In the coming weeks before our 2011 Institute, our website will feature a new section “News from the Exec.”
The MALCS Special Gathering launched an assessment of our organization that would address how we, as a national body, bridge all aspects of our work. The Special Gathering called for exploring new and existing strategies of bridging letras y cambio social.
Since 2010, the Executive Committee has addressed bylaws, 501c3 status, building membership, and addressing critical infrastructural issues before us as a national organization. And other issues still are before us.
This section begins a series of discussions about MALCS and what we want it to become. It will feature various essays, hopefully short essays, to facilitate ideas for an assessment of our organization. The tracts will take up the following:
- Report back on Special Gathering (posted 7/8/11)
- Vision Statement (posted 7/18/11)
- Proposed Bylaws Changes, Summary of the changes and the procedure for Bylaws voting/ timeline (posted 7/26/11)
- Proposal for changing the meeting structure to every other year
- Update on MALCS as a financial entity with a fiscal agent, the Chicana/Latina Foundation (posted 8/2/11)
Key to our assessment is guaranteeing the membership’s input—recommendations to the Report Back and Vision Statement, discussion of the Bylaws revisions, etc. Therefore, the “News from the Exec” link will provide a viable avenue for discussion—this includes a blog space for-members-only, as well as utilizing survey forms so that members may respond more promptly and efficiently.
At this launching, the Executive Committee extends our gratitude to The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA) that graciously provided their final plenary session to MALCS in order to begin our assessment.
Siempre, Keta Miranda, Chair
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A MALCS Special Gathering: A Report from the Executive Committee
Introduction and Overview
In the April of 2010, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed SB1070, one of the strictest anti-immigration measures in recent history, into law. Shortly after that, political leaders called for a boycott of the state. MALCS, like many other academic organizations, decided to boycott and not hold our summer institute originally scheduled for Arizona State University in July of 2010. The circumstances surrounding our decision to boycott raised questions about MALCS’s organizational structures and processes. It became clear that as an organization it was time for us to revisit our mission as well as our communication and decision-making processes. The Executive Committee called for a national meeting, a “Special Gathering” that would give us an opportunity to discuss these and other issues critical to the future of MALCS. The Special Gathering, a one-day meeting held November 7, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas, was attended by mujeres from across the country.
What follows is a three-part report from the Executive Committee outlining the events that led to the Special Gathering, articulating key points made during the gathering, and providing an assessment and articulation of the next steps MALCS should take in order to ensure its success in the 21st century.
MALCS Response to SB1070
Late in the spring of 2010, the MALCS Executive Committee developed a two-pronged approach in response to the passage of SB 1070: (1) in support of the Arizona boycott, we cancelled our annual institute, and (2) in support of mujeres and activistas working in Arizona, we urged our membership to become involved in demonstrations and other actions against anti-civil rights legislation.
Our approach included a broad-based discussion among members. As the Executive Committee was discussing how to respond to events in Arizona, we received numerous email messages and listserv posts expressing thoughtful and passionate opinions about what we should do. When we polled the membership, 170 mujeres “voted” on the issue. Not everyone agreed. Some members, for example, said that we should boycott because they feared traveling to Arizona—for both themselves and their students. Others felt it was important for us to be there, to put our bodies on the line in support the people who were affected by SB 1070. While a range of opinions were expressed, one thing was perfectly clear: MALCS membership continues to have a commitment to a vision of social change.
However, this discussion also showed that there was a need for an evaluation or assessment of the organization. It became clear, for example, that MALCS did not have an infrastructure that allowed us to facilitate discussion or initiate actions quickly or easily with a membership that is spread across the country. Subsequent conversations also demonstrated that while many mujeres participated in online exchanges about SB 1070 and the possibility of a boycott, not everyone did. There were silences and gaps that, for an organization of women involved in social change, are not acceptable. We believe that possibilities arise with challenging circumstances such as these, and that this set of circumstances asked us to step back from our busy lives to take stock of how we are doing, where we are going, and how we were going to get there.
An organizational assessment, however, does not belong exclusively to the Executive Committee. Thus, we envisioned the Special Gathering as an organization-wide commitment to a culture of reflection and action—to address how we work as a national organization and how we can improve what we do.
The gathering included a morning session, during which we articulated some of the challenges facing MALCS as an organization in the 21st century, and an afternoon meeting during which we evaluated these challenges and identified strategies for addressing them.
