One step forward…

I’ve kept WITW out of the discussion about the proposed restructuring of ASA dues, and lack of transparency from ASA about the reasons dues income will rise. Deliberations are bouncing back and forth across three sites: Scatterplot, OrgTheory, and the Disgruntled Sociologist, and I think you’re fully able to navigate the conversation without another list of links to various posts on the topics. (Or, you’re like my students, who refuse to do anything that doesn’t come with step-by-step instructions.)

But now there’s new information. In response to a post on TDS and Scatterplot, Don Tomaskovic-Devey–outgoing secretary for the ASA–has posted a digest response in which he tries valiantly to address the many questions raised on those blogs over the past week or so. Setting aside issues he discussed that were irrelevant to my vote, including the question of rising salaries and the need to re-calibrate income categories, let’s hear what he says about one of my root issues:

This new dues structure will we hope also raise somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 in income for the association. It will reach the upper estimate if membership stays the same, our estimates of the distribution of faculty in the new upper income brackets are correct, and most members report their income accurately. This increase makes up less than half the yearly budget cuts taken by the association over the last three years and is intended to partially restore association activities slashed during the recession, including modest pay raises for ASA staff.

This is very helpful, and I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey for taking the time to share this information.

Still, there’s a problem. If it takes a group of upstart bloggers to get a simple answer about how our money is being spent, there’s a problem. Moreover, if our association deems this information unimportant to our vote on a dues increase: also a problem. Finally, if the answer comes through relatively informal channels and the information is restricted to the minority segment of association members who read two particular blogs–you guessed it…problem.

Now, if what Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey says is in fact true, we can have an informed debate over the value of raising money for these purposes. For example, I’d like to know what association activities were “slashed.” Goodness knows, I haven’t felt like I got fewer services or lower quality service from association employees in the past 2 years. (And yes, I understand there are many macro-level activities the ASA does in government, etc. that are–by definition–rather invisible to me. However, that does not change the fact that I am a voting member of the association and have every right to use the information the association gives me to make an educated decision about the merits of our expenditures. The same goes for the condo, too.) Maybe whatever was cut isn’t necessary? Why presume our holding state in 2007 has some kind of inevitability to it?

I remain frustrated. Frustrated that the response of the Association to these concerns has been slow, and is happening through informal channels. Frustrated that getting basic answers to simple finance questions is like watching sap drain from a tree in January. And still the same original frustration: I’m still being treated as if I cannot act as a full partner in a deliberative process. This is a wrong assumption, and adds to my sense that the association isn’t serving me, but is serving its own Gods.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “One step forward…

  1. Well said Jenn. I agree with you completely. It will be interesting to see if anyone responds to your question concerning which services were cut.

  2. Jenn Lena

    Thanks. OW and Ezra raised very similar issues over at Scatterplot, so I’m hopeful someone will be attentive.

  3. The part I’d like to hear more about is ASA salaries. I’d like them to be fair, competitive, and also more transparent to the membership. I know people are hyper bashful about discussing salaries, and it need not be necessarily about individuals, but I would like to know more about whether my dues will go up so we can give people a raise for good work that they haven’t gotten for years or whether we are just hiring more people or what.

  4. Jenn Lena

    I’ve considered that, too, grouchosis. My own salary has been frozen for three years, and so it feels premature to me that ASA salaries should rise. It points to a flaw in the logic of the argument (as it was presented to us): if it is true that “the sociology job market…has been hit hard by the recession” than why is it a good time to charge most members (save those earning less than 20K) more money? This is slightly different than the issue as you frame it–are ASA employees performing satisfactorily in their jobs? (I think the original comment notes only raises, not hiring new employees–so you can cross that off your list.) I think a thorough audit of finances would require an answer to your question, but I’m oriented toward a more specific goal: a clear, coherent, and convincing argument about why the ASA needs more revenue, and why raising dues is the best way to get it.

  5. ezrazuckerman

    Great post, Jenn.

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