Thursday, November 17, 2005

Trustee Wass Speaks Out re BOT Restructure Proposal

Originally posted November 11, 2005:
USNA At Large,
  Central Region Trustee Len Wass provides a full analysis of the pending proposed BOT restructuring.
  Apparently, the "Governance Committee" has been doing some minor tinkering with the proposal in between BOT meetings last May and now.  (Think in terms of putting lipstick on a pig.)  I'm still wondering if the "Governance Committee" will ever be putting out any sort of meaningful report.  (Here we all sit in CONUS, whining that the Iraqis are not ready or capable of putting together a free society.  And, yet, there are seemingly responsible United States Naval Academy graduates who can't seem to get even the basics right re running the little free society they are responsible for, aka, the Alumni Association, without slipping quickly into quasi-totalitarian tactics.  Never ceases to amaze me.)
  But, bottom line -- our poll now active is still valid -- the question is where should the Alumni Association be going with reference to the Regional Trustee concept?  Just a few days left to toss in your two cents.
  Further, as you read through the below analysis, I suspect you will share my feeling that we are very lucky to have Trustee Wass on the job!
  He has easily been the most communicative Trustee of ALL 29 Trustees regardless of who the others are supposed to represent.
  Read the below analysis, then (1) make sure your opinion has been registered in our poll, (2) let Trustee Wass know your views and (3) perhaps most important of all -- make sure that all of the other Trustees that are supposed to be representing you know precisely where you are on this important issue.
  Finally, make NO assumptions.  Think in terms of a clean slate as of this moment.  If you do not communicate your views now, regardless of Trustee Wass' efforts, I guarantee you that this proposal will go through.
    Go Navy! Beat Notre Dame!  John Howland

U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association
Central Region Trustee
Leonard R. Wass, CAPT (Ret.)
USNA Class of 1964


Subj: Proposed Change to BOT Composition     

Refer to: Central Region Letter 20-05; November 10, 2005
Chapter Officers - Please give this e-mail the widest possible distribution among your members and other alumni in your area.


 The Board of Trustees (BOT) will be meeting on December 1 and, in my opinion, the most important proposal to be discussed and voted upon will be a significant change to the BOT composition. This proposed change will have a substantial impact on your representation at the Alumni Association; hence I’m sending out a second Newsletter on this topic.  You may recall that the BOT was to vote on this issue at the May 2005 meeting but that vote never took place. You can read my earlier Newsletter 10-05 of April 26, 2005 on this topic by going to my Newsletter archive at:  Instead of holding the vote in May, the Chair, ADM Trost, directed that the “strawman” (as the proposed change is called) be studied further by the Governance Committee, and its recommendation be submitted to the BOT at the December meeting for an “up or down vote”. This “strawman” is sponsored by ADM Trost and by George Watt, the President/CEO of the Alumni Association.


The stated objective of the change is to balance Class and Chapter Trustees, reduce the BOT size, and increase Alumni voting participation.  The Governance Committee is mixed in its views on the “strawman”, as it was when it deliberated this same issue prior to the May 2005 BOT meeting.  Here are the salient points of ADM Trost and George Watt’s “strawman” with the refinements that have been made since May.


·       The “strawman” proposal before the BOT  would reduce the BOT (by 4) to 25 Trustees by: a.) Eliminating all 4 Regional Trustees, 4 of 12 Chapter Trustees, 2 Board selected Trustees, and the immediate past Chair; and, b.) Adding 6 “elected At-Large” Trustees and 1 Class Trustee.  The Chair, Vice Chair, and President/CEO would remain unchanged. 


·       The 6 new At-Large Trustees would be slated by the Nominating Committee which would adjust its slate based on geography, generational, ethnic, and gender diversity.  The entire membership would vote on two new At-Large Trustees every two years.  Once elected, the Chair of the Alumni Association would ask each new At-Large Trustee to represent a constituency for the purpose of a communications channel.  These constituencies would be identified at the discretion of the Chair, and could change from year to year depending upon who is the At-Large Trustee.


·       The pared-down Chapter Trustees (from 12 to 8) would no longer be elected by their respective large Chapter (9 of 12), or by the Other Chapter Committee of the BOT (3 of 12).  Instead a new organization of Chapter Presidents would meet to designate which 8 chapters would serve on the BOT. This new organization would develop the ground rules for this selection.


