Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope reports on the SCA Board meeting held in the Debatable Lands on Oct. 24. This is an unofficial report; for the official report, see the Board meeting minutes that will be published at a later date on the SCA Newsletters site.
A quarterly meeting of the SCA’s Board of Directors is much like any other business meeting. The participants wear modern business clothing (some were in suits), they sit at a U-shaped table with the audience forming the fourth side of the square, and they operate under Robert’s Rules of Order with motions proposed, seconded, and approved with a rap of the chairman’s gavel.
Even the topics discussed might not seem out of place in a modern board room: finances, publications, approval of meeting minutes, and changes in procedure took up much of the day. Coffee and tea were served.
Of course, the big difference is that the topics all pertained to the SCA.
The fourth quarter 2015 BoD meeting was held at a hotel in the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands (Pittsburgh) in the Kingdom of Æthelmearc. It ran the entire day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a longish lunch break during which the directors held an executive session. As is customary, the directors had already held a lengthy executive session on Friday night as well. Like all quarterly BoD meetings, the Saturday portion was open to the public, and about 30 people attended from all over Æthelmearc as well as the Middle, East, Atlantia, and Meridies, along with the directors and corporate officers. The meeting began with everyone introducing themselves, including not only the directors and officers but also the audience. The Board members and officers in attendance were:
Scott Berk, Chairman
Lisa Czudnochowsky, Vice Chairman
David Keene, Director
John Fulton, Director
Andrew Coleman, Director
Arthur Donadio, Director
Paul Lancaster, Director
Chele Martines, Director-Elect
Leslie Vaughn, President
Therese Hofflein, Corporate Treasurer
Gloria Woodard, Publications Manager
Patrick Anderson, Legal Counsel
Renee Signorotti, Vice President of Operations
Leslie Luther-Fulton, Executive Assistant to the Board
Kathy Palmer, Society Exchequer
Alan Smith, Society Marshal
Michael Schneider, Vice President of IT
Kelly Magill, Grand Council Chair and Deputy Society Seneschale
After some routine business like the approval of the July minutes, the acceptance of some SCA branch status changes, and the establishment of future BoD meetings and conference calls, Director Lisa Czudnochowsky (Duchess Marion FitzWilliam of Ealdormere) noted that the Board currently has 42 nominees but would like more. About half of the people on their list are self-nominated, and she pointed out that you don’t need to have a business background or experience on a non-profit board to be selected. She said the Board looks for people from a wide array of disciplines and locations, and they never know what skillset they will need until they actually need it. They are particularly interested in people with a non-American viewpoint; Lisa strongly hinted to Duke Sven Gunnarsson, newly arrived in Æthelmearc from Drachenwald and a member of the audience, that he should put in a resumé. The directors also asked for comments on the nominees; Director John Fulton (Duke John the Bearkiller from Meridies) said they want both positive and negative commentary, and Director Andrew Coleman (Jarl Ailgheanan mac Sithigh, formerly of Meridies, now living in Atenveldt) explained that such comments are purged once a candidate is selected to become a director. Nominations and comments on nominees can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Board members also said they are looking for SCA events where they can hold “Meet and Greet” sessions to give the SCA membership opportunities to learn more about the workings of the Board and ask questions.
50th Year Celebration
The Board members strongly encouraged members to attend the 50th Year Celebration to be held in Indianapolis, IN, in June of 2016. The Society Seneschal, A.J. Pongratz (Master Antonio Giordano da Sicilia), noted that the town around the site is “pulling out all the stops” to welcome the SCA, including offering very reasonable hotel rates. The local movie theater even plans to play medieval-themed shows ranging from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to A Lion in Winter.
PayPal Acceptance Project
The Corporate Treasurer, Therese Hofheins (Mistress Kiara Loftus) and the Society Exchequer, Kathy Palmer (Baroness Katherine Angelique d’Artois de Berry) have completed the initial trial runs of using PayPal for gentles to make event reservations online. It was piloted in Caid, Gleann Abhann, and Trimaris, as well as at Caid’s Great Western War. The results were considered good although there were some hiccups with GWW. It will be rolled out to other Kingdoms in batches, with Ansteorra, Artemisia, Atlantia, and Gulf Wars being next. Kathy said Kingdoms would need to “have their financial house in order” to be permitted to begin using the system. The procedure was explained as follows:
- Each Kingdom would appoint a Deputy Exchequer in charge of PayPal event reservations.
