APS News

APS Council Proposes Constitutional Amendments

cb&graphAt its November 1996 meeting, the APS Council began the Constitutional process to change the way the variable "X" in the APS Constitution and Bylaws determines when a shrinking Division or Forum loses Council representation. These changes follow a report by the APS Committee on Constitution and Bylaws on how the X system has worked, and recommendations by the Committee on appropriate adjustments. Taking into account members' comments, which are hereby invited, a final decision on the bylaws and on the wording of the proposed Constitutional amendments will be made at the Council meeting in April. The proposed amendments will be submitted to the entire membership for a vote in the next general election mail ballot.

The parameter X% in the APS Constitution and Bylaws sets the percentage of APS members who must belong to a unit in order to entitle it to a representative on the APS Council: a voting Councillor for a Division or Forum and a non-voting Advisor for a Section. Topical Groups do not qualify for a Councillor. [For all the ways X is used, see the APS Constitution and Bylaws on pages xl-lv in the 1996-97 Membership Directory, or on the APS home page]

The value of X is stated in the Bylaws, and has been set at 3 since 1991, when the new Constitution and Bylaws were adopted. The Constitution specifies that X operates linearly, with the same X to acquire a first Councillor, or for large Divisions to get additional Councillors, and for the loss of a single Councillor when a Forum or Division decreases below X% in size. The Committee on Constitution and Bylaws reported that the X system and the value 3 have worked very well in orderly creation of new Divisions and Forums with Councillors and providing proportional representation of the large Divisions. These major objectives of the new Constitution were clearly met. The only exception was a potential problem concerning the loss of the last Councillor at the same value of X as is required to gain the first one. The Division of High Polymer Physics (DHPP), the second oldest division in the APS, is about to be the first unit to cross that threshold downward. DHPP is a small but exceedingly active APS group for its size.

A 1992 Council motion called for periodic review of the value of X, and accordingly the issue was raised at the May 1996 Council meeting. DHPP Councillor Andrew Lovinger spoke on behalf of lowering the downward threshold so that his division and several others hovering near the same threshold, such as the Division of Biological Physics [see graph], would retain divisional status and Council representation. Following discussion, Council voted to ask the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws to consider the issue, and the committee outlined its solution in a report at the November 1996 Council meeting.

The Committee recommended amendments to the APS Constitution lowering the threshold for relegation. After some discussion, the Council agreed that the threshold for loss of a single Councillor or Council representative should be lowered to 0.7X%.

Council was concerned that having the threshold for relegation the same as for acquiring the first Councillor could lead to instabilities, as a group oscillated between one and zero councillors. A lower threshold for relegation would avoid this. Therefore, the Council voted to propose to the membership a group of Constitutional amendments that would change the threshold for loss of a single councillor or Council Representative, to 0.7X % of the APS membership. "Council liked the idea of damping the instability caused by having the up and down thresholds the same," said Miriam Forman, Chair of the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws. The Committee supports the amendments as proposed by Council, viewing them as a simple and conservative long-term solution which leaves intact all the excellent features of the X system of representation on the APS Council created by the Constitution of 1991.

Comments on the proposed amendments to the Constitution and Bylaws, as outlined in the accompanying box, should be sent to Amy Halsted, APS, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20912-3844; comments must be received before the 19 April 1997 Council meeting.

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin