Volume 22, Number 2, Summer 2005

The CASLL Conundrum: Corporatizing the CASLL

Russ Hunt

St. Thomas University

hunt@stu.ca

For as long as it's been around, this community has existed primarily as an annual conference and a newsletter. More recently, it's included a listserv, and then Inkshed Publications, as part of what we are and do. Fundamentally, though, our raison d'ˆetre has been to use those two media as ways of facilitating communication among peoplemostly in Canadawho care about language and learning.

We were carrying a bank balance from conference to conference, and using some of it to subsidize students and the underemployed at the conference. Eventually it became clear that there needed to be some sort of continuing organization, something that would be there between conferences. In the Inkshed tradition, we set up the organization to be as minimal as possible, and over a few years we evolved a constitution which provides that there will be a treasurer to receive dues, disburse subsidies, pass on seed money to conference organizers, and generally receive mail between annual meetings. Beyond that, there were seven board members, elected at the annual meeting. No president, no executive, no secretary; just board members. What their duties are isn't clear. (You can read the constitution on the Inkshed Web site.)

Also in the Inkshed tradition, we've not been very rigorous about tracking who's actually on the Board and for what terms. We all agreed at the time that, after all, what we are is the annual meeting; between times we don't normally need to exist (except for the treasurer—and, less crucially, the Newsletter editors, the Inkshed Publications people, and the CASLL list administrator).

But it's time, it seems, to revisit and reexamine that structure. A number of recent occurrences have made that seem necessary.

One is that last spring we received a request to support a grant application and realized that there was no mechanism even to consult on whether we wanted to do it, much less come to a decision that would represent "what CASLL thought."

Still another reason for having a continuing and active presence is that Inkshed Publications now needs a formally constituted board to sign things. Further, one of the issues raised at the wrapup session at Inkshed 22 was the strange isolation of the group: because there is no actual organization, it's impossible for us, as CASLL, to address any public issues, to take positions on relations with university administrations, in short, to engage with the world outside the pleasant cocoon of the annual Inkshed working conference.

And most immediately: in the wake of the last AGM (and after searching through and for minutes of past meetings), it became apparent that at the meeting there was in fact, technically, only one continuing member of the Board (Jane, as treasurer). We have four volunteers elected by acclamation at the AGM (Karen Smith, Wendy Kraglund-Gauthier, Julie Ann Stodolny, and Penny Kinnear) but we're still short a couple.

Decisions need to be made here, it seems. It may be that the status quo is what we all want, or we might want to change things—but even had we known there really weren't any continuing board members, it wasn't possible in the time frame and given the structure of the AGM to address the larger questions. Indeed, it hasn't ever really been possible to looks seriously at these issues at an AGM which is why, at the last two, we elected no board members and inadvertently left ourselves with no board going into the 2005 one. It seems we may need to work out some kind of more formally defined role for directors. For instance, the Treasurer shouldn't end up stuck each year trying to find the minutes, remember who the Directors are supposed to be, and come up with some kind of agenda for the AGM.

Much of the discussion we need to decide these issues could, I suggest, be conducted using the CASLL list as a forum: there are, of course, people who are on the list who have no interest in being part of the organization, but who are just interested in participating in the discussions (that seems perfectly reasonable to me), and I guess they'd simply have to put up with it.

But I do think it's time to have that discussion. Do we need a more active and clearly defined board? Is there a reason to have a president, or some other executive officer who would take responsibility for planning AGMS and conducting discussions of issues that might arise between conferences? Can we (should we) leave that with the treasurer?

None of these are nice, neat issues. We should talk.

Table of Contents

Lise de Villiers, Trudy MacCormack, Wendy Kraglund-Gauthier