- Event attendees would email this Kingdom Deputy Exchequer, informing them of the event they wished to attend, how many people they wished to reserve for, whether on-board or off-board, etc.
- The Deputy Exchequer would generate a PayPal invoice and send it to the event attendee.
- The event attendee would pay the invoice on PayPal.
- The Deputy Exchequer would email lists of paid reservations to the group hosting the event on a regular basis.
- Shortly after the event, the Deputy Exchequer would mail a check for the total reservation monies to the hosting group.
Director Andrew Coleman pointed out that this is an interim solution. The eventual plan is for the Society to have an “Event Module” on the Society website through which members could make event reservations with a credit card just as they now purchase SCA memberships. This project is currently in the works; a completion date was not mentioned, but the Corporate Secretary, Renee Signorotti, said it would be the one of the primary subjects of the BoD’s first quarter 2016 meeting.
John noted that the shutdown of the ACCEPS program was poorly done, and that the Board wants the new event registration system to be implemented properly to ensure a smooth transition. Regarding the PayPal program, he suggested that any policies around its implementation should be about fixing problems rather than punishing kingdoms for financial issues. Kathy and Therese said they would do what they can to assist kingdoms with financial reporting issues to resolve them so they can implement the PayPal system.
NMS Policy Change
Therese announced a slight wording change to the Non-Member Surcharge policy. It would require groups to charge the NMS for all events that appear either in their Kingdom or local newsletters, or on Kingdom or local websites, that are covered by the SCA’s insurance and charge a fee. This will close a loophole that was allowing groups to not charge the NMS by claiming their event was unofficial. Therese and Kathy also noted that a few Kingdoms had not been forwarding NMS fees to the Society, and that they had been working with those Kingdoms to resolve this issue and achieve compliance.
Kelly McGill (Lady Heather Shea of Ealdormere) reported that in the previous quarter the Board had requested that the Grand Council discuss and report on the following topic in three phases, one per quarter:
- Critique the process used to create the Order of Defence, which the Board feels was not well-executed
- Based on findings of phase 1, propose a better process to be used to create any new peerages going forward
- Analyze how the Kingdoms have implemented Order of Defence to see if there have been any problems
Kelly reported that phase 1 was complete. The consensus of the Grand Council (GC) was that the process took too long and the 2010 survey used as its basis may have been statistically problematic. The GC considered the exploratory committee’s scope too narrow, and then the Additional Peerage Review Committee’s scope was even narrower, with only a yes or no to the proposal being sent to the Board, so concerns expressed in that committee did not go to BOD. Kelly noted that there was a diversity of opinion on the GC, so not all members agreed on these issues, and when asked what the “takeaway points” from this exercise were, she said she felt there were none.
The GC has already moved on to Phase 2.
BOD members said they knew the rapier peerage process was flawed, painful, disconnected, and confusing, which is why they don’t want to repeat these mistakes with future peerages. John said he had read some of the GC’s online conversations, and he believed the assessments in their discussions were very accurate.
Lisa acknowledged that there were people in the audience who were present in support of the Order of Valiance omnibus martial peerage proposal. She said the BoD has not forgotten about them, but they want to make sure they do not make mistakes with any new peerages.
Director and Board Chairman Scott Berk (Master Philip the Facetious of the East) was asked if the GC project to analyze the peerage process used for the Order of Defense and then suggest a new process would affect the BoD’s schedule for looking at the Valiance or other peerage proposals. He confirmed that the Board will not take up any such proposals until the GC completes their work. The expected time from for that would be by the 2nd quarter meeting of 2016. He pointed out that while any new peerage is not going to be done in the year that the Valiance group proposed, it is also not going to take five years like the Order of Defense did. He reiterated that the Board wants to do it right.
