On Monday I wrote about the crisis facing the British Computer Society (BCS) as its current leadership tries to jettison the old name. I found out about the move in an expensively-produced glossy mailing I received on the subject. Just a few days later, the actual voting papers arrived. They contain an ill-considered Quick Vote option that BCS Professional Members need to carefully avoid.
I mentioned Monday that the resolutions for the EGM of the BCS include a resolution that effectively takes away the right of Members to call an EGM again. The current EGM was hard to call, since it turned out that the 'requisition' needed the physical signatures of fifty Professional Members and not just their clear consent provided electronically. Despite being a member for many years I've rarely been to a BCS meeting with that many people present, and collecting 50 signatures thus forms an effective barrier against frivolous meetings. The people calling the EGM make a good case for this mechanism. Regardless of what you may think about the other resolutions, the final resolution is a bad idea that reduces the accountability of the BCS leadership.
Today, the proxy ballot paper for the meeting arrived. In common with most similar forms, it includes a "Quick Vote" option, asking the meeting chair to vote their preferred options for all motions. Usually that would be a good choice, but in this case I encourage all BCS members NOT to use that option. The reason? As well as rejecting the no-confidence motion by the 50 members calling the EGM, it also votes for the Special Resolution that takes away your ability to call an EGM in the future. This is bad. The leadership should not be using this Quick Vote mechanism to rubber-stamp the removal of member rights.
That's not to say no change is needed. One wise and very senior member of the BCS wrote to me after Monday's article, rejecting the 'no confidence' motions but also saying:
I think that the EGM 2% motion should be rejected in its present form, BUT that the society should seek to create an on-line mechanism where a contentious issue can be put to the membership, and first discussed and then voted on. Moreover, such a vote should have the same binding force as an EGM.
I agree completely. This EGM contains no answers. The choice of 'no confidence' and 'give us absolute power' are both the wrong answer. I encourage all my fellow BCS members, however else they vote in the EGM, to vote down this excessive and anti-open proposal removing an important tool for accountability and democracy in the BCS. Using this trick to force the vote and prevent future dissent is not the answer.