On August 15 2016 the IEEE elections process will start. In addition to the election of our top officer, the ballot will ask members to vote on a proposed amendment to the IEEE Constitution. The amendment is proposed by the IEEE Board of Directors but has been strongly opposed by a number of past IEEE Presidents and by a large number of IEEE Societies as well as other organisational units. On August 2nd the IEEE Victorian Section Executive Committee, after due deliberation, took the view that the proposed changed were not in the best interest of our members and voted to oppose them. We encourage members to inform themselves on the vote and urge our members to vote against the constitutional amendment.
Resolution of the Victorian Section Executive Committee
At the August meeting of the IEEE Victorian Section Executive Committee we discussed the proposed changes to the IEEE Constitution. All IEEE members globally will be asked to vote on these changes over the next few months. At the meeting the committee passed the following resolution:
“That the Victorian Section Committee, after due deliberation, has voted its opposition to the proposed constitutional changes for the following reasons:
(1) Currently the IEEE is a bottom-up organisation run for the members and the societies as well as the broader IEEE corporate agenda. The proposed amendments to the constitution alter the balance within the IEEE between the Board and other groups.
(2) Technical and geographic representatives will find it harder to have their voice heard at the Board level. Division Directors will be removed from the Board under these proposed changes. It is no surprise then that apparently the majority of societies have voiced opposition to the proposed changes. Regional Directors are the connection with volunteers and resources and they too will be removed from the Board.
(3) How the Board of IEEE will be set up to have a wide possible representation of IEEE interests is not explained by the proposed changes – we know it will be people nominated by the Board itself but it is quite uncertain what the criteria are for the Board to nominate people and who can aim to serve on the Board.
This motion is to be distributed by e-mail to all IEEE members in Victoria before the start of the vote. We encourage members to inform themselves on the vote. Based on our consideration of the issue, the Victorian Section Executive Committee urges members to vote against the constitutional amendment.”
A summary of points raised in the discussion leading to the adoption of this resolution can be found below.
IEEE’s constitutional amendment site: https://www.ieee.org/about/corporate/election/2016_constitutional_amendment.html
Loyal Opposition to the constitutional amendment: https://ieee2016blog.wordpress.com
The information letter from John Vig (2009 IEEE President and CEO) and others opposing the change:
The IEEEin2030 Ad Hoc Committee (a sub-committee of the Board of Governors) initially proposed the current constitutional changes as part of an organisational re-structure. Details, which provide some context to the proposed changes are at: https://www.ieee.org/about/corporate/ieeein2030_archive_m.html
A statement from four Past IEEE Presidents opposing the change:
IEEE Washington DC Section’s resolution:
Memo for Region 6 from Marc T. Apter (2013 IEEE-USA President):
Statements from Societies
- IEEE Communications Society
- IEEE Computer Society
- IEEE Signal Processing Society
- IEEE Power Electronics Society
- IEEE Circuits and Systems Society
- IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society (UFFC-S)
- IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Society
- IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (See President’s message on page 3 & 5)
Summary of Victorian Section Executive Committee’s Discussion
The following points have been compiled from points raised during the July meeting of the Victorian Section Executive Committee, over e-mail on the mailing list for the section executive following the July meeting, and then in the final discussion at the August Executive Committee meeting of the Victorian Section.
- The opposition of many societies was noted
- Concerns about incomplete information and different officers being privy to different information and different levels of information on the topic were raised
- It was decided to discuss the matter over e-mail, investigate further, share information, and then take a decision at the August meeting
Discussions raised over e-mail and at the August Section meeting included:
- The Communications Society message to members of June 4th. This noted that “The BoG of the IEEE Communications Society opposes the proposed constitutional amendment and modified board structure.” A reasons given by the society were noted and thee include:
- The problem statement that the proposed amendment is attempting to solve is not well-defined and the proposed solution adds complexity
- The existing IEEE Constitution offers alternative, less complex ways of accomplishing the intended improvements;
- The risk associated with a major constitutional change is not clearly outweighed by its possible benefits.
- There are serious risks that the Bylaws changes induced by the Constitutional Amendments will reduce the visibility and control of IEEE societies and geographical regions on key strategic decisions made by the IEEE Board of Directors for the future of the IEEE.
- There is a risk that the proposed changes, like the Constitutional Amendment, will shift too much power from IEEE members to IEEE Corporate Staff.
- The e-mail from John Vig, 2009 IEEE President and CEO, from July 14th. This raising concerns that in January an article was published in The Institute which provided opinions that were exclusively in favor of the amendment and nothing opposing it has been published since. Noting IEEE Policy 13.3 and PSPB Ops Manual 8.3.3 he called for an information letter providing an opposing case from himself and others to be published. He also asked for the opposition of (then) 22 societies to be put on record. The statement noted:
- The changes are promoted as facilitating a more flexible, responsive, and strategic IEEE, but opponents believe the problem the proposed amendment is attempting to solve is obscure, the proposed solution adds unnecessary complexity and risks, and the nature of IEEE as a bottom-up organization run by volunteers is threatened to change, drastically.
- Many geographic units and the governing bodies of over 22 IEEE societies have opposed the changes.
- There are numerous risks associated with the changes including:
- The amendment gives the IEEE Board of Directors (BoD) the power to re-organize and restructure IEEE without the need to seek member approval.