The Special Gathering: Identifying Key Challenges
During the course of the morning session, participants identified key concerns and questions for the organization to address. Generally speaking, these issues can be divided into three major areas of concern: mission and vision, infrastructure, membership and leadership.
- Mission and Vision. Participants wanted to make sure that whatever positions we take and actions we engage in would allow the organization to effectively navigate through the 21st century. Participants particularly noted that any reassessment of our mission and vision consider MALCS history as well as changes in the broader culture.
- Infrastructure. A good number of concerns had to do with the infrastructure of the organization. Here, participants raised a number of important questions. One raised almost immediately was about our fiscal status. Are we a 501c3? If not, why not? In addition, participants were interested in the organization considering new decision-making and communicating processes. Ideas included the use of ad hoc subcommittees (e.g., nominations, bylaws) as well as the use of emerging technologies to get the work of the organization done. And finally, participants wanted to make sure that the operations of the organization are well-developed and effectively documented.
- Membership and Leadership. Participants also noted the need for MALCS to not only increase its membership but also members’ participation in the organization. They also asked the organization to consider its professional development activities including officer orientation, leadership training, and the role of the summer institute (particularly in light of an extended economic downturn and its impact on colleges and universities).
The Special Gathering: Assessing Challenges and Proposing Actions and Strategies
During the afternoon session, participants took some time to assess the issues and challenges discussed during the morning session and began proposing more specific objectives and activities.
Clarify the Mission and Vision: MALCS in the 21st Century
- Explicitly discuss mission (who we are) and vision (what we want to be in the 21st century). Consider our purpose, our values, our resources, our strengths. Examine best practices in terms of organizational structures and leadership practices.
- Examine decision-making processes, ensuring the most democratic and inclusive practices possible; ensuring, in feminist fashion, that as many voices as possible can speak and are heard.
- Part of this work will include addressing how MALCS can continue to build relationships with other social action groups and media outlets in ways that will allow us to mobilize on issues effecting our communities.
- It is important to note that during discussions about mission and vision, two specific questions were articulated about issues that have been emerging in recent years within the organization: how do we address changing notions of gender? how do we bridge “letras” and “cambio social”?
Stabilize the Organization: Infrastructure
- Clarify and document memberships categories and processes (forms, database, membership levels, etc.)
- A number of members were under the impression that MALCS was a 501c3 organization. It will be important for the organization to clarify our organization/tax status for the membership.
- Several years ago, it became clear that the bylaws needed revision. The Executive Committee has been working on that for the last year. Finish and adopt a revision of the bylaws.
- Document the operations of the organization by developing handbooks and/or manuals in the following areas: administrative structure/practices, budget and financial procedures, journal operations, chapter development, officer roles and responsibilities, summer institute, etc.
- Work on stabilizing the MALCS archives. Develop a protocol for contributing to the MALCS archives at UCLA. Consider the possibility of a virtual archive.
- Develop an infrastructure for adopting and implementing available technologies to improve communication and administrative operations. The explicit goal for the use of these technologies would be to effectively facilitate member discussion and participation.
Grow the Membership: New Members, Former Members, Chapters
- All agreed that it is important to increase the membership base of the organization. This includes recruiting and supporting new members; bringing back former members, many of them now luminaries in their fields; and increasing the number of and the level of organizational support for chapters across the country.
Sustain the Membership: Professional Development Activities
- Work with other activists from across our communities to plan appropriate tracks and plenaries at the Institute.
- Consider changing the structure of the annual meeting. This may mean holding a conference every other year, and using the intervening years to offer special professional development opportunities (e.g., leadership training).
- Formalize and document summer institute procedures. This includes incorporating basic information about the Institute into the bylaws; developing a manual for the site committee; and developing a statement about dealing with Institute issues in case of emergencies (such as the Arizona boycott).
- Develop leadership training/mentorship opportunities in the areas of academics and activism.
Chair Marie (Keta) Miranda
Ex-Oficio Elisa Diana Huerta
Chair Elect Monica F. Torres
Recording Secretary Judith Flores Carmona
Treasurer Rita Urquijo-Ruiz
Membership Coordinator Gabriela Baeza Ventura
Chicana/Latina Studies Representative Josie Mendez Negrete
Administrative Coordinator Lupe Gallegos-Diaz