Council Meeting Minutes August 4, 2000


Douglas H. Constance, Sam Houston State University, U.S. RSS
Theodore Downing, University of Arizona, U.S. INDR Guest
Stewart Lockie, Central Queensland University, Australia AON
Alessandro Bonanno, Sam Houston State University, U.S. RSS/VP
Joe Molnar, Auburn University, U.S. RSS/Past Pres.
Hugh Campbell, Otago University, New Zealand AON
Yair Levi, CIRCOM, Israel RUM
Imre Kovach, Institute for Political Sciences, Hungary ESRS
Hillary Tovey, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland ESRS
Goran Djurfeldt, University of Lund, Sweden ESRS
Atsushi Kitahara, Nagoya University, Japan ARSA
Rosiady Sayuti, University of Mataram, Indonesia ARSA
Marit S. Haugen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondeim, Norway ESRS
Reider Almas, Centre for Rural Research, Trondeim, Norway ESRS
Mark Shucksmith, Arkleton Rural Dev. Centre, Aberdeen, Scotland ESRS
Diego Pineiro, Dept. of Sociology, Univ. de la Repblica, Uruguay ALASRU
Abdoulaye Sene, ISE/UCAD, Dakar, Senegal CODESRIA
Anita Brumer, Universidade Federal de Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil ALASRU
Bernardino Mata, Universidad Autonoma Chapingo, Mexico ALSARU
Alan Rew, CDS, University of Wales, Swansea, UK. INDR Guest

Vanclay called the meeting to order. He explained the agenda and called for introductions. He then discussed member society representatives and representation from each member society.

Vanclay then introduced Abdoulaye Sene from Senegal. Sene asked to work with IRSA towards securing member status for CODESRIA, an African Social Science organization represented by him.
Lockie motioned for acceptance of Sene as an interim representative for the African region and for IRSA to negotiate with CODESRIA to become a member organization. Djurfeldt seconded the motion which was unanimously passed.

Ted Downing, representing the International Network of Displacement and Resettlement (INDR), expressed interest in linking his organization with IRSA. He indicated that INDR seeks IRSA membership or similar status. Vanclay replied that the IRSA Constitution is not clear on how to handle this category of membership and that it needs to be changed if IRSA is to accept interest group as members. He then asked Downing to leave the room for IRSA Council discussion. After discussion on the category of membership, fees, and necessary changes to the Constitution and By-laws, Vanclay called for a motion to invite them to stay for the meeting with the understanding that a full discussion of their status will occur at a later date. Bonanno so moved and Tovey seconded. The motion carried by a vote of 7 to 1.

Allan Rue (INDR) returned to meeting and Downing excused himself. Rue provided more information about INDR and informed the Council that INDR does collect dues and is ready to contribute dues if incorporated into IRSA.

Vanclay then called for a discussion of issues related to the Congress. Initially, it centered around (a) the mugging of a woman and theft of her camera; (b) the limited space for workshops and symposia; (c) the volume of papers and lack of discussion of them; and (d) the lack of flexibility and lack of responsibility given to workshop leaders, who did not participate in the selection of papers in their own sessions ­ papers were not circulated prior to the Congress.

Vanclay reported that 1,546 participants from 72 countries has registered for the Congress. Of these, 952 were from Brazil. The Congress was originally planned for 400 participants and this number was subsequently expanded to 700. The Congress was originally programmed to take place only in Hotel Gloria, but this left a shortage of rooms for workshops as the number of participants expanded to over 1500 with the late registrants. This greatly reduced the flexibility. Since only 250 abstracts had been received by the original closing date of January 30, the date for receiving abstracts was extended for one more month. IRSA received another 1000 abstracts between February 26-28, 2000.

Several Council members suggested that the January deadline was inappropriate because it conflicted with the Brazilian vacation period. The lessons to be learned are that more flexibility is needed and that program facilities that can handle last minute changes are also needed. A concern was also raised that that the registration fee did not cover several events considered basic to the Congress. Some asked about the relationship between SOBER and IRSA, and voice concern about the large number of Brazilian participants. Vanclay responded that it was planned to be a joint conference with joint workshops, with a 50/50 split of surplus revenues generated. In this regard, the larger size of the conference made the Congress more successful.

