Proposed Amendments to the TNS Constitution

Kevin Langdon P.O. Box 795 Berkeley, CA 94701; [old e-mail address]

Published in Vidya #151/152 (as "Proposed Constitutional Amendments"), 1996


Those involved in the organizational affairs of the Triple Nine Society have frequently observed that the TNS Constitution has defects and ambiguities.

The following proposals have resulted from a thorough review of the existing document in the light of long experience in TNS organizational affairs and of two principles: protection of member rights, including the right of participation in the democratic processes of the society, and avoiding paralysis when an officer is not performing the duties of his or her office.

It should be noted that the version of the Constitution printed by Clint Williams in Vidya #140/141 is not quite current. It bears the legend ``As amended April 1, 1987'' and fails to take into account two Constitutional amendments passed by the membership in 1992 (John Kormes' election report in Vidya #122/123 [May/June 1992] incorrectly reported that all three amendments that were on the ballot had passed. Amendment #2 failed by one vote to receive the required two-thirds vote.) I have noted below where the Constitution as amended differs from this most recent publication of the TNS Constitution.

The amendments proposed below represent a major overhaul of the TNS Constitution. I had hoped others would participate in the process of revising the Constitution by proposing amendments, as they have been invited to do by several notices in Vidya.

As no one else has stepped forward with proposals to date, I am presenting those below to the membership and invite your comments and arguments for and against these amendments. If you support any or all of the amendments, please complete the accompanying petition form and send it to the Editor.

1. Article I, Section 1, now ends with the words:

. . . following standards established by the Society's psychometrician.

Change ``psychometrician'' to ``Psychometrics Committee.''

Similarly, in Article II, Section 4, in the phrase ``admission criteria established by the Society's psychometrician,'' substitute ``Psychometrics Committee'' for ``psychometrician.''

Add a section to Article III:

The Psychometrics Committee shall be responsible for examining available intelligence and aptitude tests, for selecting the tests used for admission to the Society, and for setting qualifying scores on the tests accepted. The Committee shall consist of five members appointed by the Executive Committee.

Argument: This is the way we've actually operated since the beginning of TNS. It's better not to have one person making decisions on acceptable tests and qualifying scores.

2. Add the following to Article I, Section 2:

Members claiming inability to pay dues shall be presumed to be truthful in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Delete the last paragraph of Article II, Section 3, which reads:

The Financial Officer shall not make determinations of inability to pay dues, unless the Executive Committee shall require that officer to perform such function.

Argument: The original wording in Article II, Section 3 is ambiguous. This subject belongs under Membership, not under the duties of the Financial Officer.

3. Article I, Section 4, now reads:

Members shall only be expelled for actions which seriously damage the Society and only upon due process, which shall include but not be limited to the opportunity for a defense and an initiative.

Replace everything after ``limited to'' with:

. . . four pages in Vidya to present a defense and a two-thirds vote of the membership.

Argument: The founders of TNS were expelled from the ISPE by a secret committee, without an opportunity to present a defense. We wanted to make sure that the same thing wouldn't happen to members of TNS, but the present Constitution is somewhat ambiguous in this area. It should be hard to expel someone. The membership is the final authority. And in order to reach an informed decision, the members need to hear from the member who is at risk of expulsion.

4. Article II, Section 1 now begins:

The Regent shall serve as Chairman of the Executive Committee. He shall make . . .

Add a paragraph at the beginning:

The Executive Committee shall elect its own Chairman. The Elections Officer shall conduct an election for Chairman following the installation of new officers after each TNS election. The Executive Committee may replace its Chairman by majority vote at any time.

Modify the wording quoted from Article II, Section 1, by deleting ``Regent shall serve as'' and the period and the word ``He'' after ``Committee.''

The last three sentences of Article II, Section 1 read:

Lastly, the Regent shall serve as a spokesman to the public, responding to inquiries which are not appropriate to other officers. The Regent shall be the sole person with the authority to represent the Society as a whole. The Regent shall be a part of the democratic and collegial processes, not superior to them.

As the part of Article II, Section 1 before the three sentences quoted above applies to what this amendment makes duties of the Chairman, make these sentences a separate section of Article II, changing ``Lastly, the'' to ``The,'' and renumber all succeeding sections.

Argument: The ExCom is paralyzed if the Regent spaces out--and this has actually happened more than once. The ExCom formerly elected its own Chairman and, in my opinion, this worked much better than the present system.

5. Article II, Section 2 now begins:

The Editor shall publish a monthly journal for the Society, including therein all official announcements of the Society and such additional material from members and other sources as he may deem appropriate . . .

