NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION (1989)
Perhaps, it is somewhat dramatic to use this 216 year-old quotation, so dear to the heart of every American, as the title of this ACS Comment, but it aptly describes the atmosphere at the recent Council Meeting in Dallas. Even as a naturalized American, I thought of the Boston Tea Party as the Council conducted its discussion of membership dues for 1990. No, this historic battle cry was not really pronounced by anyone on the Council floor. However, many councilors confirmed what has been increasingly suspected throughout this decade: that ACS members are becoming more and more restive. One report revealed that in 1987-88, we recruited 19,000 new members; nevertheless, our membership increased by less than 100. While members have not imitated the Nation's Founders by dumping ACS journals or books into the sea, an increasing number simply have not renewed their membership.
As a result and after hearing arguments on both sides of this issue, the Council voted to retain the 1990 membership dues at the 1989 level. Dues were set at $82 instead of raising them to $86 as would have been necessary to keep pace with inflation. In economic terms, the savings for each member is a mere trifle, but the decision itself may prove as historic in the microcosmos of the ACS as that famous Tea Party was to the birth of our Nation. I firmly believe that it signals a new era of progressive actions and achievements by the ACS. The Council's decision to forge a new path provides an opportunity to energize the Society. Let me describe the circumstances surrounding that choice in greater detail.
Since 1974, our bylaws have required an annual review and adjustment of membership dues to counter the effects of inflation. The extent of the dues increase may vary from 0 to 100% of the inflation index. Were it not for the fact that the Council frequently chose the middle ground, dues for 1989 would have been $99 instead of the present $82. Even so, since 1974 dues have increased annually by $2 to $6 and, increasingly, members have expressed dissatisfaction at the high cost.
Recently ACS President Clayton Callis and Past-President Gordon Nelson organized a Presidential Conference on Membership to address problems raised by the alarming statistics on membership losses. They were genuinely concerned about a declining growth rate; new members who quit after 2-3 years; and the increasing dissatisfaction expressed by BS chemists-- to mention just a few. The major conclusion reached was that the cost of ACS membership exceeds its perceived value (I emphasize the word perceived,since some member benefits are not always evident). Numerous letters received in conjunction with the Conference reinforced this sentiment and urged that something be done.
All these factors greatly influenced councilors as the dues issue was discussed. The Council recognized the seriousness of the problem and decided that immediate action was required. Its vote not to raise dues--for the first time in 15 years--may be translated as a message to our members: We hear you loud and clear and our aim is to make ACS membership more valuable to you.
The spirit of this meeting, however, will be meaningless and soon forgotten if we remain idle during the next 12 months. Inflationary pressures will not cease and we will have to increase dues to maintain an adequate level of financial support. A positive outcome can be ensured only if we respond immediately and in the manner anticipated by the Council. This will require the enthusiastic help and support of everyone who is concerned about chemistry and the status of chemists. Time and effort will be required to reverse present trends.We must publicize existing advantages offered by ACS membership so that everyone is well-acquainted with them while, at the same time, initiating those new services and benefits desired by the membership.
Prior to the Council meeting, the Membership Affairs Committee was already working on various possibilities including (a) the introduction of a petition to prorate dues according to one's professional income for the purpose of encouraging the affiliation of young scientists and/or those whose highest degree is the bachelor of science, (b) the request for a letter of ruling from the Internal Revenue Service on whether a portion of ACS dues may be deducted as a charitable contribution, (c) the development of recommendations on portable pensions, a subject which is reportedly high on the agenda of the Secretary of Labor. This subject is being addressed jointly by the Economic Status and Membership Affairs Committees. Our hope is that an official supporting statement from the ACS Board of Directors will hasten the passage of this crucial legislation.
I now make a special appeal to you. Your active support and commitment to various new ventures are essential to their success-- regardless of your present connection to the ACS: (1) If you are considering the termination of your membership, please, reconsider. The required innovations can not be developed and implemented in a single year but, with our present cooperative spirit, significant advances can be assured. Several ACS committees are currently evaluating new programs beneficial to the members, based on recommendations from two Presidential Conferences.
(2) If you are not contemplating leaving the Society, but have been a passive participant, please, exercise your right of membership by actively supporting those efforts by your Section or Division to promote improved services or benefits; to increase membership; and to spread the news of a potential new era in the ACS. At minimum, please, inform me of any suggestions you may have for improvement--no matter how conventional or unconventional the idea may seem.
(3) If you are presently a hardworking member who is already involved in ACS activities, please, try to increase your efforts. The success of the Society depends upon committed members like you; there is sufficient work and ample credit for all.
Looking back over the last 20 years, it is clear that although the ACS has undergone natural periods of advance and decline, the organization has increasingly embraced the view that the membership is its most important asset. Past changes have not occurred overnight nor been universally accepted; future changes are likely to follow a similar course. But the Society's future seems brighter now than at any time in the recent past. I envision judicious and expeditious changes, encouraged and supported by the membership. If concerned ACS members, officers and committees give their best efforts, the spirit created by a seemingly simple action by the Council--holding fast on membership dues--may serve as a shining beacon illuminating safe passage on a stormy sea rather than the last flicker of waning candlelight. I am convinced that the potential does exist; so I solicit your help. Our concerted efforts can rejuvenate the ACS, a society which already enjoys worldwide respect. We now have an unexpected opportunity to transform a BIG organization into a GREAT one.
Return to Home Page | Problems & Solutions