Greater Huntsville Section

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  • 1.  Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 17 Mar, 2022 08:59

    Thanks for the GHS council bringing this to the membership. It's been a painful process to adapt to the national goals for many local leaders.

    I wanted to offer a huge note asking you to join me in APPROVING the requested bylaws. I have spent months personally last year attempting to explore the risks. I look forward to chatting at the town hall.

    LINK TO ZOOM March 21, 2022 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM.

    Personal Assessment of Two massive benefits:
    1. Members moving to our area can join our leadership with consistent expectation. Our council had developed local requirements to participate on council that were inconsistent with other sections.

    1. Our local leaders can better serve in longstanding roles. Our GHS processes ejected leaders off council to force rollover. That actually created a regular issue of a gap in leadership where we constantly have rollover and can't maintain relationships. Plus our active leaders constantly got shot in the foot after being ejected. (Most new GHS leaders exit leadership within 3 years)

    FYI, I served on local council as Education Direction 2011/2012. So I am familiar with the org.

    Mark Becnel
    Chief Technology Officer
    Technology for Energy Corp (Formerly RadioBro)
    Huntsville AL

  • 2.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 18 Mar, 2022 08:42
    Edited by Tracie Prater 18 Mar, 2022 08:51

    Thanks Mark for starting this conversation. 
    I also plan on speaking at the Town Hall.  My perspective (just speaking in my personal capacity here as a professional member of GHS) is that the bylaws are a requirement for compliance with the revised AIAA governance structure.  Bylaws are now standard across all sections and GHS is the only section which has not adopted them.  The major, key change here in my view is that amendments to standard bylaws going forward will require national approval and adoption (3/4 of all sections, based on voting of their membership, must vote to approve changes -- this is also how amendments to the Constitution are ratified).  As stated in the e-mail from national that was sent out to members in February, not adopting bylaws places the section in a status of "not in good standing" because we are not compliant with requirements.  There are financial penalties (loss of funding and section awards ineligibility if we do not adopt the standard bylaws).  I have a very strong opinion on this and I realize there are other perspectives that adoption of bylaws means GHS loses it unique culture/heritage.  I could say much more, but I think it is more appropriate to be addressed in the forum on Monday.  I have also seen the toll this issue has taken on our volunteers and want to see it resolved for that reason as well. 


    Tracie Prater (she/her)

  • 3.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 18 Mar, 2022 19:27
    Hello All,

    I joined AIAA as a teenager, yes a long time ago. I have been in 4 sections in three regions. I have been very dismayed at the discourse surrounding this hot topic. I have read the both sides of the story and spoken to several people. I will be voting to pass the required by-laws, so that GHS stays in AIAA.

    By staying in the National organization, GHS will continue to be a section, with all the section privileges and continue to receive national funding. More importantly, we can stop arguing about an issue that has lingered, unresolved, since 2017. This issue has caused much discord among GHS council member and members. This needs to be put behind us, so that we can rebuild the civility, mutual respect, and professionalism that has been damage over this issue. We are first and foremost a professional organization, to further the purposes and programs of AIAA. How do we do that if the section is no longer part of National, Regional AIAA. We are stronger, when we can network nationally.

    Last night, I was ready to move my membership to another section, I felt that GHS was lost. Today I have spoken to a few people and I am committed to support our GHS stay in AIAA, but be more inclusive, engaging of more of the membership, promoting professionalism and civility in the GHS.

    Will you join me?


    Terri Tramel

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 4.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 21 Mar, 2022 11:51
    It would be interesting see what actions they actually try to take if the bylaws are not approved. If the bylaws are required, they would be imposed. That they are not is telling.
    This (below) is a list of concern about they bylaws.

    FYI  I joined AIAA in 1984 and have been a member of two sections. Been heavily involved in the GHS section for 30 years.
    When I was last Chair 2012 we had about 1200 members.  Now I understand it's less than 800. That is what we need to fix and fast.

    I plan to speak tonight.


    Tom Hancock
    Past Chair x2 GHS


    Fellow members.

    In a few days you will be asked to vote on the adoption of new bylaws being imposed on the Greater Huntsville Section by AIAA READ (Regional Engagement Activities Division). READ is a recent creation of AIAA. Few know about its existence. It is a new governing body composed of Regional Directors and a small staff. 

    What READ is attempting to do is remove local control from the section and hold it at the regional level.  Under the new READ bylaws any member can be remove from section leadership at any time, for any reason. No appeal process is provided. 

    We lose control of our leadership 

    READ bylaws prohibit term limits. They allow changes to the READ bylaws by READ without section involvement or consent. It eliminates all section member voting on bylaws amendments.

    READ bylaws eliminates provision that funds raised for a special purpose shall be used for that purpose. It also eliminates provision from section's current bylaws that all funds raised on behalf of AIAA must be turned over to the Treasurer for disbursement. It will allow non-elected (ex-officio) Council members to manage section funds.

    We lose control of our money.

    READ bylaws forbid Greater Huntsville Section-specific Awards. Many of these awards have 50+ year history.

