Friday, 3 August 2012

New ISBS constitution and board: About the election drama

Yesterday I posted "New ISBS constitution and board: About a backroom deal", and here, as promised yesterday, comes "New ISBS constitution and board: About the election drama". See also the documents on the pages of the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies (ISBS), namely a brief report from the General Assemby of the ISBS held on July 20 in Tartu, Estonia (under the 12th gathering in biosemiotics) and the new ISBS constitution.

This piece of paper was prepared, but not submitted anywhere, since our alternative proposal for members of the board was presented orally and all names proposed written on the black board in the auditorium where the General Assembly took place. All three of us - Gerald Ostdiek, Joachim de Beule and me, were up there. It was Gerald who got the idea a couple of hours earlier - that we should propose a new board consisting only of 'younger' scholars, given that arguably the true strength of a group of learned people depends on their ability to transfer power to a new generation. Generational transitions, in other words, and how smooth they are, are a measure of organisational success. The background in ISBS' case was also that all of the few who had been involved in recent conflicts were of the elder generation (including founders of the field of biosemiotics). During dinner that day (July 20th) I decided to support Gerald's idea, and the two of us made the list shown above. Straight before the General Assembly Joachim joined forces with us.

We were first of all motivated by the fact that the old board would only allow full lists of candidates, not individual nominations. Individual nominations would by far be preferable. But without that option, we thought the General Assembly should at the very least be given a choice, so that we could have a proper election, rather than just rubber-stamping the pre-made proposal of the board (which, notably, was only made public at the General Assemby). All this secrecy did not benefit anyone - and certainly not the members' trust in the board.

As can be read in Sara Cannizzaro's report from the General Assembly, the board's proposal ("List A") won with 37 votes, versus 12 votes for our "List B" and 10 blank votes. This implies that the board's proposal got 63% of the votes, our proposal 20% and that 17% voted blank.

Were we disappointed? Perhaps a bit silent at first. Given that Anton Markoš came out against our proposal (we had hoped for his support, since he had talked about the need for new people), as did Timo Maran (anything else would have been disloyal, given that he was nominated as Vice-President by the old board), and that only Marcello Barbieri of the biggest names explicitly supported us, we could not have expected many more votes than we got. But then, towards the end of the General Assembly and after the meeting, we all realised how the mood in the room had changed, after half an hour of presentation and discussion of our alternative nominations (where, notably, seven out of eleven people were in both proposals). To the better, for sure. So we thought our primary objectives had been achieved: To give people a proper election, to make the ISBS a little more democratic, and not least to give discontent a chance to be uttered and made visible.

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