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BRS Board and Society Meeting Minutes – 1999


June 4, 6, 1999

(from the February 2000 RSN - #102)

The BRS Board of Directors held its annual meeting on June 4 and 6, 1999, in conjunction with the BRS Annual Meeting at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. Kenneth Blackwell chaired. Peter Stone took notes. Directors present on June 4th were Stefan Andersson, Ken Blackwell, Jan Loeb Eisler, John Lenz, Tim Madigan, Ray Perkins, Jr., Steve Reinhardt, David Rodier, Alan Schwerin, Warren Allen Smith, Peter Stone, Thorn Weidlich, and Ruili Ye. Perkins and Rodier were absent from the second part of the meeting on June 6th.

David Rodier moved to suspend a reading of the minutes from the last Board meeting and to approve the minutes. Thom Weidlich seconded, and the Board approved the motion unanimously.

John Lenz gave the (temporary) treasurer’s report. The group is somewhat flush with money right now, but this is primarily because the Society has not yet produced a Quarterly this year (Tim Madigan is currently working on a double issue for February and May). Each Quarterly costs $700 or more. Lenz gave Peter Stone a copy of the treasurer’s report, and Stone will make sure it gets published with the minutes.

Ken Blackwell reported on membership. The BRS had about 175 members last year and about 120 so far this year (renewals continue to trickle in). The Board then briefly discussed the problem of declining membership. Jan Eisler suggested that the group needed exposure, possibly through a speaker who could talk on Russell at various humanist events. Ray Perkins suggested t-shirts or bumper stickers. Ken Blackwell said that finding a picture for a t-shirt that the BRS could legally use should not be a problem. Blackwell will endeavor to find such a picture and pass it on to Thom Weidlich, who will investigate the manufacture of Russell t-shirts and report back to the Board about it. Blackwell suggested that the BRS might even wish to give a t-shirt out with membership.

The Board then briefly discussed the arrangements for the treasurer. Dennis Darland, while still officially treasurer, has been on leave for almost a year. John Lenz and Ken Blackwell have taken on the duties of handling funds and maintaining the membership list, respectively. Darland is willing to resume his duties, and several Board members voiced the view that Darland seemed perfectly able to do so.

In addition, Peter Stone voiced concern about the monthly fees Dennis Darland has been paying on the BRS’s bank account. Apparently, when the treasurer’s duties were shifted from Darland to John Lenz, most of the money was taken from the BRS account maintained by Darland, leaving only a residual amount to keep the account open. The small amount of money in the account requires the BRS to pay fees to keep the account open. When Lenz transfers the BRS’s money back to Darland, this problem should cease. Jan Eisler inquired if the BRS could earn any form of interest on its money. Lenz will speak to Darland about this.

The Board then returned to the subject of finding new members. John Lenz that he will try to revamp and revise a brochure about the BRS written by Don Jackanicz. The old brochure lists Jackanicz’s address, and Jackanicz does not wish this to continue.

Continuing on the same subject, Peter Stone suggested reviving the position of Vice President for Information. Steve Reinhardt emphasized that members needed to get something for their money. Thom Weidlich remarked that it is unclear to which address people should direct inquiries about the BRS (John Lenz conceded that this quite ad hoc right now). Trevor Banks suggested that the newsletter should be less technical, and Tim Madigan agreed.

Tim Madigan asked how many members of Russell-l (the listserv for people interested in Russell) are members of the BRS. Ken Blackwell put the figure at about 15 percent, which still constitutes a significant portion of the BRS’s membership.

Steve Reinhardt inquired if members were getting the program of the Annual Meeting in advance. John Lenz said that they were. Alan Schwerin noted the difficulties in attracting people; apparently, he posted notices about the meeting at nine different international electronic sites with a call for papers, with little apparent results.

The Board then moved on to reports from committees. Peter Stone noted that the Awards Committee had given the 1999 Society Award to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and that the Book Awards Committee had given the 1999 Book Award to Gregory Landini. Alan Schwerin hopes to use the APA as a means to promote Russell as a scholar, but unfortunately the last BRS session at the APA was poorly attended, with only 12 in attendance (the Leibnitz Society drew 60-70). For the next meeting, Schwerin hopes to have a full panel of papers and maybe even an “author meets his critics” session (They are usually well-attended). Ken Blackwell indicated that the BRS should continue to keep Russell-l apprised of its awards, APA sessions, etc.

