Letter from the MAA President

Dear MAA members,

It gives me great pleasure to write to you in this revived online version of the Medieval Academy News. The year 2010-11 has indeed been an eventful one for the Academy. First of all, I should like to officially welcome our new Executive Director and Editor of Speculum, Eileen Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto, who began work in the Mt. Auburn Street office on September 1. They will share the responsibilities shouldered up to that date by Paul Szarmach, who retired at the end of August. Two medievalists, they also bring to the Academy long years of experience in the editing and production of books, project and budget management, and familiarity with the rapidly developing world of digital publication and learned societies.

The April annual meeting in Scottsdale, AZ was lively and well attended, considering its controversial circumstances, with 310 registrants. Six special sessions dedicated to discussion of such issues as migration, borders, ethnic identity, and the politics of fear were stimulating and thought-provoking and provided unusual cohesion to the program. Some of these themes were further considered in Elizabeth A.R. Brown’s presidential address entitled “Moral Imperatives and Conundrums of Conscience.” I wish to thank Robert E. Bjork of ACMRS at Arizona State University, Tempe, the program committee and the local arrangements committee for organizing a splendid meeting under unusually challenging conditions.

One of the main goals of the Council and presidential officers during 2010-11 was the revision of the MAA by-laws, which had not been thoroughly reviewed for many years. It had become all too evident that the current by-laws needed considerable amendment in order to update them, bring them into conformity with Massachusetts statutes, and clarify certain provisions. Thorough revision of the by-laws also provided an opportunity for intense examination and discussion of the governance of the Academy, the role of various officers, the MAA committees, the duties of the Executive Director, and the relationship between the Council and the Executive Director. A committee chaired by two keen legal minds, Charles Donahue and Janet Loengard, with the able assistance of Carmela Franklin, Renate Blumenfeld-Kozinski, and John Magee, prepared a draft of the revised by-laws last fall. President Peggy Brown then led the Executive Committee at its fall 2010 meeting and the full Council at its spring 2011 meeting in intensive discussion of every article of the by-laws. After many rounds of revisions the Council approved the by-laws at the Scottsdale meeting, and the Fellows gave their assent in an electronic vote conducted in the early summer. Charlie and Janet deserve our particular thanks for their selfless efforts to carry out their mandate. The new by-laws, which came into force at the end of June 2011, have been posted on the MAA website and can be accessed at http://www.medievalacademy.org/about/bylaws.htm.

One prominent change in the by-laws is the enhanced role of the Executive Committee in the governance of the MAA. The committee has been enlarged to six councilors, four from the third-year cohort, and two from the second year, and is charged to meet four times a year instead of two. The two additional meetings may be conducted by conference call. This modification should enable the members of the Executive Committee to become much more familiar with the workings of the Academy and its many committees and to keep closer oversight of all administrative and financial activities of the MAA.

The new Executive Committee has already met (in late September) and has started to work on a new project, the revision of the current Administrative Handbook and the addition of sections on all the committees of the Academy. The handbook will include such information as the duties of the officers, the role of the Fellows, the workings of CARA, and the operations of Speculum, as well as the goal and purpose of each committee, its modus operandi, whether it meets virtually or in person, and deadlines for making decisions or preparing reports. A draft will be submitted to the Council for its approval in March 2012. Thereafter a copy can be provided to every new officer, councilor, or committee chair or member to facilitate the orientation process. It is anticipated that the revision process will present the opportunity to review the workings of each MAA committee and to see if any changes need to be implemented.

The goal is to make operations of the Academy easier and more efficient. This is especially important in what are uncertain times for the economy and so for the finances of the organization. Our treasurer, Gene Lyman, outlined the long-term problem at the 2011 annual meeting and will discuss actions to address difficulties in a forthcoming issue of the MAA News. The staff and Council are committed to improving the operations of the Academy and will be taking steps in the coming months to assure the effectiveness and efficiency of the MAA.

Sincerely yours,
Alice-Mary Talbot, President

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