- Required technical and geographic representation will be removed from the Board of Directors.
- The BoD could be controlled by special interest groups.
- The visibility and influence by IEEE societies and sections on key strategic decisions made by the BoD will be reduced.
- The possible benefits of the amendment do not outweigh its risks.
- IEEE is a highly successful $450M non-profit corporation that provides unparalleled technical leadership. The efforts of our VOLUNTEER leaders in the technical societies, regions, sections, and chapters are responsible for that success. Most of IEEE’s revenues are generated by the volunteers’ collective work, especially with publications and conferences. If we diminish the voices of volunteers in managing IEEE, we risk discouraging them and losing their support.
- The support for the constitutional amendment from current IEEE president Barry L. Shoop and the IEEE President Elect Karen Bartleson as well as other senior IEEE leaders was noted.
- It was suggested IEEE Victorian Section Executive Committee members prepare for the discussion at the August meeting by looking at what their home society / group is saying about the proposed changes
- It was suggested that the proposals were being promoted as tweaks to the existing structure but were in fact fundamental changes and the question is what sort of IEEE we would like to have in the future – a business oriented one or one more expanding the traditional aims. It was further suggested that the proposed changes are meant to introduce a noticeably different culture to IEEE operations, one that is less responsive to the interests of most members and volunteers, which would be an extremely bad idea potentially diminishing IEEE as volunteers may fall away.
- The resolution of the Washington DC Section and their resource page which includes this statement was shared. The resolution from Washington DC section noted that:
- The proposed constitutional changes will eliminate control of IEEE Geographic Entities (Regions), IEEE Technical Societies (Divisions) and the IEEE Assembly over the Board of Directors’ composition, thus making the Board not accountable to IEEE Organizational Units;
- It will also give the Board an opportunity to propose existing Board Members to be nominated for election as future Board Members, creating an apparent conflict of interest;
- The required direct election (by more than 300,000 IEEE Members) for all IEEE Board of Directors positions creates but an appearance of democracy. Currently the Board has 28 Directors. Every IEEE Member will be expected to educate themselves on the merits of 28 (or more) candidates. This is unrealistic and most likely will result in mechanical approval of the list of candidates compiled by the existing Board;
- The yet-to-be-written bylaws under the proposed constitution have considerable unknowns, but more importantly, the bylaws will document the IEEE structure which the Board solely can approve without membership approval;
- Due to the above considerations, we strongly encourage IEEE Members to vote AGAINST the proposed Amendment of the IEEE Constitution.
- It was suggested that IEEE was aging and in order to stay relevant more focus at board level was needed on strategy and less on operational matters. In response it was suggested that the answer to that, if it is indeed a problem, is better board training not a structural change.
- It was suggested a smaller board would be more optimal. In response the nature of the IEEE as a diverse technical and geographic not for profit organization was highlighted, along with the fact that advice for boards suggests in such circumstances a larger board is often needed to ensure stakeholder representation.
- It was suggested that Young Professionals make up a large percentage of the due paying membership but it would be difficult for them to serve on the Board. In response questions were put to a Young Professional who is a member of a Society Board. Their response was that it would be possible for a Young Professional to serve on the IEEE Board just as they serve on the Society Board. While agreeing IEEE needed to remain relevant, they expressed the view that the constitutional amendment did nothing to facilitate this and the change would deprive the Regions and the Societies of their representation and be less ideal than the current ‘federal’ structure. It was also suggested that keeping IEEE relevant means keeping it local in both a technical and a geographic sense. Victorian Section we must have the ability to influence R10. In turn, R10 must have the ability to influence the Board of Directors. The best way to do this is by having a dedicated R10 Director. This is no different to having senators for Victoria in the Australian Parliament.
- The role of IEEE as a body heavily involved in producing technical standards was raised along with the importance if IEEE being seen as independent of commercial bias. It was suggested this is put at risk if the organization focuses on greater business activity not connected with our previous technical status. It was also suggested that IEEE need to act, and be seen to act, in the best interests of science, technical progress, environment, community needs. It was suggested the current structure with larger stakeholder involvement better served this need.
- It suggested that the diversity built into the current structure at board level, without the changes proposed in the amendments, allowed us to better serve our values as expressed in our Code of Ethics and is what ensuring we remain vitally interested in (and involved in) humanitarian issues and initiatives, and that we continue to try very hard to combat and eliminate all forms of discrimination and bias.
- It was noted in late July that the Computational Intelligence Society has just adopted a resolution against amendments, taking the total number opposing societies to at least 23.
- It was noted that overall there are concerns around increasing the authority of the board and overall commercialization of the IEEE, and that this may threaten technical independence and integrity. That the changes would remove some degree of accountability of the board. That there is a potential conflict interest when the board proposes existing board members for upcoming elections. That a complex and time consuming proposed election process poses a risk of members not taking a vote which might lead to defaulting to a structure proposed by the board. That with a shift of more authority to the bye laws future significant changes could occur be approved by the board without membership approval.
- Concern were raised over corporatization and commercialization of IEEE. Analogies were drawn to privatisation of various government services and problems that resulted.
- The argument was that made that the status quo should prevail unless there is a compelling reason for change and no such compelling reason has been given.