Greater Huntsville Section

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  • 1.  GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 17 Mar, 2022 09:00
    Edited by Mark Becnel 17 Mar, 2022 14:15
    Duplicate post. Engage messed me up!

  • 2.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 18 Mar, 2022 08:27
    Edited by Tracie Prater 18 Mar, 2022 08:29
    Thanks for starting this thread, Mark!  This is a very important issue that all our members within GHS need to vote on.  


  • 3.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 22 Mar, 2022 06:45
    Edited by Tracie Prater 30 Mar, 2022 16:55

    Disclaimer: This is written only in my personal capacity as a general member of AIAA. Views are my own. 

    I wanted to post this document in Engage.  It is an overlay of our current GHS bylaws (from 2011) with the standard bylaws that you are being asked to consider with your vote.  Strikethroughs (what is removed from our current bylaws) are in red and additions are in green.  I find this document very helpful whenever a question comes up about how our operations will change with adoption of the standard bylaws.  It's a "just the facts, ma'am" version. 

    I appreciate the time and effort that went into analysis of bylaws over the past 4 years by the current and previous councils. GHS reviewed these documents thoroughly and submitted many comments to READ in the summary of concerns document, which were all individually dispositioned (although I know there are some members of GHS who consider that dispositioning inadequate).  Sections also had the opportunity to provide input into development of the standard section bylaws beginning in 2017. 

    Amendments to bylaws going forward (with adoption of standard bylaws) require national approval and adoption.  3/4 of sections must have their membership vote yes to ratify an amendment (same process as ratification of an amendment to the Constitution). That changes one aspect of operations of our section in that members no longer have the final authority over bylaws (although you will still vote on changes). 

    When considering this issue, we must recognize that we are part of a much broader community within the institute. Within AIAA, we are a section that is part of a region (region II, southeast).  We are also part of a national institute. The poet John Donne wrote that "no man is an island entire of itself."  Our section and section members aren't an island either – we exist within the framework of a larger organization and I believe must comply with its governance structure to maintain our standing in the institute.  Standard bylaws streamline and make operations consistent across all sections, while allowing tailoring to local circumstances in a policies and procedures document maintained by the council.  Streamlining can benefit our regional and national partner organizations by reducing their level of effort in managing all 56 sections -- in many cases regional and national governing bodies consist of volunteers just like us. The standard bylaws will not in my view impede local operations and will not keep us from performing the vital functions of GHS, like organizing professional and STEM outreach events, recognizing our members with awards, and offering scholarships. 55 other sections (of 56) have adopted this document and appear to be continuing as normal. 

    We cannot simply tailor/update our current GHS bylaws and be compliant.  This is not an option at this point.  Given that, I believe adoption of standard bylaws can also benefit GHS by simplifying some aspects of operations (for example, standard bylaws remove deadlines relating to certain steps in the election process and also may make elections more inclusive by allowing nominees to appear on the ballot without the petition of 5% of section membership or the approval of a nominating committee).  Standard bylaws are up to date in relation to the new AIAA governance structure. While standard bylaws cannot be tailored, the section creates an accompanying policies and procedures document which governs aspects of local operations.  Awards, makeup of committees, etc. that we "lose" in adopting standard bylaws can be specified in policies and procedures. 

    I would also encourage voters to think about "what benefits the GHS community" when they consider this issue.  

    I personally see benefits in accepting this change (and the other changes) in the standard bylaws. It benefits the GHS community to stop dwelling in analysis and even intense conflict (this issue has a 4-5 year history) over bylaws. It benefits the GHS community to free up our volunteers to take the time they would spend on analyzing bylaws (when the time for comments and negotiation has passed) and put it into other section business.  It benefits our community to preserve the privileges our members have by remaining a section in good standing. It benefits our community to preserve the charter of our section. 

    It has been my privilege to be a volunteer in this organization and participate in AIAA both personally and professionally.  It is a privilege to receive funding from our member dues that enable us to give scholarships, host awards dinners that recognize our members' achievements, and organize STEM outreach events like the upcoming Quiz Bowl tournament.   It is a privilege to compete for section awards and be recognized for the work we do at the local level.  It is a privilege to use Engage and connect with our GHS community online as I am doing now. It is a privilege to be able to submit the work that our organization does to Aerospace America and share it with the global community in print.  These are all privileges we receive (in my view) by following the framework and rules established by the institute.

    Please know that this is written in my personal capacity only as a general member of AIAA. . At this point, I only ask that we as a GHS community consider this and vote. You can see in the document linked above exactly how bylaws are changing, but I also think it is important to know the full potential consequences of a "no" vote. If we become a section not in good standing by rejecting standard bylaws (and thereby being the only section that is noncompliant with the governance structure of the institute), that makes our community members vulnerable to losing some of the privileges of their membership and participation in GHS. 

    I want to close with the mission and vision statements for AIAA and ask "What moves us forward as a community?"

