are satisfied will tend to vote for the trustee nominees. This means that the trustee nominees tend to be elected even if only a minority is happy with the system. One way to overcome this is to require the trustees to nominate a few extra people, which will tend to concentrate the votes of those wanting a change. This feature, which I had proposed, was not included in the new bylaws. Another way is to have a two-round election, because the votes in the second round will concentrate on those who have won the first round. I proposed such a system, but this was not included in the trustees' proposed bylaws. A third possibility is to have enough positions open that some people will be voted in who are not program chairs serving their first two terms. I had proposed three trustees elected per year, which would have permitted one additional individual to be elected. However, the final bylaws have only two elected per year. In addition, the new bylaws have between 3 and 6 non-elected trustees, as well as 6 elected trustees. This means an additional reduction in the voice of the membership in the running of CADE. In fact, if program chairs were to be chosen three years in advance, two for each CADE conference (an extreme possibility), and the secretary/treasurer position were to be split, there could be 8 non-elected trustees and only 6 elected ones.

Some of the features of the new bylaws are actually a step backwards. Before, it was possible for a majority to alter the bylaws, but now it will require a 2/3 majority. Before, motions at business meetings were (I assumed) binding on the trustees, but now they are explicitly stated to be advisory.

So we see that in a number of ways, the new bylaws significantly reduce the voice of the membership over my proposal, and in some ways are a step backwards over the previous system. In some respects, the new bylaws simply continue the old system with a democratic face. Still, I consider them overall to be a step forward.

It is interesting that a number of other conferences adopted fully democratic systems with little controversy. These systems are working well, and it could work for CADE, too.