Tue 27 May 2008
I have time for one last post before I get kicked out of here. I apologize for the long delay since my last post, but this last month was very crazy in getting ready for the MLA annual meeting. There was the presidential address to write, illustrate, and rehearse; the board meeting to run; the business meetings to run; the awards luncheon to host; and the Wednesday plenary session to emcee. With all of that plus my regular job, blogging was one of my last concerns.
I have been getting lots of compliments about the meeting. But really, about the only thing the president can take responsibility for is his or her speeches. If my speeches resonated with people, I think it was because what I said was what many people wanted to hear. As Scott points out, many people work very hard to put a meeting together. It just happened that this time, topics, technology, and our energy all came together for one helluva meeting. In case you couldn’t attend, MLA had 10 official bloggers reporting the meeting, so you can check out all of their postings in one convenient place. The meeting was well photographed. Here are my pictures, and you can also check out the MLA 2008 photo pool.
The big difference for me with this meeting was the prominence of our younger members. Intellectually, I know they’ve been at previous meetings, but at this meeting they were more visible — presenting papers, posters, and participating in panel discussions. I held a special reception in my suite for new MLA members who have already been on committees, task forces or juries — our future leaders. They seem eager for the challenge. The question is — how eager are our “seasoned” members ready to hand over the reins? Demographically, MLA has the potential for many members retiring in the next few years. We won’t have the luxury of letting our younger members learn the MLA ropes by watching on the sidelines for years, until they’ve “paid their dues.” They need, and want, to participate now. Both Mary Ryan and I worked hard to appoint new members to the available positions on committees, task forces, and juries. But as I pointed out in my presidential address, there aren’t that many positions available. We need to adapt our current governing tradition by opening up participation to more members. And a 30 member committee isn’t the way to do it.
MLA’s units — our sections, chapters, committees, task forces, and yes, even the board, need to start using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs to open up our governance. Allow more members to participate in our governance. Open the windows and doors, and allow our members to see both how and why decisions are made. Allow them to question and comment during the process. Allow them to gain in a few years the kind of MLA experience that took people of my generation 20 or more years to gain.
This isn’t heresy, this really isn’t that radical. It’s just different, and this new technology allows us to do it rather easily. Remember that “We have always done it that way” isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse. Boomers didn’t like that response in the 1960s, and we shouldn’t like it now. And as long as I’m talkin’ ’bout my generation, I can assure them that the kids are alright.
…until we meet again.