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Let Bylaws Be Bylaws

By Ellen Brassil, Chair, MLA Bylaws Committee

If you’ve ever twisted yourself into knots to comply with a work procedure that seems divorced from reality, or struggled to bring a local scout troop or fraternity chapter into line with what the national organization expects, you’ve experienced how important effective bylaws can be.

Bylaws should help an organization conduct business efficiently and effectively, without impeding the mission. MLA’s strategic goal 1, “What MLA does,” calls for organizational changes that will enhance the relevance of MLA as your professional organization and speed up decision-making and execution. The board has asked our committee to review the bylaws from this perspective. Since June, the Bylaws Committee has been immersed in the most comprehensive review of MLA’s bylaws and special rules of order since the early 1990s.

To fulfill this ambitious challenge, we’ve met at least twice a month since June, with some calls lasting up to 3 hours, and have spent countless hours discussing the bylaws over email. Committee members (Suzanne Ferimer, Mary Helms, Andrea Kepsel, parliamentarian Pat Thibodeau, board liaison Chris Shaffer, and staff liaison Mary Langman) have demonstrated commitment, enthusiasm, and downright hard work in tackling this huge project.

The changes we’ve proposed are intended to streamline how business is conducted and clarify how MLA is structured. Some changes are editorial, simplifying and cleaning up the language of the bylaws. Others will help speed up decision making, resulting in a more agile organization that can respond nimbly to changing member needs. The proposed changes also clarify processes and seek to empower groups within MLA with greater decision-making authority. 

Because MLA’s bylaws are so critical to supporting the governance and mission of the association, they may not be altered without prior notice and without the vote of a specified majority of members—and that means you!  

What can you expect next?

  • November 16-17: The MLA board will review the proposed bylaws and special rules of order changes at its fall meeting
  • Early 2016: The proposed amendments will be shared with MLA members, with opportunities to give input and feedback
  • May 17, 2016: Those present at the MLA business meeting in Toronto will discuss the changes and vote on whether to pass the bylaws amendments on to the full membership. If special rules of order amendments are approved, these changes become effective immediately.
  • Summer 2016: Ballots are distributed for full member vote on bylaws changes, and if approved become effective January 1, 2017. 

We encourage you to read the current MLA Bylaws and Special Rules of Order. MLA is depending on your informed vote at the Toronto meeting and next summer to help propel our organization into the future.

For more information contact Ellen Brassil, Chair, MLA Bylaws Committee.

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