Your observations about the AIA are quite correct.
Unfortunately, the AIA is a bit like the Titanic. Full speed ahead while ignoring some of the faults is the standard operating model for the corporate approach and image of the AIA.
Having been a loyal card-carrying and promoting member of the AIA for 35 years, it has never ceased to amaze me how difficult it is for the AIA to change. The AIA has been extremely slow in responding to the need to promote involvement in the profession by women, minorities, students, and "interns". Fortunately change in all of those areas has actually happened in the past 47 years, but way too slowly. Change in the AIA can only come from the bottom up. If we wait for change to come from the top down, we will only see slow changes, or changes that harm what the corporate higher-ups at AIA consider to be the insignificant corners of the membership profile.
In spite of two exceedingly difficult years I continued to maintain my membership in the AIA and continued to pour many hours of volunteer time into my local and state chapters. Under the existing Bylaws, I will be eligible for Emeritus membership status in the AIA in September of this year. That change in membership classification would also relieve me of the financial burden to pay future AIA membership dues. Even as an Emeritus member, I could and would happily continue to participate in local and state chapter affairs as a member and volunteer.
BUT - for some "only the money matters" logic echoing from AIA National, the Board has decided to place an Emeritus Membership By-laws change on the ballot at the 2012 National Convention in May. As I understand the proposed By-laws change, the qualifications to receive Emeritus Membership status will drastically change. The eligible age will change from 65 to 70 and the Emeritus Member will no longer be allowed to practice architecture, i.e. "forced retirement", if they wish to be granted Emeritus Member status.
National and the big chapters are in an absolute panic because of the economy-driven loss of members and a decline in the number of new recruits.
Rather than creating a sustainable financial structure for the organization, the Board became blinded by the go-go economy and the mistaken belief that AIA income and membership roles would continue to increase on an always-up line on the graph. Because of that flawed attitude and image of the future, AIA National plowed ahead and managed to tear the hull open just below the waterline.
Instead of taking major steps to cut the operating expenses, the Board has made the decision to cut revenue loss by nibbling around the edges. One of the edges that the Board has unwisely decided to attack in their search for revenue, are the By-laws related to Emeritus Membership status.
I believe the Board has made a serious miscalculation in their decision to alter the Emeritus Membership By-laws. They seem to be of the belief that longtime members of the AIA, who would have been eligible for Emeritus membership classification under the current rules, will simply roll over quietly and continue to pay membership dues. The Board seems to have forgotten that folks of my generation are the ones who managed to change the AIA from the bottom up and to do away with the elite old-guard approach that mandated from the top down. We still do act on our convictions!
Should the proposed By-laws change be approved by the "membership" in May, the effect will be that AIA will loose not only my future dues, but also the volunteer services of a longtime member and promoter of the AIA.
I urge each of you to contact your local chapter Board and ask them to vote NO on the proposed By-laws change related to Emeritus Membership.
Richard Bryant, AIA
Richard Bryant AIA
Alta Vista Design Architecture & Planning LLC
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