    The READ bylaws prohibit self-nominations for Council positions. This limits who can run for office.

    The new bylaws eliminate our requirement for the Nominating Committee to have non-Council members and forbids non-Council member committee chairs.

    Under these new bylaws only the Chair can represent the section with any outside group or organization. This ends delegation of activity by the chair. 

    We lose control of the things that make our section unique

    READ seeks to have day to day activity managed by a Policy and Procedures Manual. This document (unlike our current bylaws) is never voted on by the section.  It is not legally binding and can be changed on a whim.

    We lose all control of the section

    READ has stated if you do not vote by March 31st and vote yes, the section MAY (not will) risk losing funding from AIAA national organization next year.

    Section funds provided by AIAA national come in part from the dues you pay to be a member.

    Being part of AIAA is something you pay for!

    READ is demanding a vote and the threatening us if we vote the wrong way 

    Local control is always best.

    Please Vote NO on adopting the new READ bylaws.

    Thomas Hancock
    commerical space systems
    Madison AL

  • 5.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 23 Mar, 2022 21:23
    Edited by Tracie Prater 02 Apr, 2022 11:23


    **writing this in my personal capacity as a Greater Huntsville Section (GHS) member -- views below represent mine alone**

    There are very strong opinions on bylaws on both sides and this issue has an almost 5 year history within GHS.  I wanted to come in and provide my perspective on the GHS bylaws and standard section bylaws we are being asked to adopt relative to what is stated above and call out specific sections of both documents where appropriate for more context.  

    This is my personal perspective based on my own analysis of the two sets of bylaws: current GHS bylaws and the standard section bylaws (referred to in above as READ bylaws) we are being asked to adopt. 

    Bylaws comparison in single file: strikethroughs from current GHS bylaws in red; additions with standard section bylaws in green

    For reference, READ is the Regional Engagement Activities Division.  The Regional Engagement Activities Division (READ), established in the AIAA Bylaws, is one of the three Divisions within the Council of Directors.  READ supervises member activities at all levels, from Student Branches to professional Sections and Regions.  As a member of AIAA, you are represented on READ by your regional director. 

    Additional information and context on statements in thread above:

    The standard section bylaws do not allow term limits. Our current GHS bylaws also do not impose term limits on director positions. In current GHS bylaws, "The Chair may succeed himself/herself and serve one additional one-year term. The Vice Chairperson, or Secretary, Treasurer, if he/she has served a full term, is not eligible to succeed himself/herself."  

    The provision that funds donated for a specific purpose must be used for a specific purpose is currently in GHS bylaws and is in accordance with Alabama state law for nonprofits, as I understand it.  This does not appear in the standard section bylaws (in my view) because it is not something that applies across all states.  I believe that this provision can be incorporated into a policies and procedures document which is maintained at the council level and governs aspects of local operations.  There are those who would bring up the point that the policies and procedures document is not legally binding the way bylaws are and that they feel this provision thus needs to be in the bylaws. If a particular council feels strongly about this going forward, they could propose this to READ as an amendment to standard section bylaws and follow the process set forth for amendment proposal, membership voting across all sections, and ratification under standard section bylaws. 

    In standard section bylaws, "the Council may appropriate budgetary funds for these ex officio Council members to manage and use in the execution
    of their tasks, constrained within the limits of the Council's authorization."  This provision is not  in GHS bylaws.

    Standard section bylaws do not include a provision that all funds shall be disbursed by the treasurer.  However, the Treasurer still keeps records of all funds received and disbursed.  The provision in question, while not part of the standard bylaws, in my view can also be incorporated into a policies and procedures document.  

    Because standard section bylaws apply across all sections of the institute, they do not include GHS's section-specific awards.  These can be incorporated into a section's policies and procedures document.  

    In the standard section bylaws (READ bylaws), members must be nominated by another member for a council position.  In current GHS bylaws, members can self nominate.  However, nominations in current GHS bylaws must be approved by a nominating committee .  Under current GHS bylaws, "additional nominations may be made by petition to the Secretary stating the names of the nominees and the offices for which they are being nominated, which petitions each shall be signed by at least five percent of the membership, but not less than ten members."

    In standard section bylaws, "The Chair shall preside at all meetings and functions with outside agencies."  In GHS operations this function may be performed by others on council, including the liaison to professional societies., However, in the standard section bylaws it is my interpretation that it is still within the authority of the chair to delegate functions. 

    The policies and procedures document, which sections are required to develop by the standard section bylaws, governs aspects of local operations.  This document is maintained at the council level. It is my view that many aspects of GHS operations which do not appear in standard section bylaws could go in a policies and procedures document.  It is not a document that is voted on by general membership, but only the council which is elected by the membership.  

    In the standard section bylaws, the board of trustees can remove a section chair by a majority vote.  Our current GHS bylaws are written around "suspension."  In the GHS bylaws, the AIAA council (higher level governing body which would now I think be Council of Directors) can vote to suspend an officer or council member to act in their position. 