Grand Council Members Required to be Paid SCA Members
John proposed an amendment to the GC charter requiring that GC representatives be paid SCA members. There was much discussion. Many of the BOD members spoke in favor of the motion, saying they consider the GC a useful BoD advisory committee, and while its members are not quite officers, they should still be SCA members given what the GC has evolved into over the years. A significant portion of the audience spoke against the motion, citing a variety of issues from the GC’s founding as the “loyal opposition,” to the financial concerns of some older members, to the need for the Board to receive advice from people critical of the corporate level processes, with some members of the GC deliberately choosing not to be members for philosophical reasons. Kelly, who is the Chairman of the GC, said that she supported the motion but is concerned about losing members, as it is already hard enough to get people to join the GC. John said that if the GC dies due to membership issues, the Board will help Kelly rebuild it with paid members. He also stated that he is personally willing to pay membership dues for any GC members who can’t afford it. In the end, the motion to require paid membership for GC representatives passed unanimously.
After a break for lunch with the Board holding an executive session, the Society officers presented their reports.
- The Society Marshal, Alan Smith (Master Alan Gravesend of Atlantia) reported that changes to the Rapier and Heavy Combat handbooks have been approved. They will be available online and will include a table at the front of each handbook listing changes from previous handbooks to make it easier for marshals to see what is new. All changes were discussed at the Kingdom levels before being implemented Society-wide. He noted that the Society Youth Combat Handbook will be presented at the January Board meeting. He also commented that Pennsic ran very well.
- The Laurel Sovereign at Arms (Society Herald), Joseph Percer (Master Andrewe Bawldwyn), reported via Director Arthur Donadio (Duke Cuan McDaige of Atlantia) that there is a new heraldic education initiative. Interested parties can contact the Clarion Herald, Maistresse Marie de Blois, at email@example.com to contribute.
- The Society Minister of Arts and Sciences, Eric Contreraz (Master Raven Mayne), reported via Lisa the he wishes to propose a Known World Symposium teacher travel reimbursement fund. This was directed to the Society Exchequer. Renee noted that there is already a fund created by a very generous donation from the Christopher Bone family specifically for dance, which can be used for musicians to play for dancing or for dance teachers. When the family was approached about expanding it to other arts, they replied that they preferred to keep it just for dance-related teaching. A new online report form debuted this quarter and worked well.
- The Vice-President for Corporate Operations, Renee Signorotti, noted that the SCA does not have a way to track people who have been sanctioned, banished, or expelled, which is needed to ensure that such people do not hold offices. She plans to create a report listing these people. Renee also said that the Event Module to allow online event reservations is in design, so coding is happening. Once ready, it will be an arm of the existing membership module and will supplant the PayPal system.
- The Publications Manager, Gloria Woodard (Countess Honor of Restormel) reported that the Tournaments Illuminated issues this year will have an SCA History theme in honor of the 50th Year Celebration. She also reported that the Compleat Anachronist has been approached by a company called Ebsco regarding indexing issues of the publication for use in research databases, usually employed by schools and colleges. Access is password protected, only available to subscribers who pay a fee. The SCA would receive some of that money when people searched for our publications. Lisa, who is a teacher, said it would not involve a lot of money, but it will put our scholarship into the hands of millions of students and would promote the SCA as well as the work of its members. A.J. pointed out that this supports our mission as an educational institution, and could also be a recruitment tool. Lisa suggested getting a contract from Ebsco for the Board to review, and said she thinks there is no down side to the proposal.
- YAFA (Youth & Family Achievement program), Stephanie Hoyt (Duchess Rustique), reported via David that the program is being implemented on a trial basis in Caid to some enthusiasm. It’s a program for kids ages 5 to 18 to study medieval topics. The hope is that it will keep kids engaged so they stay in the SCA. It can be thought of as SCA Scouts, with merit badges like Boy/Girl Scouts, but it requires family participation as well. Activities can take place at events, but also at guild meetings, fighter practices, and other local gatherings. There are four divisions by age. Kids will get pilgrim badges for completing divisions. It’s knowledge-based but can also integrate with existing youth combat and rapier programs, so, for example, kids can get badges for learning about rapier but can also earn badges for participating in youth rapier. More info is available at http://www.sca.org/YAFA-FAQ.pdf. Feedback from families on the program should be sent to Duchess Rustique.
- President, Leslie Vaughn (Baronessa Isabeau della Farfalla) reports that she has relocated to An Tir. She notes that closing the office of the Chirurgeonate was difficult but many people helped out. She requests that people use courtesy in online communications.
