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NEWS SHEET 6. July, 1976. Part 3.


Some time very early in the year our Chairman, Mr Edward Smith, brought to me at home very late one night (1) correspondence which had gone on between himself and another member, Mr O. Masson, and (2) an item entitled Syllabic /l/. He said that both were for publication in the next NEWS SHEET. As Editor I read both but it did not seem to me that there was any particular merit in either contribution which made early (or any) publication imperative.

I later received a letter from our Chairman, Mr Smith, which included the following paragraph:
"I am sure you have very good reason for not having "put in NEWS SHEET 5 my bit on syllabic l as well as the thing between Masson and me on internal open juncture. Kindly let me know what this very good reason is." (10th April 1976)
I received another letter dated 14th April which included the paragraph:
"The dialogue between Masson and me was a bit long, but my thing on syllabic l was not long and I thought was much more important than some of the waffle you did include in the NEWS SHEET. While we are resolving the duties and responsibilities of the chairman I shall include a resolution enabling the chairman to order the publications secretary to include matter in the Society's periodical". The underlining [now italics] is mine - Editor
There was later a further letter from our chairman, Mr Smith, dated 21st April 1976. This included the paragraph:
"It is very kind of you to invite me to write a new article for NEWS SHEET, but I am still waiting to see published the note on syllabic /l/ I gave you ages ago. Have you lost it? If so, please say so, have a good look and tell me if you can't find it. It is less than a page long."
I decided to print the piece on Syllabic /l/ in the first number of our new journal READING & SPELLING. Members may read it there on page 24 and make up their own minds if it was worth all the correspondence that went on about it.


Then followed resolutions for the Committee and proposed constitutional amendments.
(a) For the Committee meeting 26th June
"Smith proposes that the editorial board created 30 October 1971 (with editor, chairman, secretary and treasurer ex officio members) should be responsible for the contents of NEWS SHEET and any other periodicals produced by the Society."
(The effect would have been to remove responsibility from me as Editor and spread it over a board).
At the meeting it was explained to Mr Smith that the resolution he had quoted had apparently been superseded by a later resolution (May 3rd 1973) which proposed members of a board by name. It was also pointed out that such resolution was against Section 5 page 6 Publications Secretary of the Constitution, which states, inter alia, "The Publications Secretary shall be elected for a period of one year. He shall be responsible for the production of all the Society's publications and shall be Editor of its journals."
A resolution which infringes the Constitution cannot, of course, be passed by the Committee.)
The next step was a proposal included in the agenda for a committee meeting on 10th July. This read:
"Smith proposes the following constitutional amendments to be recommended to the Society: No.12) Section 5. Publications Secretary. delete 'and shall be Editor of its journals.'"
(The effect of this would be to remove responsibility for the journals from the Publications Secretary and give it to nobody - since no alternative is specified in the proposal).

I believe that the above is a fair and factual statement. I have quoted only the relevant parts of our Chairman's letters but if any member wishes to have a copy of the full text of any letter I will be happy to send a copy provided costs are provided. I should say that Mr Smith's letters and resolutions are mainly but not invariably in his own alphabet. I have given the bare bones of the facts and leave it to members to draw their own conclusions from them.


I want here to make some comments on the very large number of constitutional amendments that have been proposed by Mr Smith. In the main they are badly drafted and badly thought out, without much regard for the consequences which may flow from them.
The first group to which I should draw attention are:

Proposal 20 of 26th June reading:
"All the honorary officers except the President shall be elected for a period of one year"
Proposals 6, 7, 8 and 9 of 10th July reading:
"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 2 years."

One wonders how 'all' (underlined [now italicised] by me) in proposal 20 above can be reconciled with 7 and 9 above. All were put forward by our Chairman, Mr Edward Smith.

The only thing in common between Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 appears to be a desire to change at all costs away from the present Constitution, - which says 3 years. It is a bad reason for making a change especially when such good reasons led to fixing the original periods.

So far as the Education Secretary is concerned much of the reason for the 3 year period is set out in his/her duties as set out on pp. 5 and 6 of the Constitution. In the course of these duties he could be expected to get to know and to become friendly with persons important to the Society's aims. He would get to know important education officials at the Ministry of Education (here and overseas); with local education officials; with editors of educational and other papers; with broadcasters; with officers of grant-making foundations; with officers of other Societies. Such friendly contacts over a fairly lengthy period lead to mutual confidence and trust and will thus help the work of the Society. It is not likely that this kind of relation could be achieved in a short period.

Reasons of continuity apply also to the work of the Records Secretary.

Passing any of these amendments would, quite apart from their self contained absurdity, seriously damage the Society's work.

Constitutional amendment 10 of 10 July proposed by our Chairman, Mr Edward Smith, is a particularly badly thought out proposal. It may also be illegal. It certainly would be illegal if the Society were to be an incorporated body. Amendment 10 reads:
"Section 14 - delete all reference to proxy voting."
This would have the effect of disfranchising all Members of the Society who were unable to attend in person to vote in person at meetings of the Society. In practice this would mean that the affairs of the Society would be conducted by a small group of its members. Probably those living in the South-East of England - the area in which Mr Smith resides - would be the only members able to attend with any regularity. This amendment would deprive most members of the Society of any opportunity of taking part in their Society's business. If Dr Gassner, for example, wished to record his vote on an issue in which he had an interest he would have to make a journey from Australia to do so. This would cost him about £800 - a very expensive vote - where it now costs him a few pence for a stamp to play his part in the Society's affairs.