    It is very important to note that the general membership do still vote on amendments to standard section bylaws.  Amendments to standard section bylaws are subject to national approval and adoption, so 3/4 of sections must vote to adopt an amendment for it to be ratified.  It is possible that GHS's membership vote could be overruled if they are in the minority voting proportion. This voting framework is based on the process for ratification of amendments to the US Constitution.  There is one instance specified where membership does not vote on bylaws changes -- this is in cases where bylaws must be updated to comply with changes to higher level governing documents, such as the institute bylaws or the AIAA Constitution.  

    In September 2021, READ set a deadline for GHS to ratify standard section bylaws after final dispositioning of comments (all comments from GHS were dispositioned, although some members as you heard on the town hall feel that dispositioning was inadequate).  The penalties were in a motion passed by READ in October 2021. If we as a section do not adopt bylaws and are thus noncompliant with the AIAA governance model, then we will not be eligible for section awards or section rebate funding (comes from member dues) until standard section bylaws are adopted.
    A prior communication sent to all GHS members by READ and AIAA national on Feb. 7th indicated if the membership of GHS does not adopt bylaws we will be placed into a status of "not in good standing." It was stated on the town hall that this can also come with loss of additional membership benefits (from Feb. 7th e-mail sent to entire GHS section from READ chief Dan Jensen/Dan Dumbacher/Allen Arrington/Basil Hassan: "Please vote YES in order to remain a Section in good standing with AIAA and retain the many benefits of affiliation with the Institute.") It is my understanding that after a longer period of noncompliance, the section's charter would be in jeopardy.

    Again, I'm not an authority on any of this -- just someone who has spent some time looking at both of these documents.  The intent of this post is just to add more clarification and context to what is in this thread and share my thoughts.  I am not seeking to offend anyone and I know this is an intense issue that has been in discussion since 2017.   I appreciate that Engage is providing us all with a platform to share and discuss.  I also appreciate everyone's civility here and critical thinking on this issue.  

    Thank you, 

    Tracie Prater

  • 6.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 24 Mar, 2022 21:21
    In my opinion, the amendment process in the standard section bylaws is a significant concern.  For the sake of argument, let's say that the standard section bylaws pass and that GHS is happy with them.  In that situation though, GHS is in the position where its bylaws could be changed by 3/4 of the other sections even if GHS is happy with how things are and doesn't want to change.  Maybe this will never happen, but it is a risk.

    This amendment process for the standard section bylaws is not at all similar to the setup for amendments in the US Constitution.  This process would be as if all the individual state constitutions had to be the same and 3/4 of the states could change the constitution of another state (which would be the end of Nebraska's unicameral legislature and Louisiana's unique law code).  If the amendment process setup were similar, then the national AIAA constitution and bylaws, as well as the READ policies, would be subject to amendment by a 3/4 vote of the sections.  However, as it currently stands, the national bylaws cannot be amended by the AIAA members.  I would be much more accepting of the amendment process in the standard section bylaws if the national and READ documents were amended to create the same amendment route where 3/4 of the sections can amend them.  That could be a potential compromise path.

    Matthew Hitt

  • 7.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 24 Mar, 2022 21:44
    Edited by Tracie Prater 02 Apr, 2022 11:24

    Yes, there is the possibility that an amendment GHS membership doesn't want to see ratified is still ratified if GHS is in the minority voting proportion.  This is what I meant when I referenced the Constitution.  If a particular state doesn't want the equal rights amendment, for example, but 38 other states (3/4) do, then it becomes part of the Constitution and that state must still adhere to it.  
    I think a member can still propose an amendment in standard bylaws, right?  See flowchart below. My husband made this based on section XII.2 in bylaws. 

    *posted as GHS member --views are my own**

    Tracie Prater

  • 8.  RE: Bylaws Townhall for GHS

    Posted 24 Mar, 2022 22:38
    True, if an amendment is passed to the US Constitution, it may affect all the states, but it also may not (e.g., term limits for US president).  However, the states still have their own unique constitutions and establishments.  Amending the US Constitution would be an analogous to an amendment to the national AIAA constitution which affects all the sections, not changing section bylaws.  Hence why I said that the process is not at all the same.  Yes, there is a nationwide constitution that does affect lower levels, but the lower levels in one case still have a certain level of autonomy regarding the structure and function of government while in the other (AIAA), the lower levels are being stripped of autonomy. 

    Yes, a member can propose an amendment to the standard bylaws (followed by a complicated process and a vote of all the sections).  However that amendment is subject to READ approval.  If READ doesn't like a proposed amendment, then the amendment dies without a vote of the sections.

    In contrast, a member can not propose an amendment to the national AIAA bylaws.  And while a member can submit an amendment for the national AIAA constitution, the number of members it takes to submit an amendment is so prohibitively large (300) as to make it ineffective.  For comparison, that would take almost 40% of GHS membership (a very large section).  For smaller sections, they might not be able to propose an amendment even if all of their members endorsed it.  I may be wrong, but it seems that if the process were about giving members a say through unified sections, the movement would be to apply that approach to amending the AIAA constitution and not by requiring having to get READ's endorsement multiple times to amend section bylaws.

    Matthew Hitt