Why Rules Matter to a Club

I was asked in conversation why I thought Rules (like the Constitution and By-Laws) matter in a club, specially as contended by one Honorary Life Member that a Radio Club is only a social club, and further that majority votes are mandates.  This was written for fellow board members and adapted for this post.

Why Rules Matter to a Club

First addressing the Social Club Only contention:

It is true that fraternity and social interaction is one of the prime reasons for any club, but it is seldom a unique & singular reason – the Social side of a club is one of many reasons to have an Amateur Radio Club.

Our Club has a history of a strong social function, one which by the way the most vocal complainers have largely withdrawn from.

But as important as Christmas Parties, Picnics, and Club Meetings are, they were wrapped around a number of other reasons to exist:

  • Ownership of Resources general more expensive than a single member might be expected to provide (repeaters & club stations).
  • Ensuring community wide availability of those shared resources (keeping the repeater “open” and having the club station available to members).
  • Attracting & Educating community members interested in becoming involved in the hobby.
  • Supporting the Community with Amateur Radio activities ranging from courtesy (demonstrations, assistance) to Emcomm (ride-alongs with Police, weather spotting to Formal Emcomm)
  • Supporting Club Members interested in Specialized Activities part of Amateur Radio (DX, Contesting, Experimenting, Digital, Nets, Message Handling, Lighthouse/Island/Ship Activations…..)
  • Providing a hobbyist existence greater than just the sum of the members and with continuity beyond the lives of the members.
  • and many more.

The argument that the club is only a Social Club is inaccurate. Having a Social aspect is definitely part of a Radio Club, but is not in our case the only, or even the most important, reason Mancorad exists.

Why Rules Matter to a Club:

Our club uses the typical club structure that politically is called a “Representational” structure (or in the classic sense a “Republic”) where those elected from the Membership as a whole guide the club’s desired course of action taking account the expressed wishes of the group (whether by voting or other methods) within the framework of external laws and an internal previously agreed framework (Constitution, By-Laws and Past Votes.)

In other words the club functions by having representatives make sure that something the club wants to do is moral, legal and in keeping with the club’s own written documentation.

Some have been contending that the club is not “Representational” but rather is always controlled by the last majority vote. They claim this is “Democracy” not realizing that this is actually a form of “Mob Rule” unless tempered by inspection of the requested course of action for morality, legality and correctness in reference the club’s agreed written documents.

Deep down we all know this – if at a meeting if those present moved & supported a motion to sell all club assets and give them all the money in unmarked $ 20’s so they could go on a cruise, we know this would be morally wrong, legally (specially taxation) and would not “fly” when the club’s mission was examined, no matter if they had a majority vote.

It actually is exactly this feeling – this knowledge of “right & wrong” – that came into play when the attempt to sell off the vintage station for a fraction of its value to an “insider” of the former club leadership (who’s leadership often strayed from the fiduciary responsibilities of a “Representational” leadership, to a third form of leadership by a controlling clique called an “Oligarchy” (hit Wiki for an explanation) or virtual “Monarchy”). Fortunately that affront was not very subtle and the membership present refused the attempt to shortchange the club for personal gains by members of the oligarchy.

Holding the responsibility to guide the club to what is moral, legal and self-allowed by constitution should be a relatively easy task. We all have strong personal moral compasses, the words of outside law are clear & easily discoverable, and as flawed as it may be the existing Club Constitution is understandable & obviously has been useful to get us through our first 60 years.

It is when we hit the wall of dealing with members who expect a “super member status,” who would willingly return to running the club from behind the scenes from their small clique, and who basically tell us that they don’t care what the constitution says as they want the club to “do it their way or else.”

The bullying, threats of taking the club hostage (do it our way or we will tear down the club) and threats of quitting (one has to hope if they are that unhappy and so unwilling to be a team player, how do you tell them to “not let the door hit you on the way out?”) are not signs of proper struggle, but the vestiges of a club cleansing itself of people looking to the club for personal advantage & fulfillment of control needs, not  in keeping as a  Club with “Representational” leadership. They are a mob proposing to return to an “insider’s mob rule” that is neither moral nor legal, and certainly not in keeping with our self-control as expressed in club documents.

We have been elected to shoulder a simple responsibility – to do the best job we can guiding the club in keeping with the club’s representational structure, morality, legality and constitutional vitality.

It is not an election to an amateur-community-wide spot, but very specifically an election to be responsible to the Club first.



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One thought on “Why Rules Matter to a Club

  1. Scot, K9JY says:

    I have been both on the board and a President of a 200-member ham radio club. This is an accurate reflection of what a club means. And while I consistently whine about ham radio being too “rules-based,” a club needs a constitution (purpose) and the representation is what governs the club.

    In my former club, the board even set the budget. It was not up to member vote. If you wanted something in the budget, you went to the representatives to get it. That was needed because the budget debates almost took the club down. So the constitution of the club — da rules — were changed.

    There is no doubt that clubs are social. I’d also suggest that part of the social aspect of a club includes the larger purpose of learning more about particular parts of the hobby. If I know nothing about RTTY (and I do…), I can find out about it by socializing with other club members who do RTTY as part of their enjoyment of the hobby. Not only am I “socializing,” but I am expanding my knowledge of the hobby.

    Clubs serve their members in a consistent manner. If they don’t, people vote with their feet. It’s not as if they have nothing else to do 1-2 nights a month with their time. Constitutions and the rules associated with them provide a framework to define why hams should attend the meetings.

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