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Council Approves Membership Overhaul

Action in New Orleans sets the stage for undergraduates to become voting members of ACS

by Linda R. Raber
May 5, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 18

AT ITS RECENT MEETING in New Orleans, the ACS Council took action that, among other things, will allow graduate and undergraduate students to become ACS members with full voting privileges. After extensive debate and a recorded vote, councilors approved a package of sweeping constitution and bylaw changes that will alter the face of ACS for years to come.

Specifically, councilors passed the "Petition on Membership Categories & Requirements," a comprehensive revision of the qualifications required for membership and for affiliate status in the society. The council eliminated the student affiliate category of membership and approved granting full society membership to undergraduate chemistry and related science students. Upon ratification of the changes by the board and ACS membership, students would have all of the rights of full membership, with the exception of holding national office. These rights include voting in national elections. Student members would pay substantially discounted dues. There are currently about 10,000 undergraduates who would be eligible to become members of the society under this petition.

In addition, the new constitution and bylaw provisions open full ACS membership to anyone with an associate's or bachelor's degree in chemistry or in a related field of natural science, engineering, technology, or science education. Precollege chemistry teachers will also be immediately eligible for full membership. Currently, a bachelor's degree plus work experience or an ACS-approved bachelor's degree in chemistry are required for membership.

Finally, chemistry enthusiasts will be welcomed because councilors cleared the way for anyone interested in chemistry to apply for society affiliate status. The ACS members who petitioned the society to make these extensive changes believe that the current requirements make for too narrow of a membership.

The debate before voting on this petition was lively and touched on a variety of issues. For example, Claude A. Lucchesi, councilor from the Chicago Section and a member of the Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs, voiced concerns that "having ACS members without at least a bachelor's degree would undermine our credibility as a society of scientists" when members visit congressional offices each spring.

Stanley Pine, councilor for the Southern California Section and former chair of the Society Committee on Education (SOCED), expressed concern that the elimination of the student affiliate category of membership would ultimately harm the budget of the ACS Education Division, under whose auspices the program currently resides.

Current SOCED member and Eastern New York Section Councilor Mary K. Carroll responded that the committee strongly supports "making it easier for people with two-year degrees or high school chemistry teachers to become members without undue amounts of paperwork. We find it very welcoming to students and to chemical professionals in other areas, and I strongly urge people to support this," she said.

Dallas-Fort Worth Section Councilor Angela Wilson stated her concerns that industrial members in ACS local sections that have large student populations would be relatively disadvantaged when running for seats on the ACS Council. She believes that council elections in these sections would end up being "a popularity contest among universities."

When the debate ended, the petition was supported by more than two-thirds of voting councilors. The final vote (which is recorded beginning on page 52) was 299 to 71 with eight abstentions. As always, the changes to the society's constitution must be approved by the ACS Board and by a majority of ACS members. Ballots will be sent to all members this fall, and changes will be implemented as soon as possible after final approval.

IN OTHER ACTIONS, the council chose Joseph S. Francisco, William E. Moore Distinguished Professor, Purdue University; and Josef Michl, professor, University of Colorado, Boulder, as candidates for 2009 president-elect from a field of four nominees prepared by the Committee on Nominations & Elections (N&E). Francisco and Michl, along with any petition candidates, will be listed on this fall's ballot.

In her report to council, N&E Chair Barbara A. Sawrey announced that Pat N. Confalone and Alan B. Cooper will run as District III director candidates and Bonnie A. Charpentier (incumbent) and Dennis L. Lichtenberger would run as District VI director candidates. Lichtenberger subsequently indicated that he was unable to serve. In his place, candidate Gary D. Christian, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, has agreed to stand in and run for the District VI seat.

Sawrey also announced the selection of the following candidates for director-at-large for a 2009–11 term. They are William F. Carroll Jr., vice president, Occidental Chemical Corp., Dallas; Richard L. Deming, professor, California State University, Fullerton; Thomas R. Gilbert, associate professor, Northeastern University, Boston; and Marinda Li Wu (incumbent), Science is Fun! Co., Orinda, Calif. The two positions will be filled by vote of councilors this fall.

The Committee on Budget & Finance (B&F) reported to the board and council that ACS ended 2007 with a net contribution from operations of $9.6 million on revenues of $444.2 million and expenses of $434.6 million, which was $2.2 million better than had been budgeted. After including the results of the Member Insurance Program and new ventures, the society's overall net contribution for 2007 was $10.7 million, which was $5.4 million better than the approved budget.

Finally, it will be a little more expensive to be an ACS member in 2009. On the recommendation of B&F, the council approved raising full-member dues for 2009 by $4.00 to $140.

Other Governance Actions At The New Orleans Meeting



  • Approved the "Petition on Election Procedures for President-Elect & District Director" and the "Petition on Election Procedures 2006, Part 2." These petitions are complicated and presented in detail in C&EN, March 17, page 50.

    Declined to approve divisional allocation funding formula.

    Approved Academic Professional Guidelines (full text available) as submitted by the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs.

    Approved a name change of the University of Kansas local section to the Wakarusa Valley local section.

    Adopted resolutions in memory of deceased councilors.


  • The ACS Board approved use of the tagline "Chemistry for Life" on appropriate society materials.

    The Committee on Grants & Awards, acting under delegated authority, voted to accept the recommendations of the ACS Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board for funding grants totaling $6.1 million. It also approved establishment of the PRF Exceptional Innovation Grants Program and establishment of the PRF Strategic & Multidisciplinary Research Plan.

    The Committee on Professional & Member Relations (P&MR) reaffirmed its previous decision to reject a $14,000 funding request from the 20th International Conference on Chemical Education. It approved a request for nominal cosponsorship for a conference titled: "U.S./India Chemical Engineering Conference on Energy," to be held in Chandigarh, India, Dec. 28–29.

    On the recommendation of P&MR, the board voted to adopt the ACS Diversity Partners Program—a three-year pilot program designed to broaden participation in the chemical sciences among diverse and traditionally underrepresented groups.

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