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BRS Board and Society Meeting Minutes – 1998


Sunday, June 21, 1998

(from the August 1998 BRS Quarterly - issue #99)

The 1998 Annual Meeting of the Bertrand Russell Society took place at the Ethics Center of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg Campus, located at 100 5th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida. The meeting ran from Friday, June 19 to Sunday, June 21. This year, the Society held its Annual Business Meeting in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors on Sunday, June 21, 1998 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm. These minutes record the decisions of both meetings.

Peter Stone announced the results of the elections to the Board of Directors held at the beginning of the year. The eight Board members elected were Ken Blackwell, Dennis Darland, Gladys Leithauser, John Lenz, Stephen Reinhardt, David Rodier, Tom Stanley, and Ruili Ye. John Lenz chaired the joint meeting. Ken Blackwell and Peter Stone took notes.

Board Members present were James Alouf, Ken Blackwell, Dennis Darland, Jan Loeb Eisler, John Lenz, Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Rockler, Peter Stone, and Ruili Ye.

Meeting Attendees (addresses deleted) were: Jim Alouf, Stefan Andersson, Milton and Cecily Aronson, Trevor Banks, Robert Barnard, Ann Berdeen, Karen Betts, Bill Bishop, Ken Blackwell and Liz Blackwell, Javier Bonet and Mrs. Bonet, Dennis Darland, Jan Loeb Eisler, Sidney A. Ellis, Joseph M. Glynn, Jr, Mitch Haney, John R. Lenz, Steve Maragides, Kendall Mazurowksi, Stephen J. Reinhardt, Henrique Carlos Jales Ribeiro, Alan Schwerin, Peter Stone, Christos and Alice Tzanetakos, David J. Vogt, Ruili Ye.

The Board then took up the issue of electing Board and Society officers. The following individuals were unanimously elected:

Chairman – Ken Blackwell
President – John Lenz
Vice President – Jan Loeb Eisler
Secretary (Board and Society) – Peter Stone
Treasurer – Dennis Darland

The process of nominating and electing officers required the reassignment of a few responsibilities. Mr. Blackwell agreed to take over from Mr. Lenz the job of managing the Russell-l listserv. He will also take on the responsibility of pursuing additional renewals this year. In addition, Mr. Darland may be unable to perform his duties as treasurer for part of the year, and so Blackwell and Lenz later agreed to work out an arrangement to take over his duties temporarily. These duties include keeping a computerized version of the membership list, printing out labels for the Society newsletter, handling the Society’s money, and keeping track of who has paid dues and who owes the Society money. In addition, Darland also sent out postcards to delinquent members in the past; in light of the Society’s current membership problems (to be discussed later), it will be necessary to resume this practice as soon as possible.

The Board then took up the subject of the next annual meeting. Alan Schwerin, a professor at Monmouth College, volunteered to arrange holding the meeting at Monmouth. The chair of his department would support this move, there is a very good limo service available to provide transportation, the drive from Newark Airport is not too bad, and there may even be dorm space available. Ms. Eisler moved that the next meeting be held at Monmouth College at a time to be arranged by Schwerin and Lenz. The Board unanimously approved the motion.

The site for the annual meeting in 2000 was also briefly discussed. Mr. Rockler would like the meeting to move back to the West Coast, or possible the Midwest. He noted the meeting hadn’t been held in either area since the 1993 meeting in San Diego. Mr. Lenz thought that it would be necessary to have someone on site to organize the meeting there, but Mr. Rockier and a few others disagreed. Mr. Stone inquired if another joint meeting will be held in 2000 with the Humanist Society of Canada, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, and others. Mr. Lenz and Mr. Blackwell responded that it might be, but that nothing was definite yet. Stefan Anderson indicated that he might within a year or two be able to organize a meeting at Vancouver. No final decision was reached.

The Society then discussed the question of incorporation. Don Jackanicz, the BRS’s Secretary for many years, had handled the paperwork for our continued incorporation in Illinois. He has now asked the Society to be relieved of this duty within a year. This means that the Society must forego continued incorporation, find a new agent in Illinois to incorporate us, or reincorporate in another state. Two specific options were discussed.

