Middle East Studies Association Is Political: Vote “Yes” to Bylaw Revision

The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is currently conducting a membership vote on important bylaw revision that allow the organization to bring into alignment its legal grounding and its de facto political character. screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-12-07-02-pm

Here is the current language of Article I of the MESA bylaws, which is followed by the  proposed new language, striking non-political and inserting a phrase emphasizing the 501 (c)(3) status of the association:

Current Language

ARTICLE I. NAME, NATURE, and OBJECTIVES
Section 2. Nature and Objectives. THE MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION is a non-profit, non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programs, publications and services that enhance education, further intellectual exchange, recognize professional distinction, and defend academic freedom.

Proposed New Language

ARTICLE I. NAME, NATURE, and OBJECTIVES
Section 2. Nature and Objectives. THE MIDDLE EAST STUDIES ASSOCIATION is a non-profit, non-political association that fosters the study of the Middle East, promotes high standards of scholarship and teaching, and encourages public understanding of the region and its peoples through programs, publications and services that enhance education, further intellectual exchange, recognize professional distinction, and defend academic freedom in accordance with its status as a 501(c)(3) scientific, educational, literary, and charitable organization.

MESA has long taken political positions on a wide range of regional issues, which makes perfect sense given the expertise of its members. At times, however, when some members oppose a particular position, the “non-political” nature of the association is invoked to object to affirming certain actions and statements, even when the political issue is of great concern to a large number of MESA members.

Below is a letter from Joshua Stacher (Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Kent State University), calling on MESA members to vote “Yes” in support of the revision. MLA MJP is posting this letter on this website to encourage MLA members who are also potentially members of MESA to join the association and vote in favor on the bylaw revision. Please circulate this link to others who might also be interested in MESA’s bylaw revision.

Dear Friends and Colleagues:
As you are likely aware, the well-attended business meeting of last year’s MESA conference passed a bylaw amendment resolution (with just over 81% of the votes in favor). It calls for the striking of the word “non-political” from the organization’s bylaws, and adding text that reaffirms MESA’s non-profit and tax-exempt status.

This resolution is now up for a general membership vote in February 1 – March 15, 2017 (click here to read the resolution).
I am writing to ask you to vote “yes” on this resolution.

·       More than ten former MESA presidents have endorsed the bylaw amendment (click here to read).
·       In this letter, you will find a summary of the rationales for the resolution, and instructions on how to vote.
·       Attached to this email is a brief FAQ that the organizers have authored in consultation w/ a legal team. (not included here)
·       Please note that the group authoring this bylaw amendment represents a cross-section of MESA membership spanning a range of disciplines, research agendas, and political orientations.

The resolution requires a two-thirds majority to pass the general membership vote.
We want this referendum’s turnout to be robust. We strongly urge you to support this resolution by:
(1) Vote Yes
(2) Reach Out to colleagues and contacts to encourage them to vote yes as well.
The stakes of this resolution are high as we enter uncertain times with respect to academic freedom.

Brief Rationale
This bylaw amendment resolution is first and foremost about MESA’s pluralistic organizational identity. It seeks to amend the bylaws so that they more accurately reflect our diverse membership, as well as the institution’s ongoing work and practices—particularly its defense of academic freedom and other interventions. This resolution does two things:

·       First, it removes the word “non-political” from our bylaws. Removing “non-political” allows MESA to clarify how it presents itself to the world, and the actions of our organization, without entering into intractable debates about what is and is not a political intervention. This does not change who researches, how we research, or our core value of being a professional academic association. This change also removes the contradiction that by referring to ourselves as “non-political,” we have accepted a normative position that hinders our future development as a dynamic, responsive organization.

·       Second, the bylaw amendment reaffirms and makes more transparent our status as a 501(c)(3) scientific, educational, literary, and charitable organization. This means that MESA remains a non-profit institution committed to its primary mission, that of representing a diverse membership that produces high-quality scholarship. It also means MESA remains non-partisan, as is legally required by this status, while also creating space for open and transparent discussion of contemporary issues that have real-world meaning and effects.

How to Vote for the MESA Bylaw Amendment (It takes less than 2 minutes):
Click here to access the voting ballot. You need to enter your full name and the email address linked to your MESA membership, and then select “Yes” as your vote.
Please note that in order for your vote to count you must have a valid 2017 MESA membership (see below).

How to Renew Your MESA Membership for 2017
If you have not renewed your membership since the Boston meeting, or before, you probably need to do so before you vote. Please visit the MyMESA interface via http://mymesa.arizona.edu. Log in, and then click the “Payment” button on the left-side menu. If you have forgotten your MESA login password, you can request a new one. Don’t forget to vote yes on the resolution after renewing your membership!

Once again, I urge you to take the time needed to update your membership and vote yes in support of the resolution. After you do, please feel free to copy-paste this email and send it in your name to whatever you list of contacts you deem appropriate. If there are any questions, feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
Joshua Stacher
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Kent State University

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