Some Council members noted that the 2004 World Congress in Norway would be smaller, and that Rio was not a normal IRSA Congress. They also indicated that the current World Congress was a great boost for Rural Sociology internationally. Vanclay then turned the discussion to appropriate Congress strategies, such as choosing between smaller and larger universities and choosing between smaller or larger venues. Some Council members argued that bigger is good, but that bigger without discussion is not good. Others noted that language barriers created time constraints and the allocation of too much time to experts and too little time to other participants. All agreed that presenters in Norway should be allocated more than 10 minute.

Vanclay reported that the Congress received over 1700 abstracts, with most of those coming in the last week of February. This greatly increased the numbers of papers per workshop just prior to the Congress. He also identified the three presentation models used at the Congress, namely, (1) workshop papers which review individual research; (2) symposia which discuss current topics/trends; and (3) plenary sessions, which are in depth and provide opportunities for questions and answers. Vanclay discussed the high cost of technology and personnel for translations. He commented that symposia were not well attended and that they were expensive because of the use of translators. He noted that IRSA needs to work on this in the future. He also commented that IRSA needs to keep its international focus and, therefore, needs to continue to present in difference languages while attempting to overcome language barriers.

Vanclay noted that, the revised IRSA constitution was passed at the General Assembly. He then turned to the need to discuss some follow up items. Because IRSA is registered in the US as a tax exempt 501 c(3), the Secretary/Treasurer must reside in the US. IRSA is also required to have By-laws. Luloff, the past Secretary/Treasurer, proposed By-laws in 1996. The revised Constitution requires that we revise the By-laws. The IRSA Constitution represents structure and By-laws represent procedures. He asked for volunteers to draft By-laws by 2002 to permit us to have a final version of them by 2004. Bonanno suggests that by-laws be decided by the IRSA Executive Committee. Vanclay indicated that he would circulate a draft of the revised Constitution in order to receive feedback from Council members.

Vanclay then gave an overview of IRSA’s structure. Member societies with more than 100 members elect 3 representatives to the Council for four year terms. Member societies with less than 100 members elect 1 member to the Council. Currently, dues are $2 per member of each member society. If the member society does not pay dues, it is not in good standing with IRSA. The General Assembly consists of all members of all the member societies. The IRSA Council consists of elected representatives of the member societies. The Executive Committee includes the President, two Vice-Presidents, the Secretary/Treasurer, the future Program Chair, previous Program Chair, and the Local Arrangements Chair. The role of the Secretary/Treasurer is clarified by changes in the Constitution. An issue is whether in incumbent of this position should be a voting member of the Committee. This issue will be taken later.

Vanclay predicted that surplus revenues from this World Congress will be about US$20,000. These funds will be shared equally by IRSA and SOBER. Extra charges were made for room used past 6:00 p.m. and other expenses are still outstanding. Final expenses will be shared in subsequent budget reports.

Members expressed concern that IRSA is a federation of regional members, and that IRSA needs clear communication between the Executive Committee and the member associations. Some argued that one member from each member society be identified as a point person for communication with the IRSA Executive Committee. Vanclay replied that according to the old Constitution, Council members from each member society representative were nominated for eight years. In the new Constitution, member society Council members serve four year terms with the possibility of reappointment for another four years if the member society believes that its representatives are doing a good job. In this process, the role of the Secretary/Treasurer is to facilitate communication. The work of the Executive Committee is done by e-mail; The primary objective of IRSA is to hold a World Congress every four years. An e-mail vote for the new Secretary/Treasurer will occur six months from now. He asked all Council members to think about potential U.S. candidates.

Vanclay then called for discussion of the next World Congress at Trondeim, Norway. He suggested that we hold the bid from Japan in reserve in case the Norway site does not become firm. He asked Almas what we should do to firm up the Trondeim bid. Almas replied that we need to consider an increase in the Conference fee in order to cover variable costs. One of the advantages of the Rio World Congress was contract with Congrex to provide for local arrangements. This is greatly preferable to having university staff/students do them. He expects to have between 500 and 900 participants with backup site if participant numbers exceed 1000. Bonanno asked if we had any indicators for the expected number of participants at Trondeim. Almas replied that this is very difficult to judge, and that continuous adjustments in numbers from each country will have to be made. He repeated the need to set the registration fee high enough to cover variable costs. Vanclay indicated that registration fees can be fixed in two ways: (1) set them low in anticipation of receiving sponsor donations, or (2) set them high to ensure that costs are covered, even with a low number of registrations. A worst case scenario would be 200 registrations; 500 registrations would be normal; and 700 registrations would be a high estimate. He reminded Council that the Rio World Congress had $150,000 in sponsorship support. He also expressed a concern about how to cover Hotel contract commitments. He noted that IRSA needs to provide a service to members, but that it is also in the business of putting on conferences. Members voiced concerns about the business approach. Several suggested that we take an organizational view and asked for time to discuss this topic. Others suggested that, if IRSA were to established high registration feeds, that it subsidize poorer country participants in order to increase their attendance.

