ASN * American Society for Neurochemistry
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8. The Evolution of the ASN Standing Rules (1969-1982) - Claude F Baxter

The story of the Standing Rules of our Society really must be divided into two parts: 1969-1982, and 1983 to 2000. Early in the history of our Society there were no Standing Rules. They evolved slowly in bits and pieces in the late 1970's and were distributed gradually and selectively to a few ASN members. Finally in 1982 they were ratified by the ASN Council and by the membership. That's the first part of the story that I will describe in some detail. In 1983 George DeVries became the Chairman of the Standing Rules Committee and he was instrumental in having the Rules and their changes published as a regular part of the ASN Annual Transactions. Thus they became available to all ASN members. George will tell you about the evolution of the Standing Rules in and after 1983 at some future date.

When the ASN was formed in 1969, the founders established Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws. These were published and disseminated to all members of the ASN. However, Standing Rules were confined to a folder in Jordi Folch's Office. When I saw them for the first time in 1975 they consisted of 3 pages of notes, part typewritten and part in Jordi's handwriting. They were filed in the same folder as the Bylaws. This lack of any "formal" Standing Rules was no oversight on the part of the ASN founder (and first Secretary). Jordi believed sincerely that although the ASN had to have Bylaws (brief and to the point), Formal Standing Rules were really unnecessary and their creation a waste of time.

I was elected the 2nd ASN Secretary in 1975 and took over my duties in1976. Sometime between these two dates, Jordi passed on to me two file boxes with papers and folders relating to the establishment and the running of the Society. At the time the ASN had no Historian and there were no ASN Archives. Thus these file boxes contained the ASN's historic documents, correspondence and memorabilia, together with endless revisions of ASN membership lists (that Marjorie referred to earlier) and pages and pages of materials relating to ballots. Incidentally, they also contained Jordi's rudimentary notations concerning Standing Rules.*

As Bernie Agranoff related to you, he had taken the dramatic step in 1975 of appointing a parliamentarian (Cara-Lynne Schengrund) to insure more orderly Council meetings. That in itself became a Standing Rule to which Jordi submitted gracefully. However, in addition, some formal written instructions were required to pass on accepted procedures for the orderly function of all ASN Committees and to guide individuals responsible for the planning, hosting and running of Annual Meetings. Normally, these needs would have been covered by Standing Rules, but everybody knew that Jordi was opposed to Standing Rules. He had told me privately that, as the ASN Secretary, I was free to formulate such rules, but not to count on him as President to support them. At the time, I was Jordi's junior by almost a generation and compared to most of the other Council members, a fairly recently coined Neurochemist. I discovered only gradually that other Council members were as concerned as I was about the lack of Standing Rules. However,none of us were willing to challenge the President and Founder of the ASN about these needs.

I did outline, for myself, the responsibilities of various officers, committee chairpersons, meeting functionaries, etc. and also the deadline dates that had to be maintained. Two years later these outlines formed the basis for the first set of Standing Rules.

The following year (1977) at our Annual Meeting in Denver Colorado some progress was made. At one session, Robert Burton and I offered to write a Meeting Manual for the ASN that would outline the responsibilities and procedures that were to be followed for the organization of the Annual Meeting. We were especially careful not to call this manual "Standing Rules" and thereby avoided Jordi's objection. But this subterfuge proved unnecessary. At our meeting in April of 1978 in Washington DC, Jordi Folch was absent. With Lou Sokoloff presiding, Bernie Agranoff was free to request the formalization of Standing Rules for the ASN. The Council approved the request. I was instructed to formulate Standing Rules that could be discussed and evaluated at subsequent meetings.

During the next two years I assembled a preliminary version of Standing Rules using the drafts that I had made earlier. This preliminary version was sent out for critique, additions and deletions. I received lots of suggestions, particularly from those who had held the described positions in previous years. I remember receiving letters from Fred Samson, Bernie Haber, George DeVries, Joyce Benjamins, Lou Sokoloff, Abel Lajtha and others. Unfortunately the individual letters no longer exist in the ASN Archives* and my recollections of the details are fragmentary. I do remember that I received verbal counseling; in particular some sage advice from Cara-Lynne Schengrund.

Jordi Folch Pi died in 1979. It seems fitting that in his lifetime no Standing Rules for the ASN were ever adopted.

In 1980 Janet Passoneau, as chairperson of an ad hoc Committee on Procedures, made a report on the Standing Rules assembled thus far, and we had our first lengthy, open discussion about what should be included and what should be excluded. During my final year as the ASN Secretary, in 1981, the first complete version of ASN Standing Rules was mailed (before the Annual Meeting) to Officers and Chairpersons of Standing Committees. By 1982, during our meeting at Grossingers NY., Norman Bass, the first Chairman of the new "Standing Rules Committee", presented a version of the Standing Rules that had been slightly modified from the Standing Rules submitted the previous year. (The documentation of this modified version has been lost.*) Norm Bass, in making his presentation, commented that some rules applicable to the conduct of the Annual Meetings required further study.

In 1982 I presided over the Council Meeting and subsequent Business Meeting at which both Council and the ASN membership approved the Standing Rules. Thus in March of 1982, after thirteen years of existence, the ASN at last acquired "officially ratified Standing Rules".

George DeVries became the Chairman of the Standing Rules Committee in 1983. I think that both of us believe that Standing Rules are necessary and suitable tools for the running of our Society. Whereas Bylaws contain those rules that can be changed only by a majority vote of ALL society members (often impossible to obtain within a reasonable period of time), the Standing Rules can be changed by a majority vote of the Council. Thus they are adaptable to the changing needs of the ASN.

For those who will be entrusted with reformulating the ASN Standing Rules in the future, here is a cautionary note: To be effective, Standing Rules must be necessary, realistic and not unreasonably burdensome. Members must be willing to abide by them. For if there is no compliance with the Standing Rules, they will be useless and Jordi Folch's prediction "that they are unnecessary baggage" will become a reality.


* FOOTNOTE: Prior to the establishment of ASN Archives, materials of historic interest were collected in cardboard filing boxes and passed on from one ASN secretary to the next. In 1982, I passed on 6 such boxes to Marion Smith in Palo Alto. I recall clearly a few of the items that they contained: There were the bylaws and the original 3 pages of Jordi's Standing Rules all in one folder. There was the correspondence concerning Standing Rules, and the different versions of Standing Rules. There was correspondence about bylaws, elections site preferences, committees, appointments, ballot counts, liaison matters, annual lectureships and public policy matters. Some correspondence with other professional societies and members of congress were included. The original design of the ASN logo (by Ruth Roberts) and correspondence regarding a patent also come to mind. Fiscal matters and correspondence about specific fiscal emergencies were documented. Additional documents may have been added by Marion Smith and Larry Eng during their tenures as ASN Secretary.

When I became the ASN Historian (in the mid nineties) these boxes could not be found. Marion Smith reconstructed their probable fate as follows: "The storage space that these boxes occupied at the VAMC Palo Alto was reassigned. Unaware of the historic value of the documents in these boxes, together with other outdated files, they were dumped and destroyed." Sadly we must accept the reality that this documentation of ASN history has been lost.

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