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A Voice In ACS Public Policy

February 24, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 8

From time to time, ACS issues Public Policy Statements, committing the society (and by inference the entire ACS membership) to a policy position. A statement, by its very nature, is an advocacy position for a point of view that has a legitimate counterpoint. There is at the core some controversy or debate underlying the need for a definitive policy statement from the society—no one creates a Public Policy Statement about the sun rising in the east.

The process for the creation of a Public Policy Statement is found in Bulletin 5, the governing documents of ACS—constitution, bylaws, and board regulations.

Policy statements originate with an ACS governance committee (CEPA, PROF, etc.) or a division. Once drafted and vetted, the statement is presented to the board of directors. The ACS Board of Directors has delegated authority to approve policy statements to the Board Standing Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations.

A draft statement, depending on its scope and impact, may be reviewed by more than one committee. In this process, however, a relative handful of members, possibly as few as 50 on a few committees, commit the society—and by implication the entire membership—to a policy statement about which a percentage of members may strongly disagree and had no voice in during committee deliberations.

If a Public Policy Statement purports to speak for the entire society, each statement should come before the full ACS Council at a national meeting for a no-changes, up-or-down vote.

The proposed statement and its rationale could easily be included in the council meeting agenda and would not require a long discussion period prior to a vote. A longer comment period at council could be scheduled prior to the final draft of the policy statement to get broader-based input.

This proposed change won’t make everyone happy, but at least it would give a voice to many members who have felt left out when the society opines to speak in a single voice for them. It is practical, responsible, and would be straightforward to implement.

Per Bulletin 5 cited above, this proposal to make the ACS public policy process more accountable to the membership requires a change to the ACS bylaws. I urge all ACS members to discuss this with their elected local section and division officers and work for this change in ACS governance. It’s your ACS!

Pete Bonk
Westerly, R.I.



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