From the President: Tough Decisions

From the President
Ted R. Wozniak
president@atanet.org

As my term as president nears an end, I’m pleased to report that ATA’s Board of Directors held its first in-person meeting since February 2020, with an informal Strategy Day on Friday, August 6, and a formal Board meeting on August 7–8 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Everyone—but especially the new directors elected last October who had yet to have an in-person meeting—was delighted to experience the extremely positive difference between a virtual and in-person meeting in terms of productivity, the exchange of ideas, team building, and camaraderie. The intangible benefits of talking face-to-face, not only during the meeting but at meals and informal get-togethers in the evening over three days, are simply missing from the greatly abbreviated four- to six-hour online meetings with no additional interaction. In my perfect world, there would never be another virtual Board meeting except in the case of an urgent need for rapid decision-making on a limited agenda. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

Strategy Day is an informal brainstorming meeting that gives the Board a chance to take a longer-term look at ATA, discuss what’s working and what needs improvement, or what new directions or activities the Association should review. This year’s topics were:

  • Reports to the Board: Does the current reporting system for divisions and committees meet the Board’s needs? Could something be changed to make reporting more efficient for both the report writers and the Board?
  • Board of Directors Meetings: How often and when should we hold Board meetings? Are there any changes needed?
  • Succession Planning: When the time comes, what should the process be for selecting the next executive director?
  • Future of the Annual Conference: This is almost a perennial topic that included new aspects this year due to streaming options that are now available.
  • Professional Special Interest Groups (PSIGS): Could PSIGs provide a way for groups of members to have a “home” or community within ATA without having to become a division? How would a PSIG be formed? For what purpose? What resources should they receive?

There was a lively and fruitful discussion on each of these topics, and some of them will receive additional attention in the near future.

Of more immediate interest to you are the decisions made during the Board meeting, which included decisions on membership dues, Bylaws amendments, the final budget for fiscal year (FY) 2021-22 and the draft budgets for FY22-24.

Finances: Our financial projections in the final and draft budgets are not positive. A combination of declining membership, losses on the Annual Conference, and increasing costs result in projected losses for the next three fiscal years of about $649,000. A major driver of these projected losses is the relationship between dues revenue and general and administrative (G&A) expenses. Dues revenues are expected to be fairly constant over the next three years at about $1.75 million each year. G&A expenses are forecast to average about $2.0 million each year, leaving a shortfall of about $259,000 each year just from G&A expenses.

But dues revenue pays for far more than just our administrative expenses. The only major program intended to be fully self-supporting (and hopefully contribute a profit) is the Annual Conference. Everything else—divisions, The ATA Chronicle, professional development, certification, and membership services are all subsidized to a greater or lesser extent from dues revenues. Our Professional Development and Certification programs are (now) almost self-supporting—at least when compared to The ATA Chronicle, the Annual Conference, and divisions.

If dues revenue is not sufficient to cover even our administrative expenses, that means there is no money available to pay for any of our other programs. And there will be no surplus from the conference to make up for the shortfall in dues revenue.

Under the existing dues policy, there would have been an inflation-driven $5 increase in individual dues for 2022. There also should have been a $5 increase last year, which the Board forewent to give our members a break during the peak of the pandemic. So, dues should have risen by $10 next year just to keep up with inflation. But given the circumstances described above, the Board made the difficult but necessary decision to override the automatic dues increase policy and unanimously approved an overall increase of $45 in regular individual dues, from $204 to $249/year, with corresponding increases for the other membership classes.

The Board is aware that this increase will not be popular. Nobody wants to pay more for anything. But consider what the Association has done in just the past couple of years to increase the value of your membership. The number and quality of professional development offerings has increased substantially, with more than triple the number of online webinars at the same cost. The virtual conference was offered at a very affordable price, especially considering the total cost of virtual attendance does not include travel or lodging expenses, making it financially feasible to many more members. And years of work by the Certification Committee has now resulted in an online certification exam, again removing travel costs. Of a more intangible nature is the increase in ATA’s advocacy work over the past few years, during which we fought for you in California with AB5, on Capitol Hill for increased funding for language access, and we’re currently advocating for our members with respect to the PRO Act and additional legislation relating to language access and translating and interpreting. ATA provides more than $249 in value per year. And as one Board member asked during the discussion, “How long does it take the average member to earn $249?” So, I ask you to ask yourself, how long does it take you to earn $249 to pay for 365 days of benefits from ATA?

Bylaws Amendments: In other business, the Board approved placing a number of proposed Bylaws amendments on this year’s ballot. Two of these amendments are substantive and three are “housekeeping” amendments.

At my suggestion, one amendment would add the Ethics Committee as a committee on which the president and president-elect are NOT ex-officio members. Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, our governing parliamentary authority, recommends that executive officers not be members of any nominating or disciplinary committees, and this amendment would bring ATA in line with that recommendation.

The other substantive amendment would expand eligibility to serve on standing committees to corresponding and associate members (and, by extension, to student members). This right is currently restricted to active members. It would also extend eligibility to chair standing committees to voting members (i.e., active and corresponding members), which is also currently restricted to active members. This proposal was triggered by a clarification of Robert’s Rules on what constitutes a standing committee, which expanded the number of standing committees, most of which had non-active members.

The proposal to restructure our membership was also advanced at the Board meeting. The Board approved releasing the draft proposal on the restructuring of membership classes and benefits to the membership for comment and feedback. Please read this proposal carefully when released and provide your constructive criticism and feedback to the Board. Remember, this is a draft, not a final proposal, so your input is vital in shaping the final proposal. The Board hopes to have sufficient feedback from members to decide on a final proposal in 2022. Please help the Board meet that goal!

The other amendments are housekeeping in nature and concern references to committee chairs in the Bylaws (removal of gender-specific language and standardization of the term “chair”), standardization and clarification of references to “two-thirds” votes by the Board, and removal of the term “membership facilities” from the Bylaws (none exist and are unlikely to ever exist).

Details of these proposed amendments appear in this issue on page 19. Please use the ataTalk listserv to discuss these proposals among yourselves, and feel free to contact me or any other Board member directly with your concerns or questions. (To subscribe to ataTalk, email ataTalk+subscribe@groups.io.)

Government Linguist Outreach Task Force: The Board also approved a short extension of both the Government Linguist Outreach Task Force (GLOTF) and the temporary military dues discount to give the GLOTF additional time to conduct work that was curtailed or made impossible by the pandemic.

National Registry of Individual Translators and Interpreters Committee: Finally, the Board received the final report from the ad hoc National Registry of Individual Translators and Interpreters Committee, which contains its findings and recommendations concerning establishing such a registry for worker classification purposes. The Board thanks the committee for its speedy work and will continue its work on this topic based on this report.

“Basic Credential” Ad Hoc Committee: The related “Basic Credential” ad hoc committee also submitted a report on its progress on the establishment of a basic credential for members who cannot become certified under the current program. To my surprise, the committee was able to come to a general consensus that such a credential may be possible, as I expected disagreement on fundamental questions of the criteria and methods for evidencing qualifications. So, I give my personal heartfelt thanks to this committee for its outstanding work to date. I now have hopes that it may well be possible for us to offer this important new benefit in the future.

Lastly, even given the present uncertainty arising from the seemingly endless pandemic, I look forward to seeing many of you in person at ATA62 in Minneapolis (October 27-30), where I’ll hand over the gavel to the more-than-competent hands of President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo and return to being an ordinary member. If you haven’t done so already, please check out the conference website at https://ata62.org. It promises to be a great event!

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