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BRS Board and Society Meeting Minutes – 2005


May 14, 2005

(from the August 2005 BRS Quarterly - #127)

The Bertrand Russell Society 2005 Annual Board of Directors Meeting was held from 12:30 to 1:30 pm at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Saturday, May 14, 2005. At 1:30 pm the meeting was recessed. It was resumed at 2:30 pm and concluded at 3:15 pm. Directors in attendance were Kenneth Blackwell, Andy Bone, Rosalind Carey, David Henehan, Tim Madigan, Ray Perkins Jr., Steve Reinhardt, Cara Rice, Alan Schwerin, Warren Allen Smith, Peter Stone, and Chad Trainer.

The Board’s first item of business was the selection of an interim chair. Peter Stone agreed to act in this capacity. Warren Allen Smith then moved to approve the minutes from last year’s meeting. Alan Schwerin seconded the motion, and they were approved unanimously. Ken Blackwell then made a motion to approve the emailed versions of the Treasurer’s report, and Warren Allen Smith seconded the motion.

The directors then elected the following officers by acclamation:

President – Alan Schwerin
Vice President: Ray Perkins
Secretary: David Henehan
Treasurer: Dennis Darland
Chair: Chad Trainer

The subject of outreach for the Bertrand Russell Society was next discussed. Specifically, the worth of positions established for these purposes was revisited. Rosalind Carey indicated her support for this type of position and cited the work that John Ongley is already doing in this area. Tim Madigan moved to have the positions that were divided (at the 2004 board meeting) into vice-president for international outreach and vice president of outreach in North America combined into one position to be occupied by John Ongley. Cara Rice seconded the motion, and it passed with eleven to one votes.

The place and time of next year’s annual meeting was the next item on the agenda. It was agreed by all to accept Gregory Landini’s offer to host next year’s annual meeting at the University of Iowa. There was less agreement about the exact weekend the meeting should occur. Cara Rice supported the idea of holding the meeting as late in June as possible. John Ongley, on the other hand, supported the idea of the meeting occurring around the end of May, or beginning of June. Peter Stone suggested taking a straw pole on the matter. One person voted for mid-May, three people for early June, and twelve people for mid-June. Cara Rice moved to have the next annual meeting held at the University of Iowa, Warren Allen Smith seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.

On the subject of the site for 2007’s meeting, Alan Schwerin mentioned Monmouth University as a candidate. John Ongley mentioned the possibility of Drew University. Peter Stone noted the good attendance at Drew’s last meeting, but it was agreed that the availability of John Lenz as a host needed to be determined. Rosalind Carey volunteered Lehman as a candidate with the caveat that it lacked dormitories.

Next on the agenda was the subject of honorary memberships. Peter Stone read aloud the conditions for honorary members. Ken Blackwell moved to make Joseph Rotblat an honorary member, alluding to the well-known Nobel Prize-winning work Rotblat had done with Russell and continues to do with the Pugwash conferences. Ken also reminded the directors that Rotblat is 97 years old. Ray Perkins seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously. Peter Stone brought up the proposal that Tariq Ali be made an honorary member, citing the work he did for the Russell War Crimes Tribunal along with other related work, his correspondences with Russell, and his memorandum on Russell’s secretary Ralph Schoenman. Ray Perkins moved to make Tariq Ali an honorary member. Warren Allen Smith seconded the motion, and it carried with eleven yes votes and one abstension.

Steve Reinhardt then asked whether there was any method on the Society’s Web site for briefing members on what sort of topics the annual meetings’ papers will concern and what sort of preparatory reading members can do to get the most out of the meetings’ talks. He referred specifically to a couple of papers delivered that Saturday morning based largely on books with which he could easily have become reacquainted (and so derive more out of the talks) if only he had had a way of knowing about these papers’ subject matter in advance. Alan Schwerin responded that the papers accepted for the meeting are indeed listed on the Society’s Web site with accompanying abstracts. Chad Trainer claimed that, on his computer at least, only the titles of papers could be accessed and not any of the abstracts. Rosalind Carey then suggested the possibility of a “recommended reading” list that could be compiled for each meeting.

The next matter addressed was that of funding students interested in presenting papers on Russell at academic conferences. Alan Schwerin explained that Nicholas Griffin had approached him with the idea of the Society helping to fund a student interested in delivering a paper at a conference in Portugal. The Directors considered the problems of setting such a precedent, especially in cases where students do not yet belong to the BRS. There was common agreement that a pledge, at least, to join the BRS should be a pre-condition for receipt of such funding, and Peter Stone reminded the directors that a student prize was already in existence.

There was then a digression about the perennial problem of how to expand membership. Peter Stone and Rosalind Carey suggested the value of membership drives, especially advertising. Alan Schwerin explained his disappointment after his experience with writing to forty-five universities inviting people to submit papers and/or become members and having had nothing to show for it as a result. Rosalind Carey supported the idea of the editors of the Society’s Quarterly printing “free year's membership tickets”. Dennis would give recipients interested in redeeming these tickets a free membership and they would be sent a “welcome package” of sorts. David Henehan encouraged people to think along the lines of using World Wide Web options, and he asked for a clarification of exactly how flush with money the BRS is.

Ken Blackwell cited recent payments for a couple of lifetime memberships and university funding for printing the BRSQ as some reasons for the surplus, and he made reference to Dennis Darland’s records of ten or eleven-thousand dollars currently at the Society’s disposal. Ken Blackwell then introduced a motion to empower the executive committee to fund students attending conferences who are members of the BRS up to $200. Alan Schwerin seconded the motion. The motion passed with six of the seven directors present at this point voting in its favor and one director voting against it.

Finally, Ken Blackwell suggested coming up with an automatic method for selecting a substitute Chair for meetings such as this one when the Chairman of the Board is not in attendance. Ken suggested, as an example, that such a role could automatically devolve upon the former Chairman. Dave Henehan wondered whether the position of substitute chair could automatically go to the President, but Alan Schwerin replied that that would empower the President excessively. Peter Stone mentioned the option of mailing out ballots for such cases. David Henehan questioned the propriety of conducting such an election by mail, and Ken Blackwell made the point that this has been the settled manner in which Directors have been elected. Dave Henehan then suggested that a Vice-Chair position might be worth considering. Alan Schwerin replied that the Chairman should have to appoint a substitute or proxy.

Cara Rice made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Dave Henehan seconded the motion, and it passed by acclamation.

Chad Trainer, BRS Secretary