We now have the official board letter which various people have been waiting for. The following points are worth noting:

1. As I had conjectured, the board's actions had nothing to do with any large surprise expenses. "Over the course of the last 2-3 years the SCA Board of Directors recognized ... ." The expenses listed were simply the result of expenditure decisions made over a period of years.

2. The letter offers no explanation for the fact that decisions radically altering the nature of the Society were made without prior notice or consultation, contrary to both Corpora and custom. Not only does the letter not explain it, the letter does not even mention it. The tone throughout is "this is why the things we have decided to do are good for you"--with no suggestion that the membership might have had--indeed, under Corpora is required to have--some input in decisionmaking. Nor is there any mention of the fact that, when the board polled the membership, the policy they have just adopted was rejected by 84% of those responding. The letter appears to be directed entirely at members who are not actively involved and have not been paying attention to what is going on.

3. The final version of the letter no longer implies that registering devices for non-members costs the corporation money. It retains the implied argument that non-members are the sort of people who say terrible things about the Society in court, and we are therefore better off without them.

Two obvious points arise. The first is that required membership does not prevent non-members from saying wild things about us in court--either after visiting for six months or on the basis of rumour and paranoia. The second is that the letter does not mention all of the legal and public relations problems we have been gotten into by members. It would be interesting, although improbable, for the board to publish a list of Society legal problems, in each case identifying the central figure as a member, non-member participant, or non-participant. I will be happy to contribute two big ones involving long term members. And, of course, members are a lot more credible witnesses against us than non-members.

The letter retains the idea that somehow having our events open to non-members increases the credibility of non-members testifying against us. Insofar as this is true, it would still be true under a system with six month visitor passes. But in fact it is nonsense. Gem and mineral clubs, to take one example I know about (my wife's parents' hobby) routinely hold mineral shows open to anyone who pays admission. So do lots of other organizations.

4. The attached budget is informative in some ways, but not in others. There is no separate item for insurance; my guess is that it is buried in "General and Administrative." All publications together add up to less than a third of the budget. Corporate Office expenses plus Board, Officers, &Meetings total more than half of the budget. There is no way we can tell how much of the Salaries and related expenses represent the expenses of the administrative director, and how much is paying people to process memberships.

A few other points, only tenuously related to the letter.

5. In conversation with one of the board members, when I argued that we had managed to run with volunteer labor in the past when we were smaller and could therefore do the same thing again if we decentralized, he suggested that there had been a fundamental change in the nature of the membership. In the old days our membership was more homogeneous, so it was practical to run things on an informal, vounteer basis. Nowadays, with a more diverse membership, we had to shift to a more formal, professional basis.

Thinking about that argument, I started making a list of prominent SCA people I knew in the early years, with professions. It went as follows:

A male nurse (Duke Andrew of Seldom Rest) A carpenter, his wife, and their adult son, also a carpenter (Count Murad, Countess Fatima, Duke Akbar) A science fiction writer, her husband, a professional astrologer, and their children (Mistress Aelfreda, Master Walter) A school teacher and her twelve year-old daughter (Marion of Edwinstowe and Gillian of the Green Wood) A lawyer (Baron Robert de Tour Fraise--a little later than the others I have been listing) Some aspiring sf/fantasy writers, at least four of whom have since published (Yang the Nauseating, Roland de tour gris, Master Edwin Bersark, Diana Listmaker) A lady who lived in the California countryside with her husband and children, raising some of their own food--I do not know what their professions were (Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall) Lots of college students, graduate students, assorted academic types.

The list did not include the board member whose argument I was considering. So far as I know, he was not around then.

6. Back when the board starting requiring memberships for seneschals and then for all officers, the argument made was that someone could not properly represent the society without being a real part of it. We now have a situation where the mistress of arts of a shire with ten people in it is required to be a member, but the executive director of the Corporation is, and was chosen to be, an outsider, who has apparently (this is hearsay and may not be true) been to one event.

7. Throughout the discussion most of us, myself included, have been taking it for granted that what is happening involves no deliberate malice or malfeasance, simply disagreements among honorable people about what is in the good of the Society. It may well be that that assumption is correct. On the other hand, it is worth noticing that the sums of money at issue are large enough to represent a serious temptation--indeed, there is apparently already one case, at the national level, where someone absonded with a substantial amount. It would not be astonishing if it turned out that some one or more of the players in this unpleasant drama was in fact deceiving and minipulating the others, in the hope of ending up with control over a budget of almost a million dollars a year.

-- David/Cariadoc DDF2@Cornell.Edu