PRSA recently became aware that six of its members have formed an ad hoc committee and are circulating a petition in support of an amendment to PRSA’s Bylaws. The amendment would remove the requirement that PRSA’s national officers and Board members be Accredited in Public Relations (APR).
The committee is following a time-honored, democratic tradition of bringing forward important issues for the PRSA Assembly to debate and decide — on behalf of all Society members. Like it or not, this is the way that the egalitarian governance process functions at PRSA. It’s possible that still other proposed amendments will be brought before this year’s Assembly.
The changes that the ad hoc committee is proposing do not challenge nor question the value of the APR credential or the Accreditation process; in fact, the percentage of PRSA members who are APR has consistently hovered around 20 percent annually over the past ten years. And on an absolute basis, the number of PRSA members who were APR at the end of 2009 is near a 16-year high.
Rather, the changes being sought would eliminate the requirement that all national officers and Board members be Accredited. The changes retain the spirit of a recommendation advanced last year by PRSA’s Bylaws Rewrite Task Force, which would have allowed any PRSA member in good standing — who is APR; and/or a Chapter, District, Section or Committee leader; and/or has more than 20 years of public relations experience with increasing levels of responsibility — to run for the Board.
In November 2009, the PRSA Assembly voted down that recommendation. Under PRSA’s bylaws, however, the ad hoc committee has the right to raise this issue before the Assembly again (and again).
Specifically, Article XIV of PRSA’s Bylaws provides for the proposal of Bylaw amendments. Among the ways that an amendment may be proposed is via a petition signed by at least 25 members. Then, a two-thirds vote of the Assembly delegates present in person or by proxy, and voting at any annual or special meeting of the membership, is required for the adoption of amendments.
Assuming that the ad hoc committee obtains the necessary signatures and forwards the language it would like the Assembly to consider, PRSA will develop an outreach program to raise awareness of the changes being sought, similar to the one that we conducted for last year’s proposed changes to PRSA’s Bylaws. An eGroup for the purpose of furthering discussion on this proposed amendment also should be active by week’s end.
PRSA’s current Board of Directors has not taken a position supporting or opposing the proposed amendment. Individual Board Members, like all Delegates to the PRSA Assembly, will be free to vote in favor of or against the amendment, as they see fit.
This issue is sure to arouse passions on both sides of the aisle. Still, as the deliberative process plays out, I hope we’ll preserve the enthusiastic and positive atmosphere that pervaded last year’s Bylaws Rewrite process. It not only demonstrated a tremendous level of cooperation among the various PRSA communities, but a strong respect for the diversity of thought, interests and opinions within our Society.
Remember, we must continue to set an example for each other — as well as other industry professionals — through our pursuit of excellence, respect for all opinions and support of the free flow of information.
Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, is 2010 Chair and CEO of PRSA.