The Board then held elections for Board and Society Officers. The following officers were each unanimously elected:

President – Alan Schwerin
Vice President – Jan Loeb Eisler
Treasurer – Dennis Darland
Secretary – Peter Stone
Chairman – Ken Blackwell

The Board then took up the question of where to hold the next meeting. Ken Blackwell indicated that the meeting could take place at McMaster University, where the meeting has not been held in a number of years. Tim Madigan raised the possibility of a joint meeting with the Center for Inquiry and the Canadian Humanist Association, as the Society did in 1994 and 1997. The Center for Inquiry et al. will have their annual meeting in Los Angeles in May, 2000. The Society has not been on the West Coast since 1993. Thom Weidlich raised the possibility of meeting at Pembroke Lodge in England.

John Lenz suggested that this topic could best be resolved after further consideration of whether the BRS should join the IHEU and/or affiliate with the Center for Inquiry. The Board therefore agreed to postpone the issue until the second part of the meeting.

Peter Stone then proposed a change in the bylaws of the Board. Both the bylaws of the Board and the Society discussed committees. But the rules were ambiguous as to whether both sets of rules referred to the same committees, as well as the duties of these committees. Therefore, Stone suggested amending Article 5 of the Board bylaws, which then read

Committees may be created by the Board, to perform Board functions, and shall follow Board instructions.

To now read

Committees may be created by the Board in accordance with the bylaws of the Society. These committees may perform Board functions by making or implementing the Society’s policies, and will follow Board instructions. Functions delegated to a committee may be withdrawn by the Board at any time.

After a brief discussion, Ken Blackwell moved to amend the bylaws in this manner. David Rodier seconded. The Board approved the change unanimously.

The Board then took up the question (postponed from last year’s meeting) as to whether the BRS should affiliate with the Center for Inquiry. Don Jackanicz does not wish to continue to do the work to maintain the BRS’s incorporation in Illinois.

The Society’s alternatives are to hire an agent to maintain the Illinois incorporation, or to reincorporate as a new nonprofit in New York based at the Center. Hiring an agent would cost the BRS about $150 a year; it would also have to provide some information about the BRS’s activities. Affiliating with the Center for Inquiry would (according to Jan Eisler and other backers of the proposal) provide a permanent address, a permanent repository, membership and bookkeeping related services, and more. The Center has a full-time librarian to handle books and stand in as the person on the spot to handle inquiries about the BRS. It would also mean more exposure, particularly in humanist circles, and a possible relationship with Prometheus Press. Ray Perkins asked if it would solve the problem of where to have the annual meeting each year. Tim Madigan said that the Center might be available for meetings, but Steve Maragides pointed out that it was probably available now.

A long debate ensued on the subject. Opponents of affiliation made the following points: 1) If the arrangement did not work out, then the BRS would have to go through the rigmarole of re-incorporation again, which is more difficult that maintaining an existing corporation; 2) The BRS might lose autonomy, and possibly its identity, by affiliation with a large and highly-organized group; 3) Some members might not like the association, and would leave; 4) With Board member Tim Madigan no longer at the Center, it is unclear who would look out for the Society at the Center; 5) The Society would not be able to act independently by taking stands contrary to those of the Center; 6) It is not obvious what the Center gets out of the arrangement; 7) The BRS would be perceived differently, as people associated the BRS with only one aspect of Russell’s life and thought.

Supporters of affiliation responded with the following points: 1) The Center for Inquiry houses many groups, each of which has its own board and “identity”; 2) The Center is anxious to spread inquiry, as its name indicated, and the BRS incorporation would help it with that goal; 3) Association with the Center is perfectly compatible with a multifaceted approach to Russell.

In the end, the Board decided to postpone a decision until the second part of the Board meeting. A straw poll at the end of the discussion indicated 4 Board members for affiliation, 4 against, and 5 undecided.

Jan Eisler brought up the subject of IHEU membership. In the past, there was a misunderstanding that the BRS was invited free into the IHEU. If the BRS wishes to become an associate member of the IHEU, it will cost 20 British pounds a year and require that several forms be filled out. Eisler argued that joining would provide international exposure. Warren Allen Smith moved that the BRS obtain an associate membership, John Lenz seconded, and the motion carried unanimously. Eisler will act as a liaison with the IHEU.

Peter Stone read a letter from Ramon Suzara, in which he indicated that he has formed his own group, called “BRS-Philippines”. He has formed this organization in response to perceived failings of the “BRS-USA” (meaning the BRS). He argued that the Board should concern itself with real problems in the world, as Russell did, rather than just talking about them. John Lenz pointed out that this subject has come up before, but the Society has always been unsure what it could do beyond discussing such topics at its meetings.

Alan Schwerin asked if this new organization generated any legal issues by using the BRS’s name. John Lenz responded negatively, but Peter Stone suggested that the real harm might come through damage to the BRS’s reputation, particularly in the 3rd World.