Kovach predicted that Norway will have about 500 attendees. He reminded the Council that we are Trondeim is not Rio. Vanclay then asked for next steps regarding the Trondeim Bid. Almas responded that the Trondeim group will stay with the bid, but that it might raise fees by $50 in order to hire contract with an agency to assist with local arrangements. They will also seek funding to support travel by non-established scholars. Flights from Oslo to Trondeim cost about US$100. One excursion is included in the bid. He also mentioned that they expect outside financial support for the Congress. His institution is fully supportive of the bid and confident. It will prepare a “stepped” model in order to handle unexpected large numbers of participants. Some suggested that IRSA should provide incentives for early registration, including clear identification of final submission dates for abstracts. Almas indicated that a cut off date for papers and giving additional time to those who register early are good ideas.

Vanclay noted that some have remarked that fee differences between registrants from OECD and non-OECD nations are unfair. Mexico and Poland are in the OECD and must, therefore, pay higher fees, but this was deemed inappropriate. He noted that IRSA needs to identify a classification consistent with national incomes, like that used by the International Sociological Association. Vanclay then called for a motion to identify an alternative to the OECD/non-OECD classification for registration fee structure. Bonanno so moved and Pineiro seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

Vanclay then noted that the Program Chair is appointed by the IRSA Council, but that bids are more about the program than local arrangements. He proposes that IRSA ask bidders to nominate a Program Chair because of language and related reasons. Bonanno argued for that the program agenda should be considered independently of local arrangements. Vanclay responded that the success of a Conference depends on the ability of the Program Chair and the local arrangements representatives to work together, which is more than a language issue. Djurfeldt indicated that this would require a change in the bidding process since Norway only bid on local arrangements. He voiced a concern that linking program content with local arrangements might increase the risk of losing international scope. He suggested that maybe a Program Committee might resolve this problem.

Vanclay suggested that the Council consider Mark Shucksmith as the new Program Chair.
Tovey asks for clarification about who determines the Congress theme and the Program Chair.
Vanclay indicated that, according to the old Constitution, the President sets the Congress theme and picks the Program Chair; but that, according to the new Constitution, the Executive Committee will set the theme and pick the Program Chair. The Program Chair will subsequently identify the Congress theme and the Executive Committee will evaluate it. Bonanno noted that the Program Committee usually assists the Program Chair. He asked for clarification of the role of the Program Committee. The Program Committee should not be a token committee; rather responsibilities of the Program Chair and the Program Committee need to be clear and followed.

Vanclay commented that a selection process for the Program Committee and identification of its appropriate roles need to be included in the By-laws. He had anticipated that workshop and symposium coordinators would act as the Program Committee for the Rio World Congress, but he was informed that this was inappropriate. He noted that we should clarify the proper role of the Program Committee.

Levi commented that when number of workshops was increased from 10 to 44, the role of the workshop coordinators was necessarily usurped. He noted, however, that workshop coordinators should be kept in the loop. Vanclay replied that extension of the submission deadline and resulting large increase in papers negatively affected the original workshop design. Almas stated that the local arrangements committee at Trondheim will be prepared to handle late registrations.

Vanclay then asked for a nomination of Mark Shucksmith as the Norway Program Chair. He also expressed concerns about the Program Chair nomination process and the need to revise the By-laws. Tovey argued that it is better to have Program Chair with a passion for the theme. Vanclay indicated that all Council members should participate. He then asked Shucksmith to leave the room.

Vanclay argued that bids should be a package that includes proposed local arrangements and a recommendation for program chair. He again stressed that a critical factor for successful conferences is the ability of the Program Chair to work well with the local arrangements group. The division of labor between them needs to be clear. Tovey asks if whether the bid should just include the Program Chair or also the theme and details. Vanclay replied that the Norway bidders have time to think about who they might choose as Program Chair. Tovey argued that a theme should be a part of any future bid. Vanclay agreed that future bids should include Program Chair and Conference theme suggestions. Almas cautioned the Council be careful, indicating that it might be unrealistic to expect to expect bids to include recommendations for Program Chair and a program theme. Requiring them might limit the number of bids that come in to IRSA.

