Now deliberation can begin.

According to the April edition of Footnotes, the revenue generated by the proposed dues change will be used to restore goods and services cut in 2009. The proposed change will “increase revenues by 1.7 percent to 2.4 percent ($100,000 to $200,000) of total ASA revenues (based on 2009, our last audited year).” First, I want to share the table of “expense cuts” and then add a summary of the new costs. Note: the below is simply the unedited information presented in one Footnotes article.

  1. Salaries and Benefits: ASA salary freeze, delayed staff replacement, reduced staff technical training and professional development. $110,000
  2. General and Administrative: Reduced as many mailings as possible to 3rd class postage; increased emailing/scanning in lieu of mail; moving work by outside contractors to ASA staff. $49,000
  3. Facilities: Off-site storage costs cut by ASA staff selecting & packing materials for transport to the archive at Penn State at a faster pace; reduced timeframe for ASA destruction of selected stored materials. $25,000
  4. Governance: Cut ASA costs for all Association Committee meetings including Council, EOB, Publications, and all committees meeting at the Annual Meeting; reduction or elimination of ASA coverage of some ASA-related expenses of the Presidents and Secretary; suspended most official representation by ASA members representing ASA at associations in which we are an organizational member. $74,000
  5. Membership: Eliminated all direct mail promotions to recruit potential members to whom we cannot send emails because of spam laws; reduced postage of selected member mailings to 3rd class & transferred mailing to ASA staff from contract mailing services. $10,000
  6. Journal Expenses: Eliminated annual Journal Managing Editors meeting; negotiated a move of ASA self-published journal printing & mailing activities to Sage contractors prior to moving our journals to Sage to take advantage of Sage’s volume discounts. $44,000
  7. Editorial offices: Eliminated raises for paid ASA editorial office staff. $85,000
  8. Other Publications: Eliminated one issue of printed Footnotes. [In 2010 moved to “opt into”print cutting printing and mailing expenses by ~$60,000]. $9,000
  9. Annual Meeting: Moved Annual Meeting Final Program printing to larger DC-based printer; negotiated a new contract for internet access; reduced equipment & rented furniture contracts; reduced food at DAN; reduced support for exhibitors; eliminated overhead projectors at sessions & renegotiated audio visual contract; cut staff travel costs to San Francisco. Because of significant declines in department contributions, ASA increased its support for honorary receptions by $12,000. $80,000
  10. Programs: Acad & Prof Affairs, Research, Public Information, Pub. Affairs, Minority Affairs & Student Programs: Reductions included: delaying one research survey, moving another survey to ASA staff from contractor; eliminating one media distribution (wire) service; reducing travel for ASA members to participate in ASA public information and public affairs activities by using only Metro DC-based ASA members. $32,000

Total cuts: $518,000

The ASA anticipates restoring the following cuts:

  1. Restoring the printed Footnotes: $50-60,000
  2. Managing Editors Meeting: some % of $44,000
  3. Staff raises: $85,000 (it is unclear if the cut in 2009 is as large as the salary remediation they propose–this is the salary listed among cuts, so it may represent the lower bound)

Total proposed cost of restored services (assuming the Editor’s Meeting is 75% of “Journal Expenses” cut and using 60K for the cost of Footnotes and 85K as the salary needs): $178,000

The ASA anticipating the following new costs:

  1. Replace the Association Management System
  2. Replace electronic document storage and retrieval systems, servers and hardware

Total new costs: $100,000+

If the ASA leadership estimates are correct, and the dues increase will generate–at most–200K, then the cost of restored services and new costs will exceed the revenue generated from the change ($278,000+ v.s. $200,000).

There is a substantial–an admirable–amount of information in the three articles in the April Footnotes that address our financial situation. I want to express my personal appreciation to Kate Berheide for making this information available, and available in advance of the vote on the dues increase.

Members can now make a more educated decision on how to vote. Some things to consider:

  • Should some or all of the cuts made in 2009 remain?
  • Should the services the ASA plans to restore be the ones we spend money on? Do you have enough information from Kate’s articles to make this decision?
  • Are the new costs necessary?
  • Should each of the respective goods and services (documented at length in the online Footnotes) cost as much as they do? Should a majority of our income be spent on staff and facilities (38% and 19%, respectively)?
  • The article states that “ASA will have to…seek new sources of nonmember income to maintain current levels of service.” I wish that the ASA had (or disclosed to us) what these sources of income might be. What would you suggest our association do to raise “nonmember income?”

I suspect other blogs will take on the task of critiquing the presentation and substance of the data–both that listed above w/r/t cuts and other information about the sources of income, use of staff time, and so forth. Here, I’d like to stay focused on how this information guides our decision-making about the vote.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Now deliberation can begin.

  1. The transparency should be commended for their efforts. I was worried that the Association might respond with ministry-of-truth-esque factoids. My worriers were unfounded, the information printed in Footnotes is detailed & specific.
    Now I’m puzzled by the suggestion that the Association needs to go back to printing Footnotes. To wit:
    “For example, there is mounting evidence that ASA may have to return to a printed and mailed Footnotes. This would necessitate restoring the $50,000-60,000 per year cut made in the 2010 budget and continued in 2011. The “opt-into” print strategy, and otherwise relying on an e-Footnotes, as a means of improving contact with members as well as reducing costs does not appear to connect well with members.”
    I wonder what this mounting evidence is? I’ve found that I am reading more of Footnotes and more quickly in the electronic version than I ever did with the newspaper. Perhaps its a generational thing? If the Association wishes to connect with the members, I would suggest that Footnotes run more articles like Kate’s (forgive the informality, I don’t know the woman but everyone else in the blogosphere is calling her that) and less articles like these. (Not that I think there is anything wrong with the article about Las Vegas… I’m just not going to read it.)
    I’d be interested in others’ thoughts on the Footnotes printing issue. I’m still chewing through everything else. If the Association’s computers and management systems are really as old as suggested in these articles, then obviously they need to be replaced and that would be a substantial outlay.

  2. Jenn Lena

    Funny–I have also been thinking a lot about this paper/digital Footnotes issue. Part of the reason is its cost (50-60K is a large proportion of the money proposed for staff raises, which makes it “big” IMHO), and the other reason is because “going paperless” decreases our contribution to paper waste. On the other hand, this is an organization by and for members, and Footnotes should be available and accessible to all.
    In the Culture Section, we basically had to stop paper publishing over the objections of several section members for cost reasons. We would have been in the red within 3 years if we had used union shops and kept the same number of issues (and the same length issue). While this was regrettable, it frees us to offer other services/benefits that a large number of members can enjoy (e.g., miniconferences, receptions at the meetings). But I helped make this decision with great sadness to those who find a digital newsletter unacceptable.

  3. It is worth noting that when the ASA moved Footnotes to an electronic version, they created an opt-in option for receiving the printed version. So if members prefer, they can get the paper copy between their hands (at no extra cost).

    The Disgruntled Sociologist suspects that the decision to revert to printing and mailing Footnotes was reached after the Transparency petition, likely on the grounds that the “misunderstanding” was caused by people no longer reading Footnotes. Ironically, of course, the exact opposite was the case: it was the ham-fisted explanation in Footnotes that set everything off. And it is far from clear, as Corey points out, that sending people junk snail mail will impact how carefully people follow the content of Footnotes. Corey is right that the issue is the content of Footnotes, not how it is distributed.

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