- VP of Information Technology, John Michael Schneider (Lord Grimkirk ap Greymoor) reports that the SCA had issues with Gmail and Yahoo blacklisting sca.org email addresses, but that seems to have been resolved. We’re running on old servers and software that is out of date, plus the heralds need more storage space, so he is looking to improve the system. A trial online polling system is being used for a baronial election in Atlantia. Also, there was an outage on the SCA.org website but Master Alaxandair o Conchobhair, who manages hosting of the site, was commended for taking care of it quickly.
- Society Seneschal, A.J. Pongratz (Master Antonio) reported that updated Youth as Adult combat rules have been approved. He approved the actions by the Kingdom of Atlantia of rescheduling their Coronation from Oct. 3 to Oct. 10 as a precaution due to concerns about Hurricane Joaquin. He also asked the Board for approval on his handling of an issue pertaining to a new rule requiring all Kingdom Seneschals and Youth Officers to submit background check requests. One Kingdom Seneschal in Canada requested the use of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Background Check rather than an SCA Background Check. The Seneschal said the rules require an SCA Background Check, and if it is not done, he would need to talk to that Kingdom’s Crown about how to proceed to prevent the kingdom from falling into abeyance. There was an extensive discussion about Canadian cultural privacy concerns. Arthur asked if a variance could be given for Canadians who prefer to use the RCMP background check instead of the SCA check. The consensus was to have Arthur and Patrick Anderson (Master Gabriel Andvaka Kjotrason), who are both attorneys, review the policy and then have the Board look at it again in its December conference call. In the meantime, the Board voted to issue a waiver of this rule for two Canadian Kingdom Seneschals (Ealdormere and Avacal) pending further investigation. It was noted that Avacal is holding a Youth Champion’s Tourney at their Crown Tourney on Nov. 20, and it was agreed that they need at least one marshal with either an RCMP or an SCA background check completed by then, along with compliance with the two-deep rule.
PA Background Checks
SCA Legal Counsel, Patrick Anderson, said that he is working with the Society’s outside legal counsel and the Society Seneschal to develop a set of guidelines pertaining to the Pennsylvania law requiring state-specific background checks for people working with children. The current policy, issued in July of 2015, will remain in place until then. Legal counsel has given Patrick a nine-page opinion that he is working through. Patrick and A.J. both noted that the PA law is poorly written and very arcane, making it difficult to determine whether it really applies to SCA youth officers and youth marshals. They both encouraged residents of PA to write to their legislators and request that the law be clarified. Patrick noted that background checks protect the organization, not the children. What protects the children is our two-deep policy and our ongoing vigilance. An audience member asked why state and FBI clearances aren’t enough, and A.J. explained that FBI checks only find federal crimes, while state checks only find crimes committed in that state, whereas the SCA’s background check covers all 50 states and Canada. When asked about Europeans or other foreign nationals entering the U.S., Patrick pointed out that people with criminal records abroad would most likely be prevented from entering the U.S. by the INS.
Summary of Decisions from Executive Sessions
- The Board determined that electronic signatures of Board members are binding.
- The Board issued Revocation and Denial of membership pending review by the Society Seneschal for 17 people from 11 different Kingdoms, all requested by the Crowns of those Kingdoms over the past 8 to 10 months.
- Ombudsman assignments were reapportioned due to John Fulton stepping down and Chele Martines joining the Board. David Keene will continue to serve as Æthelmearc’s Ombudsman.
Duchess Melisande de Belvoir, who was present in the audience, reported the passing of Master Galleron de Cressy (Will McLean) of the East Kingdom that morning. He had been diagnosed with cancer some months previously. The Board offered its condolences.
Since it was his last meeting as a Director, John Fulton was offered the gavel to close the meeting. Before doing so, he told a humorous story about how he started in the SCA in 1974, discovered that being good at swinging a stick meant you got lots of presents, and met and married his wife. More generally, he expressed appreciation to the SCA for the good things it had brought into his life, and to the Board for giving him its trust. Once the gavel was struck, the Board then quickly read into the record the minutes for all SCA Subsidiary groups, and there was cake in honor of Duke John’s retirement from his third stint on the SCA Board of Directors.