[Mansa-l] MANSA elections
basitigi at sbcglobal.net
Tue Sep 23 13:13:16 CDT 2008
The November ASA meeting in Chicago will be upon us before we know
it, and we need to prepare for the election of a new MANSA President.
At some point during early discussions last year, I had indicated
that I would prepare a description of the President's duties, and I'm
long overdue in sending that out.
During the past week I've been jarred awake and set on course once
again by Barbara Hoffman, upon whom I have always relied for guidance
on issues involving the MANSA by-laws (not to mention problems and
crucial issues that have arisen from time to time).
Following Barbara's advice, I will now issue a job description,
followed by a solicitation for nominations. Also following Barbara's
suggestion, at the end of this memo I will cut and paste the
relevant portions of the by-laws that she sent to me a few days ago,
in order to remind everyone of how the process is supposed to work.
According to Barbara, once I send out this memo, "all those
interested in presenting their candidacy will need to write a
statement for [me] to put in the newsletter."
The part of her instructions regarding the forthcoming printed
newsletter poses a bit of a problem for me, because I was hoping to
get he newsletter out in the next few weeks. On October 20th I have
to leave for Morocco for another two-week lecture gig there, and will
not be back until a couple of weeks before the ASA meeting. So I (and
my wife Barbmuso) have to get the newsletter into the mail before I
leave. If that proves impossible to do with the candidate's
statements included, I'll follow another suggestion of Barbara's,
which is to issue a special edition as a PDF file.
[Note: Barbara Hoffman has also outlined what should be done about
proxy votes, but I will focus on that in a later, separate memo.]
As for the job description, I've started to prepare the list of
duties several times, but repeatedly found it extremely difficult to
do so because of the multitude of minor, rather intangible elements
involved in the way I've conducted MANSA affairs over the years. What
it really amounts to is virtually constant communication with members
of the organization and fielding questions on subjects of extremely
wide scope, from esoteric scholarly subjects to practical matters
involving dues, membership questions, etc., etc. There is also a
considerable amount of e-traffic from non-members who were told about
the organization and want information about it including how to join,
as well as enquiries from a wide range of non-Mande specialists
requesting information on related topics. Membership and related
questions are referred to the Secretary-Treasurer, serving as a
constant reminder of how crucial that position is in our
organization, and how it requires someone with the time and requisite
skills to deal with it, plus endless patience. If I were to try to
present a detailed outline of everything involved in the MANSA
Presidency over the years since it's founding (not to mention the
sleepless nights agonizing over real and imagined problems and
crises), it would be overly anecdotal and undoubtedly appear self-
Given the present urgency of this business, I'm just going to list
the most obvious things as I think of them right now, and send out
the call for nominations and candidate's statements.
1. Contact the appropriate ASA meeting personnel and book a meeting
room for the annual MANSA meeting each year before the March 15
2. Prepare the required report for ASA updating their information on
MANSA as an ASA affiliated organization, including figures on the
number of MANSA members who belong to ASA, and the percentage of our
members who are sponsored.
3. Prepare periodic updates on MANSA membership for publication in
the Directory of International Organizations.
4.. Attend the annual ASA meeting to chair the MANSA meeting,
regardless of the availability or non-availability of required travel
and accommodation funding. Be prepared to make up the difference from
personal funds whenever necessary (as I did when I traveled from
Kuala Lumpur to Atlanta and Chicago in successive years).
5. Continue with the unfinished business of revising the by-laws
which were originally established using the ASA as a model, and which
now contain elements not appropriate to our own organization.
6. Keep an ongoing list of important agenda items for the annual
MANSA meeting, avoiding entangled committee-type confusion and
disputed decisions and conduct all business within an hour and a half.
7. Keep track of which members have served on the Advisory Board and
think about who deserves that honor on future boards, keeping in mind
sponsored African colleagues who have in some way distinguished
themselves, gender balance, academic distinction, and (among younger
colleagues) leadership potential and the likelihood of practical
contributions when needed.
8. Periodically check the web site and communicate with the webtigi
regarding corrections, improvements, and updates for the web site.
9. Deal with the constant problem of members changing land mail
addresses and failing to notify the Secretary-Treasurer, which
inevitably leads to returned newsletters, loss of MANSA funds, and
complaints about non-communication.