At present 30 of the Society's listed members live overseas i.e. 25% of the total. These overseas members have played an active part in the Society's affairs. Our First International Conference would not have been a success without their support. At present their orders and cash for the Proceedings of the Conference outnumber those of resident members by 2½ to 1. Are we going to deprive them of their votes in return for their past help to the Society?

Some 40 home-based members of the Society live outside the South-East corner of England. Several live as far away as Scotland. These constitute some 30% of the membership. Very much the same circumstances apply to these members as to overseas members.

There are also a number of members who are ill or old and who will find it very hard to attend in person. There is, for example, one member of the Society who has always attended the Society's functions but who this year has had a serious accident which will prevent his attendance at the AGM and Committee meetings. Is he to be prevented from taking his usual active part - by proxy, because of his illness? There are several other members in similar case.

Thus, rather more than 50% of the members of the Society will have their active membership of the Society made more difficult if this constitutional amendment passes. Will any of these members feel it is not worthwhile paying the increased subscription to remain a non-participating member of the Society? What effect will this amendment have on the recruitment of new members? The membership figures of the Society show that the number of our members has increased greatly since the introduction of proxy voting in the 1974 Constitution. Will they decrease again if this very recent provision for giving members an active part in the Society's affairs is so very hastily withdrawn?

Amendment 10 of agenda 10 July has clearly not been very well thought out and members should reject it.

At the Committee Meeting of 26 June Mr Smith, our Chairman, proposed another constitutional amendment as follows:
"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'."
At the meeting on 10 July he proposed:
"11) Section 14 - replace the last two sentences with the following: 'Any resolution for an "expenditure of more than £50 must have been on an agenda 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 proposed expenditure'."
(I should state that the underlining [italics] is mine - Editor)

The later 10 July motion must be an attempt at a rethink. It is not a very successful attempt. The confusion in meaning between "resolution" (sic) and "proposal" (or some similar word) remains - as also does the inelegant and confusing last sentence (underlined by me). It seems to me that both versions of this proposed 'amendment' are redundant and unnecessary. There is already in existence a resolution passed at the AGM of 1974 which states that all expenditure of more than £50 must be approved in advance by the Committee. I suggest that members reject whichever of these proposals is put forward.

There are two more groups of constitutional amendments proposed more than once by our chairman, Mr Edward Smith. These are in the agenda of 26 June:
"23) Section 15 - delete
24) Section 16 - delete
25) Section 17 - delete"
They re-appear in the agenda of 10 July as:
"13) Delete section 15.
14) Delete section 16.
15) Delete section 17."

One wonders a bit about the plurality. I should say that the deletion of Section 15 could be fraught with great danger for the Society. Section 15 was included for two reasons. One reason was that it provided the outline of a plan for future action. Some of these items have been realised. Nos. 2,4,6,9,12,16,17 of the list have been put into effect during my period as Secretary. We hope the remaining ten items will shortly go into effect.

The second and more important reason is concerned with obtaining tax-free charity status for the Society. This very carefully worded Section 15 was put into help advance our claims to tax-free status on the grounds of public benefit under the new law. At present the Society pays direct tax of about £150 a year on its investments. We also lose some £400 a year Corporation Tax which is paid by the companies in which our funds are invested. We could reclaim some of this if we had tax-free status. This would make an improvement of about £500 a year in the Society's finances. It was felt that the inclusion in the Society's Constitution of a list of activities of public benefit, especially if most of these had already been realised, would constitute powerful support to a claim for tax-free status. We have already made a good deal of progress.

The only argument that Mr Smith has been able to put forward to justify his amendment is that it would shorten the Constitution and, perhaps, more members might read it. One doesn't want to be derisive but I believe there is good reason for rejecting Mr Smith's amendment.

On Mr Smith's proposed constitutional amendment
"Delete Section 16"
I ought to say in addition to what has been said earlier that I foretold in NEWS SHEET 5 page 16 that attempts would be made to amend this important section of the Constitution. 'This has now happened and in the way I forecast. Members ought not to deprive the Society of the protection this important section of the constitution gives to the Society.

Mr Smith's only argument is that deletion would make the Constitution shorter. Clearly, of course, it would but it would also make it less effective.

Our Chairman, Mr Edward Smith, has also proposed as a constitutional amendment
"Delete Section 17"
Mr Smith's only argument is again that it would shorten the Constitution. I can only point out the large amount of good Section 17 has already brought about. Only once up to now has anyone been appointed under this section. This was Mr Vic Paulsen of San Francisco who wanted some status in order to be able to help in organising speakers and members for our First International Conference. The result was a sizeable influx of visitors to the Conference and several particularly good papers on the programme. I believe that a new occasion for the use of Section 17 may be in the offing as a follow-on to Mr Tillema's efforts in Ontario. It would be silly to give up this section.

Mr Smith, our Chairman, has proposed several additional constitutional amendments but I have unfortunately not the time nor space to comment. It seems to me that most are equally ill-considered and improvident and I would urge all members, especially those overseas, to make use of their votes to reject all of them. It seems to me that less than one year after it became our agreed Constitution is much too early to be playing around with the Constitution.


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