·       The extra Class President Trustee would be the current President of the Council of Class Presidents, raising the number of Class Trustees from 7 to 8.  The immediate past Chair would no longer serve on the BOT.


The earlier emails which I received from you on this topic in April/May were overwhelmingly against this proposal (by about 10 to 1).  I intend to vote against this change to the BOT Composition unless I hear differently from you.  I invite and welcome your comments—this is your Alumni Association and you have every right to have a Board that suits your needs and desires.  My reasons for planning to vote against this proposal are as follows:


1.  No one has identified a compelling reason or justification for such a monumental change.  The current BOT was formed from a year-long 1998 study carried out by a 16 member committee which presented a unanimous and easily implementable proposal—it took until 2003 for the new BOT to be fully installed.  The By Laws and Operating Manual had to be rewritten, and this consumed enormous time of the BOT, distracting them from other issues such as support to alumni.  Unless someone can give me one compelling reason why this current BOT should be changed, or what it is doing wrong/ineptly/inefficiently, then I see every reason to avoid a major disruption to the focus of the Board.  Enough time has already been spent on this unnecessary change.


2.  The stated reasons in support of the “strawman” are tepid, in my opinion, such as reducing the BOT size and increasing Alumni voting participation.  The current BOT size can be simply reduced by three by eliminating the two Board-Appointed Trustees (which are optional anyway) and the past Chair.  Most Chairs customarily leave their Boards when their term is up.  This gives 3 of the 4 proposed reductions.  Alumni voter participation can be improved by: a. returning the ballot to a separate mailing or in a plastic envelope on front of Shipmate as it had in the past (voter participation dropped precipitously when the tear-out ballot was introduced); and b. giving alumni more of a choice on the ballot (the Chair position has been a single slate candidate in the past, as has the Vice Chair)—single slate candidates provide no incentive for the alumni to vote.  There are no data that suggest a change in the BOT composition would increase alumni voting for slated Trustee candidates.


3.  Elimination of “At-Large” Trustees was one of the principal thrusts of the 1998 BOT Composition study and I see many reasons to avoid returning to that failed system.  Under the old system, At-Large Trustees typically came from the Washington/Annapolis area. Some characterized it as the “Old Boys Club”. A key principle of the new BOT Composition was to assign specified constituencies to all Trustees so that every alumnus had someone to contact with questions, suggestions, etc. Regional Trustees were created from this study in an attempt to bring representation closer geographically to alumni.  I would favor more Regional Trustees, not fewer.  Regional Trustees represent not only alumni who belong to a chapter, but also those alumni who do not belong to a chapter but reside in the region.  I do not like the idea of placing the power of defining a “constituency” in the hands of one person (the Chair) as the “strawman” proposes.  The present Region Trustee system is serving our alumni very well; why fix a working system that is not broken?


4.  Chapters (large and small) deserve strong representation.  They are the fastest growing segment of the Alumni Association.  They also compete for these 12 slots, and there has been significant turnover of Chapter Trustees as chapters grow or complete their term as a small chapter.  To develop a new “organization of Chapter Presidents”, have it develop its rules, and then have it negotiate who serves as a Trustee seems to be a move in the wrong direction.  I favor competition as we have now, and have never seen an organization that didn’t run better with competition.  Based upon past experience with the BOT, it will take longer than the time allotted to have a sound selection process up and running when the Chapter Presidents only meet once a year in the spring.


5.  The extra Class President seems unnecessary.  Opponents to my view have stated that Class Presidents represent “all alumni” so they should have more seats.  They further cite that all except one member of the Council of Class Presidents have supported the “strawman” proposal.  This seems to be an ongoing historical debate of whether Class Presidents or Chapters should have a dominant position on the BOT, and it is unlikely to ever be resolved.  In my view, this is a political argument, not an argument for sound governance of the Alumni Association. 


As I stated above, these are my views at this time, but I invite your views—either in favor or against the “strawman”.  As is my practice, I will listen closely to your views and represent you to the best of my ability.  Please email your comments directly to me at:  Please feel free to also send your comments to any other member of the Board of Trustees.




Very Respectfully,
Leonard R. Wass '64
Captain, USNR (Ret.)
Central Region Trustee, USNAAA
(W) 630-947-0145 x223
Fax: 630-947-0144


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