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Committees, Communication, and Commitment

1 September 2009 1,791 views No Comment
In January, I shared information about three initiatives undertaken this year to address issues raised in the ASA Strategic Plan and promised to provide updates to members over the course of the year. The first initiative—on the ASA’s spending policy and reserves—was described in the June issue of Amstat News. The article below describes the organizational efficiency of ASA committees, the second initiative. I thank Bob Rodriguez and the members of his workgroup for their time and attention to ensuring the effectiveness of our committee structure.

—Sally C. Morton, ASA President




Robert N. Rodriguez


Committees have long been a vital component of the ASA organization, and many of our members serve on one or more committees. But you might be surprised to learn that the ASA has 70 committees—an extraordinary number compared to similar societies—and that the president-elect makes more than 160 committee appointments annually.

As the size of our committee structure has increased over time, its effectiveness has declined, creating obstacles that have been pointed out by committee chairs, committee members, and the Committee on Committees. These issues prompted a study by the 2006 Task Force on Committee Organization and Management, which recommended that the Board of Directors provide better communication and oversight for committees and aid the appointment process.

Improving the organizational effectiveness of committees is a goal of the ASA Strategic Plan, which the board adopted in March of 2008. Acting on the plan, then President-elect Sally Morton appointed the Workgroup on Organizational Efficiency of Committees in the fall of 2008 to do the following:

  • Propose an overhaul of the committee structure to make it more efficient and effective in serving as an extension of the board and in meeting the mission of the organization
  • Consider how committees should receive more ongoing guidance and two-way communication from the board

During the past year, the workgroup collaborated with the Committee on Committees to develop recommendations, which were endorsed by the board on July 31, 2009. Note that this endorsement requires subsequent approval of the bylaw revisions presented in the following pages. The workgroup report is available here.


Members of the Workgroup
Margo Anderson, chair of Committee on Committees

    Alicia Carriquiry, 2007–2009 ASA vice president

      Susan Devlin, past chair of Committee on Committees, chair of 2006 task force

        Linda Gage, former chair of Committee on Committees, member of 2006 task force

          Stephen Looney, former chair of Committee on Membership

            Robert Rodriguez, 2006–2008 ASA vice president, chair of the workgroup

              Ronald Wasserstein, ASA executive director

                The workgroup was greatly assisted by the Committee on Committees.

                  Committees as ‘Arms of the Board’

                  We depend critically on the health of our committees because they are the primary means by which the ASA Board of Directors draws on the talent, experience, and—above all—the commitment of ASA members to accomplish long-term goals and activities. In contrast to chapters and sections, which serve the interest fields and local needs of members, committees are intended to function as arms of the board. While governing boards support chapters and sections, the ASA Board of Directors is directly responsible for creating and dissolving committees, providing governance and direction for committees, and communicating with committees and acting on their recommendations.

                  For many years, the Committee on Committees has been the administrative interface between the board and committees, but it cannot provide oversight for committees because it lacks the decisionmaking authority of the board. In the current committee reporting structure, two bureaucratic layers distance committees from the board. Committee chairs have no direct contact with the board, reporting through liaison members of the Committee on Committees. The three ASA vice presidents serve as liaisons between the Committee on Committees and the board, but have no direct responsibility for committees. The board receives a summary report from the Committee on Committees at most of its meetings, and it occasionally hears reports from individual committee chairs. These layers make it difficult for the board to turn to committees for strategic work and decide which committees should be dissolved or combined.

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