As far as taking action on various issues, Ken Blackwell indicated that nothing prohibited the BRS from doing so. (Thorn Weidlich, however, disagreed.) In that spirit, Blackwell raised the issue of whether the BRS should take a position on the war in Yugoslavia. Steve Maragides pointed out that the BRS had previously had a large battle over the issue of the Society taking public positions on various issues. Lee Eisler, who was involved in these disputes, had argued that the only appropriate issues would be those on which, Russell himself took a clear stance (nuclear disarmament, for example).

Charles Krantz asked if the Russell Peace Foundation had taken a position on the Yugoslav war (No one knew). Peter Stone asked if the BRS had ever taken a position on U.S. military actions. (It hadn’t.) Stone requested that the Board take up the issue again in the second half of its meeting.

Ken Blackwell went over the BRS’s various committees, with an eye to keeping them fully staffed. The BRS now has the following committees:

1) Book Awanls (Ray Perkins-chair, Ken Blackwell, Nick Griffin, Russell Wahl, and Keith Green) The Board agreed that this committee was best kept small to maximize the chance that its members can actually read the books eligible for the award.

2) Elections (Ken Blackwell-chair) The Board recognizes that Blackwell will ask some individuals to serve on this committee as needed.

3) BRS Awards (Peter Stone -- chair, Alan Schwerin, Ken Blackwell) Schwerin will replace John Lenz on this committee.

4) Paper Awards (Alan Schwerin-chair, John Lenz, Tim Madigan)

5) APA (Alan Schwerin-chair, David White) The Board would like to ask John Shosky if he would serve.

In addition, the Board considered whether to create some sort of student outreach committee (mostly targeting college students, but possibly also high school students). Jan Eisler and Tim Madigan will both speak to Derek Araujo about serving on such a committee. In addition, Steven Bayne has suggested the Board create a committee to promote the BRS. Alan Schwerin suggested combining these two proposed committees, and John Lenz suggested that all of these duties might fall under the aegis of a Vice President for Information, if the position is recreated. The Board ended the discussion without a final resolution.

At the end of the first part of the Board Meeting, Ken Blackwell suggested the BRS consider streamlining its functions in light of its membership problems. Jan Eisler replied that the BRS needs to make an extra effort to recruit membership, possibly through some sort of spokespeople and/or speaking tours. The Board will discuss the issue further at a later date.

The second part of the Board Meeting commenced with the following three items of unresolved business:

1) Picking a site for the 2000 Annual Meeting;

2) Deciding the question of affiliation with the Center for Inquiry; and

3) Considering whether the BRS should take a position on the war in Yugoslavia.

On issue #1, Ken Blackwell announced that the Society had five somewhat viable possibilities on the table – McMaster University; Rochester, N.Y.; Los Angeles, CA; Pembroke Lodge, UK; or West Long Branch, NJ (i.e., having the meeting at Monmouth again). Tim Madigan pointed out that the BRS could simply have a session at the upcoming LA humanist meeting without moving the entire Society meeting there. Both Madigan and Eisler will be at the meeting, so there will be people on site to coordinate a BRS presence. They could organize one or two sessions along a “BR as humanist theme.” Blackwell added that if at least three directors attend, the BRS could have an additional Board meeting there, providing there is business that needs to be discussed. On a similar note, Alan Schwerin added that the BRS could have a Board meeting at the APA’s West Coast meeting if enough directors attended and the need was there. Jan Eisler moved that the BRS at least have a presence (if not an entire annual meeting) at the upcoming humanist meeting in LA. Tom Weidlich seconded. The motion carried unanimously. John Lenz will provide brochures (possibly old ones with a sticker over Don Jackanicz’s address) to Madigan and Eisler for the meeting, and Madigan will find speakers for the BRS section. In addition, both Eisler and Madigan would look into finding people on the West Coast who might be willing to help arrange a future BRS meeting out west.

Gerry Wildenberg indicated that the BRS members in Rochester would need some time to investigate the matter before committing to hosting an annual meeting. He will look into the matter. In the meantime, the BRS will hold off on planning a meeting in Rochester for at least a year.

Thom Weidlich and Tim Madigan will investigate a possible meeting at Pembroke Lodge. Again, the BRS will hold off on a meeting there until the two Board members can report back on the matter.

Jan Eisler expressed an interest in knowing where the members were, so that future meeting plans could take this into account. Ken Blackwell indicated that a geographic breakdown of the membership would appear in a forthcoming issue of the Quarterly.

Alan Schwerin indicated his willingness to host the meeting at Monmouth University again, provided he could convince the University to support it. He believed that would prove no problem. He had high hopes that he could improve on what was already (in the eyes of those assembled) a fine meeting.

