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.