2001-05-24 ALA

Edith Wharton Society Business Meeting
American Literature Association
Cambridge, Massachusetts
24 May 2001
Augusta Rohrbach, EWS President, called the meeting to order at 11:38 a.m. and presented an overview of the agenda:

1. Vote on the change to the Constitution.
2. Vote on 2 open member-at-large slots on the Executive Board.
3. Outline various committees for the EWS and take nominations for those spaces.
4. Propose a topic for one of the EWS-sponsored sessions at ALA and vote on it.
5. Hear the report from the Treasurer.
6. New business.

On the first item of business, Augusta noted that a petition has been brought forward to amend the voting procedures for the Edith Wharton Society.  Since a good proportion of the membership does not always attend MLA or ALA, we cannot guarantee that our current voting procedures accurately represent the membership’s wishes. In order to provide better representation for members, we would like to send out ballots by mail, either in specially marked issues of the Edith Wharton Review or in a separate mailing so that we can get a wider representation of voting for the membership.

Current language: Constitution Section V.H.

Officers and members of the Executive Board shall be elected at the annual meeting of the Edith Wharton Society.  The Membership and Nominations Committee shall submit a slate of nominees that may be augmented from the floor.

Proposed change:

Officers and members of the Executive Board shall be elected by mail-in ballot.  The Election Committee shall prepare ballots, mail them to members, establish deadlines for voting, tabulate results, and announce results and semi-annual meetings (i.e., MLA and ALA) and, afterward, on the Edith Wharton Society website.

Discussion on this issue included questions about whether voting on the website might be an option, but members decided that this process might exclude those who do not have computers.  Sharon Shaloo pointed out that this change should include an understanding that the nominations process would be opened up to all of the members.  After other discussion on this issue, the motion to amend this section of the Constitution passed unanimously, with the understanding that its provision for mail-in ballots would go into effect after the current business meeting.

Voting on the two open member-at-large slots was the next item of business.  After Augusta called for nominations from the floor, Linda Cahir suggested that clarification of the terms of office and process for nomination would be helpful.  At present, the President, Vice President, and Secretary serve two-year terms, and the Editor of the Edith Wharton Review serves a five-year term. At-large members serve two-year terms but can be renominated; also, with the proposed expansion of the committee structure, board members and others can remain actively involved with EWS governance.

The two candidates proposed for the open slots were Melissa Pennell and Janet Beer.

Melissa Pennell is professor at University of Massachusetts-Lowell and chair of the American Studies program there.  She has published a book on Hawthorne, has co-edited American Literary Mentors with Irene Goldman-Price, and is currently working on a full-length study of Edith Wharton.  In addition, she has great public humanities experience and has been very involved with the Center for Lifelong Learning. In addition to her scholarship, she is dynamic and an experienced administrator, and she has had a number of good ideas for the EWS.

Janet Beer is professor of English at  Manchester Metropolitan University.  She is the author of Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction (Macmillan, 1997) and Edith Wharton: Traveller in the Land of Letters (Macmillan, 1990), and she has edited The Age of Innocence for Cambridge University Press (1995).  Her activities have already begun as the point person for the upcoming London conference for EWS, July 14-17 2003. As Abby Werlock and Sharon Shaloo pointed out,  Janet would also bring more international representation to the EWS Board and to the Society, which became the International Edith Wharton Society last year.

In separate votes, both Janet Beer and Melissa Pennell were approved unanimously.

The third item of business was the creation of additional committees to help with the work of the Society.   Because the EWS has expanded over the past few years, EWS board members and others have suggested that instituting committees could allow the work to be shared and also to allow wider participation from EWS members.

After discussion, the following ideas were approved:
· Committees would consist of three people, a chair and two others, with the chair usually being a member of the EWS board.
· Most committee members would serve for two years.  The exception would be the Membership Committee, which because of the record-keeping involved would have the chair serve a five-year term.
· A committee would consist of volunteers chosen by the chair.
· Those wishing to serve on committees should contact the chair of that committee to volunteer.
· Chairs would be appointed by the EWS board, with responsibility for reporting to the EWS board.

Proposed committees are as follows, with chairs and volunteers to date listed:
· Elections committee (Linda Cahir, chair).
· Fellowship/Grants (Frederick Wegener, Augusta Rohrbach)
· Program (The Vice President chairs this committee: Julie Olin-Ammentorp, Sharon Shaloo)
· Membership (Dale Flynn, chair)

To establish these committees, a motion was made to replace Section VII.A. of the EWS Constitution with the following language:

The Executive Board on behalf of the society will create or dissolve standing committees as it sees fit.

The motion passed unanimously.

The discussion then turned to topics for next year’s ALA.  As explained during the discussion period, the usual practice is for topics to be suggested from the floor and then subjected to a vote.  The topic with the greatest number of votes becomes one session and is chaired by the person who proposed the topic.  The EWS board chooses the second topic, but frequently the board decides to sponsor the topic with the second greatest number of votes.  It is possible to act as chair and respondent in a panel that you have proposed.

The three topics proposed were as follows:

1. Wharton and animals
2. Wharton and Visual Culture: paintings, film, advertising, etc.
3. Wharton and U. S. literary modernism

Wharton and U. S. literary modernism garnered the most votes, and Hildegard Hoeller agreed to chair the session.  The EWS Board will sponsor “Wharton and Visual Culture,” and the chair will be announced later.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:32 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Donna Campbell, Secretary.



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