Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Giving You the (WSFS) Business

Back in that long and contentious discussion of the Hugo Awards, George R.R. Martin said a couple of things that I found interesting, but didn't comment on a whole lot at the time. I can't link to the specific comment because that blog doesn't have links to individual comments, but it's time-stamped 1:16 AM.

Just moving the business meeting to an early evening timeslot would greatly increase its size, I suspect. Since Saturday and Sunday are traditionally reserved for the Masquerade and Hugo Awards, maybe Friday would be a good night for the business meeting. Publicizing it more would help as well. Modern worldcons list "major events" separately from all the other panels and speeches -- shouldn't the business meeting be a major event?
In fact, the WSFS functions have been part of the Worldcon's Major Events division twice in recent history -- 1998 and 2005 -- although the conventions have not listed them among the "Major Events" and the division managers in charge have not pushed them to do so. I doubt that Worldcon managements are likely to consider the Business Meeting to really be as important as the Hugo Awards Ceremony. I wouldn't mind it at all, myself. In fact, I'm sorry I didn't think of it in 2005 when I might have been able to get it such enhanced billing. Heck, I was the division manager and didn't think it was something that people would equate with the Major Events.

I also wouldn't personally mind the Main Business Meeting being on Friday evening. It would make things more complicated -- we'd have to shorten the time between the Preliminary BM and the Main BM, and the Secretary's job would get even harder. Whether it would really increase attendance all that much, I don't know. I bet we'd get a whole lot of complaints that we were keeping people away from the Friday night parties, though.

And here's another idea that might make the process more representative -- let the whole membership have the opportunity to vote on proposed amendments and changes. You could keep the rule that two successive worldcons need to ratify any change, but broaden the franchise. Worldcon #1 passes a proposal, and that's step one. Then, the following year, any amendment that passed is sent out to the whole membership of worldcon #2, along with the Hugo and site selection ballots. So rather than having a second business meeting ratify the work of the previous one, all the members of both cons get to vote, in a referendum.
Actually, this is close to an idea I've quietly advocated for some time: Popular Ratification. Constitutional amendments would still have to originate out of the WSFS Business Meeting, but instead of being ratified at the following year's meeting, they would be submitted to a vote of the entire membership, probably along with the site selection ballot, including balloting on site through, say, the third day of the convention.

The major plus to this is that it expands the "legitimacy" of the WSFS governmental process, in that nearly ever member has a right to vote on a proposal even if s/he can't make it to the Business Meeting. The biggest minus I can see is that it would remove the existing ability to fine-tune an amendment at the ratification stage by reducing its scope. Since we don't require previous notice for constitutional amendments, the two-stage ratification process serves as a proxy for advance notice, giving people who care a year to think out the ramifications of the originally-passed text and to work out improvements.

Would it change the results of what gets ratified? Maybe. I'm not sure. It might make things less likely to pass, given that people who bother to vote tend to vote "no" on anything they don't understand, and a lot of WSFS constitutional amendments turn on fine bits of arcana that you need to study to realize their implications. OTOH, most people might just say, "Who cares?" and ignore it entirely. So we'd be imposing additional costs (ballots, mailings, people points to staff the polls) on Worldcons for how much gain?

Would the WSFS Business Meeting ever vote to go to change its procedures in the ways proposed above? I doubt it, which is one reason I don't go to the effort of bringing it up as a formal proposal. The BM has so little authority already that it seems unlikely to me that they would vote away another piece of it by giving up their right of ratification.
Tags: business meeting, worldcon, wsfs
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