Friday, 24 February 2012
Torrevieja U3A Committee wanted members votes but now not their opinions.
Following on from my article 'U3A Chairman says 5 days is enough time!' I received a note from the Chairman “I note your comments regarding the distribution of the Minutes, which I will take to the next Committee meeting for discussion”. I can't ask for fairer than that can I?
The Chairman's reply started me thinking about the structure of the new Committee, made up of a combination of eight re-elected, six of them voted for 'en bloc', no opportunity given to the membership to vote on individuals, and four new members. An increase of one above the the 2011 number. Two of the new members were previously co-opted to the Committee and this was the ratification of their positions, with the remaining two being new nominations.
During a discussion about the U3A AGM the subject of the selection of nominees for committee members was raised. It was suggested that during the meeting the Chairman mentioned that several nominations had been received by the due date and that those had been reduced down in number to the two names proposed and voted upon during the AGM. I expressed the opinion that there were only two as if there had been more than two nominations the membership would have been asked to vote on all names and the two receiving the highest votes would have been elected.
To clarify this point I wrote to the Chairman asking: “Could you clarify whether or not more than two valid nominees were received. If I am wrong and there were more than two, what was the criteria for the selection of the names finally put forward for voting”. He confirmed that “Initially there were five nominees for these posts. As the nomination procedure progressed, three of the nominees elected to withdraw and instead put themselves forward, offering their full support with other functions outside of the committee. Two candidates wished to proceed with their nominations”.
This has led me to wondering. Why couldn't or weren't all five nominees names presented to the members at the AGM to be voted on, with the result based on the two with the highest votes joining the Committee? What persuasions, inducements or pressures were used to influence the three nominees to withdraw? Were the two final names chosen to ensure the Committee was made up to suit 'the establishment', to maintain as close as possible the status quo?
As an aside consideration, I find it curious, that despite a previous comment by the Chairman “As our U3A expands so does the workload of each committee member” that the new members are “without portfolio” despite some of the re-elected members having two areas of responsibility.
It is interesting to note that of the twelve members of the Committee there are three husband and wife pairs. A cynic might think of the term nepotism. I have to wonder if this arrangement brings the widest possible variation of opinions to its meetings. Will there be a diversity of views expressed and votes cast given the family ties? There is also a question in relation to the equal number make-up and its effect on a casting vote where an equilibrium of votes is cast if a difference of opinion materialises. Assuming such a situation could ever happen in the close knit clique. Does the Chairman have two votes?
The question of the diversity of views presented at Committee meetings interests me so I wrote to the Chairman: “I hope that you would agree with me that the U3A Committee as a whole is, and the members as individuals are, elected by the members of the association with the collective responsibility to manage the Torrevieja U3A, on behalf of and for the benefit of the members. Therefore what are the current procedures to ensure that the committee members canvas the spectrum of opinions of the association's general members on matters relating to policy decisions, which affect members, prior to discussing and voting on such items at committee meetings? At the present time, as far as I am aware as a member, the general membership has no knowledge of items to be discussed by the committee at its meetings and therefore is unable to express any opinions prior to a decision being made. I would appreciate your clarification on this matter”.
I was surprised by what I consider to be a negative, introverted, insecure reply: “Having read and digested your comments and sought the views of fellow committee members, our response is as follows:- We believe that, by being elected by the membership at an AGM, the Committee has the authorisation to act in the best interests of the Association. The Committee members therefore believe that they would be abrogating their responsibilities if they were to canvass members’ views in advance of each policy discussion and decision. Members who wish to be involved in these discussions and decisions have the annual opportunity to put themselves forward for election to the Committee. The Committee is continually in discussion regarding ways to better improve communication between itself and the membership”.
It would seem that the twelve Committee members wanted the votes of the membership at the AGM but now don't want to know their (U3A members) varied opinions on proposed changes to the running of the Association. The Committee twelve believe they know best!
Elected Town Councillors, County Council Councillors and Members of Parliament have the authorisation to act in the best interests of the residents of their (elected representatives) towns , counties and the country, but they still canvass the views of the constituency electorate. They don't believe that they would be “abrogating their responsibilities” if they canvass, listen to and consider the views of the electorate in advance of a policy discussion and decision.
It would not be too difficult for the Chairman to use the already “very popular”, in his words, cascade email system to pass on agendas of Committee meetings to allow the membership the opportunity to have knowledge of and express if they want “views in advance of each policy discussion and decision”. It is used successfully to inform the membership about other information. Without the will though there will not be a way.
It seems ironic really considering that within the aims of the Torrevieja U3A are the statements: "To encourage and enable people to help each other to share their knowledge, skills, interests and experience” and “The U3A consists of people who undertake to learn and to help others to learn. One of the guiding principles of the U3A is that those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach”, that the Committee doesn't want to learn of the opinions of the membership.
Overall the Committee carries out it's responsibilities in a satisfactory manner, but they are never too old to learn! Surely that's the value of the U3A!