Add the words ``without alteration'' after ``official announcements of the Society.''

A sentence in Article II, Section 5 ends with the words:

. . . the Ombudsman shall be entitled to submit up to two pages of grievance reports per issue of the journal.

Add, following ``journal,'' ``, which shall be published without alteration.''

Argument: The officers of the Triple Nine Society must be able to reach the membership directly regarding official business, without editorial alterations. It is particularly important for the Ombudsman to be able to expose members' greivances without interference from an Editor who may be the subject of these grievances or a political ally of others against whom grievances are submitted to the Ombudsman.

6. At the end of Article II, Section 2, add a paragraph:

The Editor shall publish the number of members to whom copies of the immediately previous issue were mailed. This shall be the official total membership for the purpose of calculating the square root of the membership when required to determine the number of valid signatures needed to place an initiative or Constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Modify the table accompanying Article IV, as follows:

Under the column labeled ``Required to propose,'' in the rows labeled ``Initiative'' and ``Constitutional amendment,'' appear the words ``Petition signed by the square root of the membership for the year of tenure in question.'' Remove everything after ``membership'' in both cases.

Argument: This clarifies and makes more precise the number of signatures required to place an intiative or Constitutional amendment on the ballot and how to calculate this number. The number mailed for a particular issue can be conveniently recorded when mailing labels are printed.

7. Article III, Section 1 begins:

The Executive Committtee shall consist of the Regent, the Editor, the Financial Officer, the Membership Officer, the Ombudsman, and four members-at-large.

Delete ``, the Editor, the Financial Officer, the Membership Officer, the Ombudsman,''; change ``four'' to ``six.''

In Article IV, Section 1, change ``four members-at-large'' to ``six members-at-large.''

Article IV, Section 2, now begins:

There shall be three categories of elections: the election of six officers as members of the nine-member Executive Committee, two with specific responsibilities, as outlined above . . .

(This is the official wording, as modified in the 1992 election; before passage of this amendment the Financial Officer was elected, rather than appointed by the Executive Committee, and the above read ``seven officers . . . three with specific responsibilities.'')

Replace everything after the colon with the following:

the election of the Regent, the Ombudsman, and six members-at-large

This amendment shall take effect with the 1997/1998 TNS election.

Argument: The Ombudsman and the appointive officers have built-in conflicts of interest in voting on the ExCom. The current ExCom is too big to transact business efficiently.

8. The third sentence of Article III, Section 1 reads:

The Editor, the Financial Officer, and the Membership Officer shall be appointed by the Executive Committee and those appointments shall be reviewed by the Executive Committee at least annually with the finding of that review transmitted to the membership (the Editor, the Financial Officer, and the Membership Officer shall not participate in their own evaluations unless the Executive Committee decides that self-evaluation would be a useful tool).

(The version of the Constitution printed by Clint Williams does not include ``the Financial Officer.'')

Place a period after ``membership.'' Replace the clause in parentheses with the following (unparenthesized) sentence:

A member of the Executive Committee may not vote on his or her own appontment to any office.

Argument: Conflict of interest.

9. The last sentence of Article III, Section 1 reads:

No member of the Executive Committee shall hold more than one position on that committee at any one time.

Delete this sentence. In Article IV, Section 1, before the sentence beginning ``All elected officers,'' insert the following:

No member may occupy two or more elective or appointive offices simultaneously. Officers are not prohibited from serving on committees.

Argument: Avoid concentration of power.

10. Add to the end of Article III, Section 1:

The Chairman of the Executive Committee shall publish a general Executive Committee Memo, incorporating letters from members of the Committee and other interested members of the Triple Nine Society, periodically. Executive Committee members may also publish their own memos and may make motions and tabulate results of the voting on them in these memos, provided that copies are provided to all members of the Executive Committee.

Argument: This makes explicit the institution of the ExCom Memo and provides a way for the other members of the Committee to do business if the Chairman becomes erratic or incapacitated.

11. The first two sentences of Article III, Section 2 read:

All elected officers and members of committees shall serve without compensation. Appointed officers, including the Editor, Financial Officer, and Membership Officer, may be compensated for their services at the discretion of the Executive Committee.

(The version of the Constitution printed by Clint Williams does not include ``Financial Officer.'')

Delete the word ``elected'' and the second sentence.

Argument: The Triple Nine Society neither needs nor can afford paid staff. If we can't operate with volunteer officers, we're in trouble. The original TNS Constitution prohibited compensation of officers. The amendment which permitted compensation of appointive officers was ill-advised, in my opinion. Compensation of the Editor was one of the factors which led to the bitter dispute that nearly destroyed TNS a few years ago.