Vanclay asked again for the nomination of Shucksmith to be the Program Chair for the Trondeim proposal. Council members asked for more information about and from Shucksmith who was then invited back into the room. He was asked to tell the IRSA Council about himself and his vision for the proposed Trondheim World Congress.

Shucksmith indicated that he has been at the University of Aberdeen for nineteen years and that he is currently the Director of a Research Center. During the past ten years he has focused his research on social exclusion, inequality, poverty, endogenous rural development and capacity building/social capital, including the family farm and its sustainability. For the last three years he has been the director of a large project supported by the J. Roundtree Foundation. He indicated that he could only take on Program Chair responsibilities with the help of a Program Committee, in order to supplement his interpersonal networks. He indicated that the theme for the Congress would be related to his personal research foci.

Vanclay then asked Shucksmith to leave the room again. Sayuti motioned to approve Shucksmith as the Program Chair for the proposed Trondeim bid. Campbell seconded the motion which unanimously carried. Vanclay then invited Shucksmith back to talk more about the theme. He indicated a preference to focus on globalization and its consequences ala neo-liberal restructuring and the impact that they have on government regulation issues, new forms of government, forms of resistance to globalization, and processes of exclusion and inclusion.

Bonanno requested that dialogue be included as a focus. Djurfeldt recommended that the Council be involved in setting the theme and building the program through e-mail. Rew indicated that the theme is appropriate for the INDR group. Vanclay asked how the Program Chair is established. Bonanno replied that the Program Chair is a recognized entity who acts like a Prime Minister and appoints the Program Committee. He then called for dialogue between the Program Chair and the IRSA Council to select the Program Committee. Pineiro suggested that the Program Committee have at least one representative for each member society. Vanclay reported that the Program Committee for the Rio Congress was selected through a dialogic process between him and the local arrangements committee which was formed in response to emerging pressures. He indicated that the Program Chair needs people on the Program Committee that will work. Vanclay then asked for motion that the Program Chair nominate preferred members for the Program Committee and report the names to the IRSA Council/President who will deem if it has adequate representation. Tovey so motioned. It was seconded by Lockie and unanimously passed.

Almas argued for the same process to be used by for local arrangements, with the Local Arrangements Committee nominating a local Program Chair and submitting the nomination to IRSA Council for approval. Tovey so moved and Bonanno seconded. This motion also was unanimously approved.

Vanclay then asked for discussion of a long-term approach for bids. He asked if IRSA should be more proactive and suggested that IRSA might focus on a successful Japanese bid for 2008 and one from Africa in 2012.

He asked if IRSA has other important roles to play in addition to organizing the World Congress every four years. He asked if IRSA should initiate a journal, thus acting as a clearinghouse for rural sociological information. He asked Djurfeldt for his views on this topic. Djurfeldt reported that there would be problems associated with the creation of a journal, including its niche identification. He suggested that an IRSA journal might was to have a focus similar to that of the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, but with more of a global thrust. He indicated that he would like to cultivate a small circle of supporters, including potential publishers, and to solicit their assistance in possibly initiating a new journal. Sayuti asked about the possibility of creating an electronic journal. Djurfeldt responded that this option would be both problematic and opportunistic.

Tovey reported about the financial standing of member societies. He indicated that only AON is current and asked representatives of the member societies to help get them current. Pineiro replied that ALASRU is current. Tovey indicated that she will check on the status of ESRS. Vanclay then asked for the minutes to reflect that ALASRU is current in its dues payments and to have the Secretary/Treasurer remedy this error. He asked Council for advice about RUM since it has not responded to IRSA about past dues payments. Annual member society dues are equivalents to $2/year for each of its individual members. He asked if IRSA should eliminate dues and seek to generate revenues from only from Conferences. He indicated that he supports some form a annual payment as a symbol of commitment and suggests that the IRSA Council think about the fee structure. He also noted that ARSA needs to formalize its links to IRSA, including payment of annual dues.

Vanclay closed the meeting at 18:13.

Prepared by Douglas H. Constance, Acting Secretary/Treasurer

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