    AIAA exists to help aerospace professionals and their organizations succeed.  AIAA's vision is to be the voice of the aerospace profession through innovation, technical excellence, and global leadership.

    Tracie Prater

  • 4.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 22 Mar, 2022 23:19
    Edited by Luci Blodgett 23 Mar, 2022 16:14

    Regarding the bylaws discussion, I would like to make an encouragement, an observation, and a challenge.

    First, I would like to encourage a no vote on the proposed bylaws.  Passing the new bylaws would result in a loss of autonomy, and with autonomy, you don't know what you've lost until it is too late.  This was seen when the new national constitution eliminated any member driven recourse when the Propulsion & Energy Forum was eliminated.  Perhaps the new section bylaws won't result in any problems, but if they do, it will be too late.

    Second, it honestly seems that either way, the bylaws decision won't have much effect for the regular members.  Yes, the section will lose national funds, but for the past two years, the section has banked about the amount that has been received from national AIAA.  So at least recently, the loss of that money wouldn't affect any scholarships, etc. because it isn't being used.  Also, Engage will still be available for section members – just not the section.  Looking at the participation in the GHS section of the forum, that doesn't appear like it will impact that much.  On the other hand, the same could be said for autonomy.  While autonomy can be beneficial, it is a valid question as to what autonomy gives the section that wouldn't be available without it.  Lastly, lest I be perceived as painting with too broad a brush that the result won't have an impact on the ordinary membership, I observed that about only 20 of the 800 section members were in the townhall.  Whichever side wins, that's a significant number of members that presumably don't see the section bylaws as a significant effect on their AIAA experience.

    Finally, the challenge.  Whichever side ends up winning the bylaws vote should work towards making the above observation not true.  If the bylaws pass and the section continues to receive money from national, there should be a plan for additional scholarships, outreaches, or activities to use the money.  If the bylaws fail and autonomy is retained, a plan should be made to maximize what is possible such as growing the symposium, adding a journal, or something outside the box.  Either outcome, the section has done good work in the past and has the potential for a great future.

    Matthew Hitt

  • 5.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 23 Mar, 2022 08:42
    Edited by Tracie Prater 02 Apr, 2022 11:20

    Thanks for weighing in and I do understand that a lot of people carry the scars of P&E being cancelled.  I don't know the details of that, but it seems like the perspective is that the cancellation (and not having a recourse to fight it) was a consequence of acceptance of governance changes within the technical activities division.  I agree there is some risk in accepting change.  There is also risk here in continuing to fight against bylaws after multiple years.    

    I would add a couple of points here as a voter for consideration (again stating this in my personal capacity as a voter). 

    Yes, you heard on the town hall that GHS has a good amount in the GHS bank account and can "weather the storm" if there are financial penalties, but there are things I think the section could do that additional funding would help immensely with (so I really like the challenge you pose if we do get to keep that money with bylaws adoption).  Here are some ideas:
    GHS used to have a local conference for young professionals (which was rebranded as NextGen Symposium).  It would be nice to see GHS start that again.  There is a GHS member with an idea for student and educator travel grants and also senior design project sponsorship -- additional funding lets GHS perhaps execute that.  I would like to see GHS do a holiday STEM toy drive for local underserved students.  GHS could also add more scholarship offerings or sponsor additional competitions.   

    It's also kind of circular to me with regard to "financial penalties don't matter" (and several others have made that argument). GHS generates revenue from awards and sponsorships that come with events, but funding enables us to have the events in the first place.  And how do GHS members feel if portions of their member dues (which is where the rebate funding comes from) are sent somewhere else?  GHS does great work at the section level and then can't be recognized for that with awards.  

    I think the ambivalence here (if it exists based on only 20 or so people showing up to a town hall) may be because people don't really understand the stakes.  The information we learned at the town hall regarding "not in good standing" with noncompliance on up to date bylaws should make everyone take this really seriously, in my view.   I think the long history here and that all other sections have adopted this help explain some of the context too and how we got the point of penalties and deadlines.

    And as far as Engage goes, it probably isn't used as much as it should be.  It's a powerful platform with wide reach.  But the GHS website is actually on Engage.  Events and RSVPs are created there.  Section documents, including meeting meetings, are housed there.  Really everything the section does is hosted on this platform.  Certainly there are other options, but Engage is what AIAA has set up for GHS as a member of the institute. 

    But I again very much like your challenge to "do more" if we get to keep our national funding.  There are a lot of great ideas that can be executed, for sure.  I hope we get to keep it and continue to be a section in good standing.  I'm willing to accept the changes in governance to do so (and because I don't feel our section operations would be impeded at all). 

    *views are my own - written as a general GHS member*

    Tracie Prater

  • 6.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 23 Mar, 2022 12:26
    Quick question: was the TownHall recorded, and if so will it be released to members?