12. Article III, Section 3 reads:

Members of the Executive Committee will be expected to attend one annual meeting per year.

Delete this and renumber succeeding sections of Article III.

Argument: This section has never been observed. There has rarely been a majority of the ExCom present at an annual meeting. Many members of TNS cannot afford a cross-country trip to attend an annual meeting; these members should not have to choose between serving the society as members of the Executive Committee and following the Constitution to the letter.

13. Add a section to Article III:

There shall be a Judicial Committee, consisting of five members elected by the membership, which shall rule on questions of the constitutionality and procedural correctness of official acts of members and officers of the Triple Nine Society. Members of the Judicial Committee shall not hold any other TNS office or serve on any other committee while they are members of the Judicial Committee.

This amendment shall take effect with the 1997/1998 TNS election.

Argument: Grey areas turn up. Not every point is worth the time and resources to bring it to a vote of the membership. Members can take official actions, such as proposing initiatives; the wording of this amendment has been chosen to include these actions.

14. Article IV, Section 1 refers to ``biennial election[s]'' in three places. Change each of these to ``annual election[s].''

(The change from annual to biennial elections was effected by one of the amendments adopted in 1992. This amendment would repeal that one.)

This amendment shall take effect with the 1997/1998 TNS election.

Argument: Officers often burn out in less than two years. We've had more trouble than usual in keeping the machinery of the society going since the 1992 amendment.

15. The first sentence of the second paragraph of Article IV, Section 1 reads:

The Executive Committee may, upon the vacancy of an office, use its discretion in filling that office by appointment, by special election, or by assuming as a body all the responsibilities of the vacated office or offices for the remainder of the term, but it must exercise one of these options.

After ``special election, or'' add ``, if less than six months remains in the term of office,''

Argument: Avoid concentration of power. Where only a few months remain, there isn't time to hold a special election.

16. The third and fourth sentences of the second paragraph of Article IV, Section 1 read:

For the first set of elections, to vote upon the Constitution and the first group of officers, the Editor shall appoint a suitable person to serve in the capacity of Elections Officer. For all subsequent elections, the Executive Committee shall appoint an Elections Officer during the first half of its term for the next annual election during that year of tenure.

Delete everything through ``subsequent elections,''; capitalize the ``t'' in ``The.'' Delete ``annual.'' Delete ``during that year of tenure.''

Argument: Language pertaining to TNS' first election is obsolete. The final phrase is awkward and ambiguous.

17. Article IV, Section 2, contains the folowing passages:

The assumption date for all offices and the effective date for all initiatives and Constitutional amendments shall be April 1. Petitions for initiatives and for Constitutional amendments may be sent to the Editor at any time during the year. The Editor will publish such a petition within three months.

Whenever the Elections Officer certifies that a sufficient number of Triple Nine members have signed a petition, the Editor shall call for a final vote, simultaneously publishing any germane comments on the petition that have reached him from members.

After ``Constitutional amendments,'' add ``included on the same ballot as the Constitutionally-prescribed periodic election of officers.''

Following the first sentence, add the following sentence:

The date of assumption of office when an election is held to fill a vacancy and the effective date of initiatives and Constitutional amendments not included on the same ballot as the Constitutionally-prescribed periodic election of officers shall be the date of publication of the issue of Vidya in which the Elections Officer's report on the election is published.

Replace the words ``three months'' at the end of the first passage with the words ``two months.'' After ``final vote'' in the second passage, add ``within two months.''

Argument: As Article IV, Section 2 presently reads, the timing of petitions and elections for initiatives and Constitutional amendments is somewhat ambiguous. This amendment ensures that members have prompt access to the Constitutional machinery of TNS.

18. Between the two passages quoted under amendment 17 above, appear the following two sentences:

However, the Editor has the option of not publishing a petition that seems unduly lengthy or frivolous, but he must obtain the approval of a majority of the Executive Committee to exercise this option. The petitioner whose petition has been rejected for publication may distribute it to members at his own expense.

Add a sentence following this passage:

When the Elections Officer receives petitions for a rejected initiative or Constitutional amendment from the cube root of the membership and the petition in question is no more than one page in length, the Editor shall publish the petition within two months (unless it has obtained the signatures of the square root of the membership before this).

Argument: Members need access to the constitutional machinery of TNS, even when the majority of the ExCom is opposed to their proposals. Once an amendment has obtained the required number of signatures to be submitted to a vote of the membership publication of a petition is unnecessary.

