Have you ever wondered what is it like to attend a SCA Board of Directors meeting? East Kingdom Gazette Reporters Baroness Leonete D’Angely and Countess Marguerite inghean Lachlainn attended the third-quarter meeting in Boston, MA, on October 27 to find out.
We showed up on Saturday expecting something so mind-numbingly boring that we would have to poke each other to stay awake. What we found when we walked into the conference room was a group of enthusiastic, humorous, dedicated individuals who love the SCA and want it to continue to grow and thrive.
Surprising us with her joviality, the chair of the board, Leslie Vaughn introduced herself to us and then posed a BOD question of the day, which was: What kingdom have you not visited and why would you want to go? Then one by one, the Board of Directors and the Society officers introduced themselves by their mundane name, related a bit about their mundane background and what modern skill-set they brought to the BoD and then their SCA Name and the Kingdom they come from. Consensus amongst the BoD and the Officers on the topic of which kingdom to visit was split between Drachenwald and Lochac.
Then they surprised us by asking the attendees to introduce themselves in the same manner. Because Crown Tournament was taking place concurrent with the meeting, attendance from the local populace was light, so there were only five of us present, Master Philip the Facetious, Mistress Svanhildr Karlsdottir, Baroness Alesone Gray of Cranlegh, the East Kingdom Webmistress, and your two intrepid reporters.
At that point they formally opened the meeting. The BoD runs a tight ship, procedurally adhering to The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, but the tone of the exchanges and the camaraderie between the members was anything but formal. It was a bit of a shock to both of us realize that the BoD is actually kind of hilarious.
They certainly took great care with some of the more serious or contentious topics to discuss the issues on the table respectfully, like the Non Member Surcharge and the Same Sex Consort debate. At the same time, every time Sir Modius, the Society Seneschal, gave a formal report he started his remarks by cuing up a sound clip by way of introduction. His formal society report was to the opening strains of the Carmina Burana. When he was reading the Chatelaine report he had the audacity to inflict YMCA by the Village People upon us. He introduced himself with the Gangnam Style song and dance. Whenever a kingdom was mentioned by an Ombudsmen, a cheer would go up: “Go Tygers!” or “Go Dragons!” or when Atlantia was mentioned, “Go Spike!”
The BoD members were also intensely interested in what was going on in the Eastern Crown tournament over the course of the day, and as we updated them from the Live Feed from the EKGazette, they showed their appreciation. Director Elect Lisa Czudnochowsky, a Duchess from Ealdormere was avidly following the progress of Sir Oscad’s chances at the throne; Sir Oscad and Duchess Marian FitzWilliam have camped together at Pennsic. The Society President, Tom Hughes, a former kingdom youth combat marshal went so far as to ask it to be recognized in the formal minutes that, as reported in the EK Gazette, Lord Steffan Joseph, a former youth combattant, had advanced to the final 16 for EK Crown. This was exciting news for them, as direct evidence that some part of youth member retention is working. The Society Seneschal in particular was pleased with the fact that a non-official SCA Eastern blog was taking an interest in their proceedings. Countess Marguerite made a comment about the use of un-official social media as a way of recruiting and maintaining membership in the SCA and Sir Modius deputized her to assist him with additional analysis.
Much of the six-hour meeting proceeded as a typical business meeting. We were provided with an agenda, and the BoD members had a more detailed one of their own. We sat through the approval of minutes, creation of new groups, and scheduling of upcoming meetings. The members kept us engaged with comments such as Mark Faulcon taking bets on how many conference calls they would have between now and the next scheduled call on December 4th.
Throughout their discussions and reports, the BoD members and other officials made sure to explain to us things that we had missed during the executive session or in previous meetings, such as the fact that the forthcoming social media policy has been in the works for sometime and has been back for numerous rewrites, and explaining to us what a Customer Relationship Management tool is, and why the purchasing of one will make membership renewals, updates and management significantly easier on both the user and corporate ends.
Other topics covered in the meeting included changing the travel policies for the BoD members themselves, board recruiting, open positions, who can use society trademarks and what the permissions process entails, as well as whether or not baronies need to have a chronicler, or just a newsletter put out by an officer.
Near the end of the meeting we were pleased to find out that Wendy Marques, Baroness Alesone Gray of Cranlegh of the East has been accepted as the new Society Webminister and will take office in April of 2013. Congratulations to Baroness Alesone!
After they formally closed the meeting, the BoD members took a moment to discuss with the audience why the BoD is important to the SCA, what they do and what they don’t do. This was when it became clear that the BoD was surprised at the presence of “The Press” in the room, and took some time explaining some of what they were doing to make it clearer to the Eastern membership their intent.
“We are a governance board only,” noted Tim Jennings, aka Master Garraed Galbraith of Ealdormere. “We are members, just like you. We have held offices, just like you. We are you. The board of directors has no role in the game of the society. We have no say in anything at events. We bow to Kings just like you. Our role is non-profit governance. It’s so hard to understand that, since we tend to think of “The Board” as a central government, and societally we tend to be distrustful of Central Governments. It’s not a Central Government. It is a very different thing, which puts more weight on the members’ shoulders to stay on top of things.”
“We are not pod people,” Mark Faulcon chimed in. “I mean, most of us are not pod people.” Denise Hundley, Countess Denise Duvalier from Atlantia laughed, “We have not sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus.” John Fulton, Duke John the Bearkiller, said, “The biggest misunderstanding about what the BoD is, is that we are “Them.” He shook his head, “We have to be where the game ends and where the real world begins.We have to straddle the line. We are you, playing a role that is hard. Being on the board is is dramatically different than playing in the SCA. The game is played very different ways. What we do, with the best intent, is interpreted in very different ways in those kingdoms.”
The committee seemed concerned that they get a bad rap, especially over contentious issue because they only get called in when all other methods of solving a problem have been exhausted. “The only tool the BoD has to handle problems is a sledgehammer, and our choices are hit it or don’t hit it.” Mark Faulcon commented. Tim Jennings concluded with, “We don’t have any subtle ways of solving problems.” The BoD did want to compliment the East Kingdom on its skillful self-governance, commenting that they did not ever have to bring the sledgehammer down here.
The two of us walked out of the Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center with a much better understanding of the job the Board does, and a greater respect for those who are crazy enough to do it. Over the next week, there will be follow up articles detailing the specifics about a couple of topics of interest to Easterners, including the Same Gender Consort debate and potential changes to the Non-Member Surcharge.
Further information about the BoD and senior officers can be found here:
Board of Directors