Stefan moved that the BRS hold its 2000 Annual Meeting at Monmouth, provided that Alan Schwerin provided accurate directions to the university. (Actually his directions were not bad at all.) Thorn Weidlich seconded. The Board agreed unanimously with the proposal, the first time that the BRS will hold its annual meeting at the same location in two consecutive years.

The Board agreed that the meeting would take place on June 2-4, 2000. Peter Stone noted, while expressing appreciation to Schwerin for undertaking the huge task of planning two meetings in a row, that the BRS should not give up on either joint meetings with the Center for Inquiry or the idea of a West Coast meeting.

Ken Blackwell moved that the Board recognize the desirability of holding the annual meeting on the West Coast in 2001. Stone seconded and the motion carried unanimously. Thorn Weidlich expressed satisfaction that plans were in the works for future years, including possible meetings in England, Rochester, and (in a pinch) Hamilton.

With regard to issue #2, various people once again raised concerns about affiliation with the Center for Inquiry (identification with militant humanism, lack of information, etc.), as well as various defenses of the idea (not all of the groups at the Center are militantly humanist). Stefan Anderson moved that the BRS obtain a registered agent for one year while looking into more information about the matter of affiliation. Tim Madigan seconded. Peter Stone pointed out that much of the devil here was not in the details, but in broader concerns (about independence, image, autonomy, etc.) that further information would probably not resolve. The Board passed the motion 8-2, with one abstention. Stone then moved that Tim Madigan, who will visit the Center shortly, be provided with questions from the Board for which he could obtain answers, so that the matter could be resolved. Andersson seconded and the motion passed 10-0, with one abstention.

On issue #3, the Board discussed the matter very briefly. Charles Krantz expressed concern that perhaps the timing was wrong for a position on the Yugoslav war.

Laurie Thomas regretted that people she knew from the American-Yugoslav Friendship Committee could not attend. She also discussed some of the factors involved that would point in favor of taking a position. Gerry Wildenberg questioned whether the BRS should ever take a position on political issues. Steve Reinhardt suggested that in the future the BRS designate an hour or two for general “bull sessions” on issues of the day. He also suggested that the Quarterly would make an excellent vehicle for such discussions. In the end, the Board took no action on this matter.

Peter Stone, BRS Secretary


June 4-6, 1999

The Bertrand Russell Society held its annual meeting at Monmouth University, West Long Beach, New Jersey, on June 4-6, 1999. John Lenz and Alan Schwerin presided. Peter Stone took notes. BRS members present were Bob Ackerman, Stefan Andersson, Trevor Banks, Steven Bayne, Ken Blackwell, Russell Dale, Jan Loeb Eisler, David Goldman, Keith Green, Jose Idler, Charles Krantz, John R. Lenz, Timothy Madigan, Steve Maragides, Mary Martin, Gary Ostertag, Ray Perkins, Stephen J. Reinhardt, Henrique Ribeiro, Cara Rice, David Rodier, Alan Schwerin, John Shosky, Warren Allen Smith, Peter Stone, Laurie Thomas, Chad Trainer, Thom Weidlich, David White, Gerry Wildenberg, and Ruile Ye. Non-members present were William Cornwall, Thomas Drucker, Burdett Gardner, Terri Gillis, Bonnie Gold, Carl Koreen, Jill LeBihon, Chris Lubbers, Guy Oakes, Karen Perkins, Samantha Pogorelsky, Helen Schwerin and Santiago Zorzopulos.

On Friday night, President John Lenz welcomed everyone present, and complimented Steve Reinhardt for remaining the only member to have attended every meeting. Lenz then pointed out that the conference had attendees from many exotic places, including Portugal, Venezuela, England, Canada, Illinois, New Jersey, and Rochester, New York (which provided about ten percent of the meeting attendees). He also urged members to make sure they renewed (and paid for their meeting registration and accommodations), thanked the BRS for the years he spent as an officer, and acknowledged the hard work of the other officers (especially Ken Blackwell, who has been serving as temporary membership supervisor). Finally, he pointed out that the Society had been unable to procure Red Hackle for the meeting, and so members would have to make due with “honorary” Red Hackle.

Chairman Ken Blackwell also welcomed meeting attendees, and urged them to attend the two-part Board meeting to be held that evening and later on in the weekend. Alan Schwerin concluded the welcoming remarks by expressing his pleasure that so many people had attended. Some, like Chandrakala Padia (from the BRS’s chapter in India) were hoping to attend but could not, yet the turnout was quite good, and others (including a contingent from American University to rival Rochester’s large delegation) would be arriving the following day. The number of attendees had made for a tight program, and Schwerin reminded everyone that they would have to keep closely to the schedule in order for every speaker to have a chance.

