Dale Carey <stargaz@...>


To all MERAL club presidents,

The Astronomical League is looking for ways at making its regions more effective and more responsive to the individual clubs' needs. Below is a recent letter from Regional Structure Study Chair Jerry Sherlin describing the situation. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are welcome.

John Jardine Goss

Ladies & Gentlemen:                                                                2/14/2003

   Let me briefly introduce myself to those who don't know me.....my name is Jerry Sherlin and I am a past president the Astronomical League (as well as a past vice-president and executive secretary).  Currently I am the MARS region's representative.

   At last year's ALCon in Salt Lake City, League President Bob Gent asked  John Goss, Pat Carr, and me to take on the task of investigating the League's regional structure.  From the current Reflector I've gathered your names as regional reps. or chairpersons plus I know several of you are no longer regional officer.....but as no matter whether you are a current or past officer we solicit your comments and ideas.

   I agreed to chair this committee because I, like the League President, see a need for examining the League's regional infrastructure.  To begin with, you should know that this regional structure has remained unchanged, except for the addition of new regions, since the League was formed in 1947.  I believe the regional system was needed (at that time) because travel and "getting together" was quite different (in 1947) than it is now.  By having regions within the League, with regional meetings, it was easier for League members to come together.  There were also, at that time, far fewer "star parties" than there are now so, again, the regional convention acted as a meeting place for members within a more compact 5 or 6 state contiguous region.

   The question now arises, is this system outdated, in need of overhaul, left alone.....or just what?   In some capacity I've been working for the League for over 40 years, both as a regional and national officer, and I've seen, oh how I've seen, the fortunes of regions change.  Some regions have consistently, year after year, been strong and active while others have floundered or, at best, swung between periods of activity and dormancy.  The key of course is competent and dedicated leadership but I have seen, and even participated in "shang haiing" people into regional office.  When Dr. Bob Stencel and I resuscitated the MARS region (about 7 years ago) the two men listed as regional officers had disappeared so long ago that nobody remembered them; I doubt seriously that this is an isolated example.  With a system that relies completely on volunteer labor, regions sometime just cannot find leadership or regional leadership becomes enmeshed in political squabbles.  Another problem that has come up, from time to time, is the rigidity of the regional boundary system.  Some clubs have felt tied to a particular region while the League's system of drawing political boundaries has placed them into another region.  One final point is the matter of money.....some regional treasuries are reasonably well off while others are bankrupt and have great difficulty in building and sustaining a regional treasury.  It's these kinds of problems  that beg the question of whether it is time to change this system.  The world has changed a lot, and certainly the Astronomical League has grown and changed a lot since 1947.  

   Because of this, I am asking for your opinions, ideas, and suggestions.  You are all involved, or have been involved, with regional politics and programs and you've encounter these, and other, problems.  What is the solution?   I think it is possible for us to build a consensus from the collective wisdom and experience of all of you.  Our committee solicits your input so we can prepare a report to President Bob Gent by the time of the ALCON 2003 in Nashville.   Your support will be appreciated.

Most sincerely,
Jerry M. Sherlin
MARS Regional Representative