    I appreciate the back-and-forth, and the investment several of you have made to understand this more deeply than I, and especially glad that I was reached out to personally, else I would not be aware.  But like many things I'm busy and put off thinking about it until closer to the Apr 6 deadline to vote.  So, when I couldn't rearrange things to join the TownHall, I was hopeful that I'd have more time to consider the arguments. I wouldn't be surprised if that goes for 80 or so of us (though it's normal for the majority in an org like this to not understand the stakes or care).


    Timothy Kibbey
    Sr Engineer
    NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
    Huntsville AL

  • 7.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 24 Mar, 2022 05:47
    Don't know if the Town Hall was recorded.  It would probably be helpful if it were for those that weren't able to participate.

    One thing worth mentioning regarding potential lack of care is that a non-trivial number of members don't live in Huntsville where the majority of events are.  So while GHS may have X number of members, some of them are sufficiently far from where section activities occur that the section isn't relevant.

    I do agree that there is risk with not passing the bylaws including loss of funds and even up to dissolution of the section.  Perhaps I have missed it, but I would be interested in hearing what the proposed bylaws contain that is so important that READ would be willing to defund and potentially disband one of the largest and most awarded sections.

    Yes, having cash on hand is oftentimes required to front the money even for profitable events.  However, based on the amounts provided in the townhall, GHS has 50% more in reserve than it did two years ago.  So it seems that if we had enough money available to front events, then we should have enough now.  I am pleased to hear that there are thoughts as to what to do with the national funds moving forward, but it seems to me that as it currently stands, the situation is portrayed as an urgency that does not exist. 

    With respect to portions of member dues being sent somewhere else, how much of the non-Huntsville member dues go to events in those areas?  Judging by the emails, it seems that most occurs in Huntsville.  In fairness, this is where the majority of the members are, but it still is similar to dues going somewhere else.  I like the idea of educator and student travel grants and senior design projects.  That could be a great way to make the section relevant to areas outside Huntsville.

    Engage could be a useful tool for the GHS website but could be replaced (it doesn't feel that long ago that GHS had its own site).  As it stands, there are documents hosted there with very few views.  Looking at the GHS library, most of the recent documents posted have 5 or fewer views.

    While this post is a little (or a lot) rambling, my overall view can be summed up this way - it's the members and their vision that make the section.  Whether or not GHS receives resources or national doesn't matter without invested membership with a vision of what could be.  Tracie's ideas for growth and outreach are great.  And in my opinion, even if GHS loses the national money, ideas like those will result in growth and investment that will make up for anything lost from national.

    Matthew Hitt

  • 8.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 23 Mar, 2022 16:15
    As a  38 year member and past Chair of GHS I was stunned when the READ rep said if section membership (you) by vote, does not approve the new bylaws, READ will withhold our funding for next year (a rebate in part of the dues you pay AIAA  to support the local section), wait 6 months and then uncharted/disband/kick out/ remove GHS from AIAA. READ Rep said they will transfer GHS members to other sections in the US. That ends any possibility for our members to take part in a section activity (seriously - do they think anyone in GHS would go to an activity in KSC, DC, Hampton, Houston, LA?) I don't think they understand what they are doing. Disbanding one of the oldest sections in AIAA, the largest in SE US is dumb.

    Punishing the membership is not how AIAA works. When I joined AIAA in 1984 the sections served the membership and the national organization served the sections. That is being reversed. The members and sections now serve the national organization (READ).

    READ can solve this problem today,  and allow us to keep our current section bylaws (that you voted for).  
    No force of law is making them do it this way. READ is forcing 
    conformity, removing autonomy and demanding compliance from the sections. 

    I for one don't like bullies and will not comply.

    VOTE NO on the READ bylaws.

    I did.


    Tom Hancock
    Past Chair GHS

  • 9.  RE: GHS Bylaws Chat

    Posted 23 Mar, 2022 21:45
    Edited by Tracie Prater 24 Mar, 2022 07:24
    I checked today with the GHS chair and the town hall was not recorded.  

    The town hall consisted of GHS members speaking their views on the bylaws.  Both sides were represented.  Our AIAA program manager for sections and the vice president of community and partnership engagement also attended.  This issue has a multi-year history (standard section bylaws, which we are now being asked to adopt as GHS members, began development in 2017).  It's a lot to try to cover in a 2 hour forum, but those online discussed differences in GHS bylaws relative to standard section bylaws, their view on whether the section should adopt/not adopt, and general concerns.  Others provided historical notes on bylaws, including the rationale behind this standardization and the intent in the standard section bylaws development.  Representatives from AIAA shared additional information on the consequences of a "no" vote and the placement of the section into a status of "not in good standing" if bylaws are not adopted.  Further membership benefits (beyond just section awards eligibility and rebate funding from member dues) can be stripped away and after an extended period of noncompliance with institute governance structure, the section's charter may be at stake. 

    Maybe a very good use of this thread would be to generate some questions members feel they need answered to help make a decision.

    **written as a general GHS member -- views are my own**

    Tracie Prater