10. Deal with the ongoing problem of changed or multiple e-mail
addresses and keeping track of them with the webtigi and Secretary,
so people continue to receive list-serv memos.
11. In communication with the Secretary-Treasurer, keep track of the
treasury balance and issue periodic reminders and memos about
membership dues coming due at the end of each calendar year.
12. Carry out continuous ongoing communication with the Secretary-
Treasurer, exchanging and updating membership information and dealing
with dues issues including (a) the regular problem of European
members figuring out ways to submit their payments and (b) sponsored
West African members who were once research assistants but have moved
on to other aspects of their lives and have lost interest in us and
are out of touch with their sponsors, but on whom we are wasting
money by continuing to send them newsletters.
13. Be sure that the e-mail addresses of new members are passed on to
webtigi Rich Warms to be inserted into the list-serv data base.
14. Edit new numbers of MANSA Newsletter three times per year (four
issues were put out in some years, but expense has become an issue,
so three has become the optimum number).
15. Receive newsletter items from early submitters who missed the
previous newsletter and place them in a current file for the
forthcoming issue, sometimes beginning the day after the previous
newsletter was printed. Essential to open a new file of "items" for
the next newsletter and immediately deposit incoming materials as
they arrive so they are not misplaced.
16. At the appropriate time, issue requests for newsletter items with
reminders about required details.
17. During the last 4-6 weeks before each issue of the newsletter,
repeat solicitations for items, receive submissions, and begin
formatting the next issue, corresponding with individuals regarding
publication details, etc., etc.
18. For each new issue of the newsletter, calculate the number that
should be printed, according to the changing number of members since
the previous issue, remembering to print c. 20 or more extra copies.
19. On regular trips to Mali, Guinea, Gambia, etc., carry extra
copies of the newsletter for distribution among interested people and
appropriate institutions like ISH in Bamako.
20. Keep in touch with the publisher and "Godfather" (David Henige)
of the journal MANDE STUDIES at the University of Wisconsin regarding
the publication schedule (always behind).
21. Keep in touch with Stephen Belcher, the main editor of MANDE
STUDIES. about status of the next issue's submissions and projected
date of publication.
22. Issue memos reminding MANSAdenw of the need for submissions to
23. Think ahead to the timing and location of the next International
Conference on Mande Studies and begin communicating with key people
in potential venues -- especially important in alternate-year West
African locations. In these cases it is necessary to begin planning
two-three years in advance, and to manage a visit to the location in
24. In daily practice, over-all policy decisions, and communications
with members, constantly stress the importance of encouraging
graduate students and sponsored West African members, taking time for
thoughtful, supportive responses to their communications and requests
for help and information.
25. Return to the Mande heartlands and/or neighboring regions at
least once per year, maintaining relations with locals and
colleagues, visiting the universities, libraries, archives, museums,
renewing old acquaintances and making new ones, thus establishing
meaningful, long-term relations with people who trust you because
they know they will see you again.
MANSA members are hereby invited to submit nominations for the
All dues-paying members are eligible for nomination, and all those
nominated must submit statements of candidacy for publication in the
newsletter (SOON, PLEASE).
Here I am pasting in portions of the memo sent to me by Barbara
Hoffman that are directly relevant to the issues at hand:
Article V. Meetings
Section 1. A meeting of the members shall be held annually. At the
annual meeting, any vacant post on the Executive Committee will be
Candidates for office shall submit brief statements for publication
last newsletter preceding the annual meeting. Members not in attendance
may vote by written proxy.
Section 3. For the transaction of normal business and the election
of officers and approval of members of the Advisory Board, a simple
majority vote by members of record present shall suffice.
My read on this is that our current bylaws mandate that candidates
for office publish brief statements in a newsletter prior to the
meeting. My suggestion would be for David to produce a special issue
of the newsletter for just this purpose to be sent out on the
listserv as a PDF.
Voting will have to take place at the meeting in Chicago. We should
designate someone who will be attending the meeting but not running
for office to serve as recorder of the proxy votes, which could be
sent via email. The Secretary-Treasurer seems a likely candidate for
this task if she is going to be attending. I would think the proxy
votes should be printed out and brought to the meeting to be counted
with the other votes. Voting at the meeting should be done on paper
so folks can vote freely.
I agree that changes to this system should be made by changing the
bylaws. I propose that we put discussion of a new draft of the bylaws
on the agenda of the Chicago meeting, to follow the elections.
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