Jan Loeb Eisler announced to the Society that the Center for Inquiry in Buffalo is willing to incorporate the BRS at its address and handle all the paperwork. The Center would apply for nonprofit status for the Society in New York and act as agent for the state’s annual report. It would also provide a permanent space for the BRS at the Center, including space for a Society library (as part of their larger collection) and commission a sculpture or painting of Russell for the Center. Ms. Eisler read a letter from Paul Kurtz at the Center outlining the proposal. She strongly endorsed the move. Other members, including Mr. Blackwell and Mr. Rockler, were more wary.

Rockler was unsure what “affiliation” with the Center would entail. Blackwell also expressed concern that humanism represented only one of Russell’s interests, and that affiliation with a humanist center would suggest that the Society was uninterested in other aspects of Russell’s life and thought (including even positive aspects of religion). He thought that it would be better for all of Russell’s interests (including humanism) if the BRS remained independent in both appearance and fact. In addition, Mr. Lenz wanted to know whether the Center would help us publicize the Society amongst the many people connected to the Center.

The second option discussed involved finding an independent agent in Illinois willing to serve as a registered agent for the BRS. The Society would have to locate such an agent, probably through the Secretary of State’s office (Mr. Jackanicz would know how to do this), but for an as yet undetermined yearly fee this agent would do all the work for us. Either way, the BRS would need a new address by January 1999, unless Mr. Jackanicz could be persuaded to give the Society another year.

In the end, the Society agreed to seek out an agent in Illinois willing to do the work for us and inquire into the price. This was agreed to with two abstentions. The Society also decided by a 9-6 vote (no abstentions) to obtain more information as to what affiliation with the Center for Inquiry would entail. Mr. Lenz and Ms. Eisler will prepare a mailing to the Board of Directors on the topic by September.

Mr. Lenz raised several issues for Mr. John Shosky, who was unable to attend. First Shosky wanted to solicit materials from the membership for the newsletter, especially membership profiles. Second, he nominated Peter Strawson for honorary membership in the Society. Mr. Stone moved successfully that the Board table this nomination until Shosky can provide a short statement in support of his nomination. Third, he announced that there are two organizations in Eastern Europe that wish to obtain organizational memberships in the BRS – the Institute of Logic of the Academy of Sciences in Prague, and the Institute of Social Science at the University of Plovdid in Bulgaria. The Society advised Shosky to check the bylaws; no vote should be necessary on this action (in any event, no one seemed to have any objection to the new memberships).

The Society also made several requests of the editor of the BRS Quarterly (Shosky). Mr. Blackwell requested that Shosky provide in a future issue a list of all the BRS’s honorary members and award recipients, as well as a copy of the Bylaws of the Society and Board of Directors. Mr. Lenz also requested a list of all the BRS’s members, which used to be published annually in the Quarterly. Some objected that there may be people who would not want the publicity. And so it was agreed that people should be given a chance to indicate that they do not want their names publicized in a non-commercial way. This should be done on the membership renewal form; the editor should make the appropriate changes before renewal time.

A motion was made to rename the Society’s Service Award (an ad hoc award given to members who perform outstanding service to the Society) for Lee Eisler. The motion was unanimously approved with one abstention. The Society discussed publicity. Among the methods discussed were slipping BRS bookmarks into books in bookstores and print ads (the latter having been discontinued, without any loss in new memberships according to Mr. Lenz).

A large number of members have so far failed to renew this year. The Society agreed that the renewal form in the Quarterly must be made more visible, and if possible a return envelope should be provided in the Quarterly. Mr. Schwerin advised the BRS to hold sessions at the APA’s annual meetings. Mr. Lenz explained that the Society did indeed have such meetings but has not done so lately for lack of someone to organize them. Schwerin will look into doing Russell events at the APA.

Ms. Eisler inquired if the BRS was in arrears with its membership in the International Humanist Ethical Union. Mr. Lenz claims we were given an honorary membership but fears that the IHEU has forgotten this. He will write to the Union.

Mr. Schwerin suggested that the BRS hold an annual paper contest, much as the Leibniz Society apparently does. Mr. Lenz informed him that the BRS has such a contest but that in recent years no contest has been held due to lack of an effective committee to run it. He will look into reviving it. Ms. Eisler asked how much money it costs the BRS to have a membership. No one had an effective answer.

Peter Stone, BRS Secretary