Ray Perkins, Chairman of the BRS Book Award Committee, presented the 1999 Annual Book Award in absentia to Gregory Landini for his book Russell’s Hidden Substitution Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Peter Stone, Chairman of the BRS Award Committee, presented the 1999 Annual Society Award in absentia to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and will hopefully be able to present the award in person to Morgentaler when Stone visits Toronto next week.

Jan Eisler told the meeting that BRS Honorary Member Antony Flew had recently visited Florida. Eisler hosted Flew there, and a great many people had the chance for stimulating interaction with the famous philosopher. Steve Reinhardt mentioned that Random House’s recently issued list of the 100 greatest nonfiction books published in English in the 20th century included Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica. Two or three weeks earlier, the New Yorker ran a light and entertaining piece on this fact. The article was later photocopied and distributed to all interested parties.

The BRS Board of Directors then held the first part of its Annual Meeting for the remainder of the evening (see notes above).

Stefan Andersson began the program Saturday morning with the paper “Is Russell a Mystic?”. Jose Idler then gave a paper entitled “The Human Project in Bertrand Russell” (This paper won the 1999 Prize for a paper by a graduate student). John Lenz chaired this session. Peter Stone chaired the next session which contained a presentation by John Shosky on A.J. Ayer entitled “Hamlet’s Horatio” and a paper by Ray Perkins called “Russell’s Preventive War Phase.” During his presentation Shosky invited all BRS members to attend a conference on Russell and Wittgenstein to be held at American University on March 25-26, 2000. He thanked David Rodier for helping to make this conference possible.

After lunch, the program continued with a session chaired by Alan Schwerin. The two papers in this session were by David Rodier (“Russell’s Reading of Plato’s Theaetetus”) and Tim Madigan (“Russell’s Evasion of Evolution”). The next session, chaired by Ken Blackwell, featured Keith Green’s “It Means ‘All Ravens are Black’: Russell Against Ordinary Language Philosophy” and Henrique Ribero’s “The Present Relevance of Bertrand Russell’s Criticism of Logical Positivism.”

After some free time, the BRS held its Red Hackle Hour (sans Red Hackle) and banquet. Entertainment at the banquet was provided by Trevor Banks and his talk “The Lord of Laughter: Russell’s Triumph Over Solitude and Solemnity.” On Sunday morning, the program continued with Steven Bayne’s paper, “The Problem of Asserted vs. Unasserted Propositions for General Philosophy” and Alan Schwerin’s “Russell on Vagueness.” Keith Green chaired the session. In the course of his talk, Schwerin indicated that he had joined the three Poles and three Texans who had read (or at least, looked at every page of) Principia Mathematica.

He is looking for references to “vagueness” in Principia, and has not found any. He will give a bounty of ten dollars to the first person who can find such a reference. (Ray Perkins won: the reference is on page 12.) Ken Blackwell then doubled the bounty, offering a like amount for every joke found within the book. (Gerry Wilderberg suggested that one likely joke would be any sentence starting with “The reader who has followed me up to this point...”)

There followed three more sessions, designed to accommodate the large number of papers without requiring double sessions. First, Ken Blackwell spoke on “New Works in Russell Studies.” Then Russell Dale discussed “Bertrand Russell and the Theory of Meaning,” and Samantha Pogorelsky talked about “Reflections on the Self.” The program continued with Santiago Zorzopulos speaking on “Russell and Wittgenstein” and Chris Lubbers presentation “On Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument in ‘On Denoting.’” This final session ended with Gary Ostertag’s “Russell and the Anxiety of Influence: The Case of E.E. Constance Jones.” Stefan Andersson chaired the first session, while Alan Schwerin chaired the next two.

There followed the Society’s Business Meeting, which blended into the continuation of the meeting of the Board of Directors (see above). The meeting ended with a delicious barbecue at the home of Alan and Helen Schwerin.

Peter Stone, BRS Secretary


CASH FLOW, JANUARY 1, 2000-MARCH 31, 2000

BALANCE ON DECEMBER 31, 1999: $5,994.04

Contributions, BRS: 110.00
Totals 110.00
New Members 190.00
Renewals 1,729.00
Total Dues 1,919.00
Library Inc 24.40
Total Inflows 2,053.40

Bank Charges 3.18
Newsletter 24.77
Russell Sub 1,886.00
Total Outflows 1,913.95

Overall Total 139.45

BALANCE ON MARCH 31, 2000: $6,133.49

Dennis Darland, BRS Treasurer