19. Article IV, Section 4 presently reads:

The Elections Officer shall verify all signatures submitted in accordance with the provisions of this Article. This can be accomplished through the use of signature cards contained in the Society's journal and returned to the Elections Officer or by verification by the membership number on the membership card, as each signer shall prefer.

Replace the word ``or'' after ``Elections Officer'' with a comma. Add after ``membership card,'' ``or by ballots mailed with but not bound into Vidya,''. Replace ``as each signer shall prefer'' with ``as the Executive Committee shall direct.''

Argument: Separate ballots are probably the easiest and cheapest safeguard against voter fraud; they need to be separate because many members will not mutilate their copies of Vidya for the sake of voting. It's impractical to let individual members choose different methods of verification.

20. Article IV, Section 6 reads:

Voting for candidates for elective office shall be on a preferential basis, i.e., members will rank their preferences for all or some of the candidates in terms of their first choice, second choice, etc. The Elections Officer shall first tally the votes to determine whether any candidate has a simple majority of the first-choice votes. Those that have shall be considered elected. Those votes which fail to meet this test shall be subject to a second tally in which the information contained in all choices shall be utilized by a weighted vote, the weights being the precise reverse of the rankings. The remaining candidates receiving the majority of all weighted preference votes shall be deemed elected. In the case of a tie on the second tally, a majority vote by the existing Executive Committee shall break the tie.

W. Brewster Gillett's election report in the September 1995 issue of the [American] Mensa Bulletin contains a brief discussion of Mensa's preferential voting system, including the following language:

Otherwise, if no candidate receives a majority after first choices are counted, the candidate receiving the least number of votes is eliminated and those ballots are recast for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority of the votes (noting that the total number of votes may change if a voter did not select further choices).

Substitute this language for everything between ``considered elected'' and the last sentence of Article IV, Section 6.

Add ``, except members-at-large when more than one member-at-large is to be elected in one election,'' after ``candidates for elective office.'' Add a new paragraph following the substituted language:

When more than one member-at-large is to be elected, voters will select up to as many candidates as there are positions to be filled. The candidates receiving the highest vote totals shall be considered elected.

Make the final sentence of Article IV, Section 6 a separate paragraph.

Add a section to the end of Article IV with the following wording:

In the event of a tie in any matter voted upon, the sitting Executive Committee shall vote to break the tie. In the event of a tie in that voting, the matter shall be resubmitted to a vote of the membership.

Modify the table accompanying Article IV, as follows:

Under the column labeled ``Required to pass or elect,'' in the row labeled ``Election of officers and committee members,'' appear the words ``Majority by a preferential system of voting.'' Before the period, add ``(highest non-preferential vote totals for members-at-large).''

This amendment shall take effect with the 1997/1998 TNS election.

Argument: The present section is ambiguous in several ways. Elections Officers in different elections have tallied votes in slightly different ways because of differences in interpretation (fortunately, this has never made a difference in who is elected to any office). Under Mensa's preferential voting system, a member's vote can never help one candidate to win over another candidate that the member prefers; this is not the case with TNS' present preferential voting scheme. There is no ideal preferential voting scheme when more than one candidate is to be elected at one time, so we may as well use a simpler, non-preferential method. A method is needed for handling tie votes.

21. Article IV, Section 7 reads:

An initiative may be proposed mandating that the Society take any action or establish any rule of procedure or policy not prohibited by the current Constitution. Actions, policies, or procedures established by initiative may not be changed by any officer or committee of the Society except by a subsequent initiative or Constitutional amendment.

Add a sentence after ``Constitution'':

Any elective or appointive officer of the Society may be removed from office by initiative, as may any member of a TNS committee. Appointive officers and members of committees removed by initiative may not be reappointed by the Executive Committee for two years following their removal.

Argument: Members should be able to remove TNS officers if they are dissatisfied with their performance.

22. Article IV, Section 2 contains the sentence:

(All petitions that would alter, augment, or delete any provisions of the Constitution as it exists at the time the petition is formulated shall be considered a Constitutional Amendment.)

Change ``All petitions'' to ``Any petition.''

Article IV, Section 2 also contains the sentence:

The deadline for publication of ballots shall be for that same first issue of the Society's journal in the new year and the ballots shall be returned to the Elections Officer by March 1.

Change the second ``for'' to ``that of.''

Article IV, Section 7 contains the sentence:

Actions, policies, or procedures established by initiative may not be changed by any officer or committee of the Society except by a subsequent initiative or Constitutional amendment.

Change the words ``except by'' to ``, but only by.''

Argument: Let's be smart enough to correct these grammatical errors in the TNS Constitution.


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