Rationale for Proposed Changes to the Constitution of

the Edith Wharton Society

The Executive Board of the Edith Wharton Society has undertaken a revision of the constitution of the Society as part of its due diligence in keeping the Society working in good order. Changes we being proposed in order to clarify the duties of the officers, to delineate the term of office of the Treasurer and Editor, to insure the safety of our finances by requiring the Treasurer to report in writing to the Executive Board, and to insure the continuity of our history by requiring the Secretary to keep a written record of all Executive Board and Society business meetings and to pass that record along to succeeding secretaries. Furthermore the changes will codify the election process and build into it a reasonable timetable and some mechanism to bring new people to the Board. Another concern was to encourage activities that forward Wharton studies, including insuring that sessions on Edith Wharton are routinely proposed for major conferences and that them is a mechanism for planning events such as conferences, tours, or other events that might forward the study of Wharton's life and work. These changes also repair minor inconsistencies and irregularities of the previous constitution.

One major change in the constitution is the removal of the Assistant Editor of the Edith Wharton Review and the past President of the Society from the Executive Board. Since the Assistant Editor is appointed by the Editor and serves an unlimited term at the Editor's discretion. it seemed inappropriate for that person to sit on the Executive Board except when representing the Editor in the Editor's absence. The original purpose of having the immediate past president remain on the Board was to ensure continuity. We feel that, with officers succeeding each other, experience and continuity are already built into the Board and to require the past President to remain on the Board may place an undue burden on that person, who is likely to have served on the Board for at least six, more likely eight or more years already. It is feared that adding two more years to this service my discourage members from being willing to serve as officers. Furthermore, this may allow the new President to come forward to readily with changes if s/he sees fit. And, since the number of members of the Executive Board is limited, by removing two members we also make room for new people to serve.

A second major change is the inclusion of rules for elections Most of these rules were already approved at a Society business meeting at the American Literature Association in 2001; however, since the constitution requires that all changes to the constitution be made at the annual meeting held concurrently with the Modem Language Association meeting we bring them before the membership again. Furthermore, we have added a timetable to the election process so as to guide future committees in the timely execution of their jobs.

Respectfully submitted

Julie Olin-Arnmentorp
Irene Goldman-Price
Melissa Pennell