|Small Changes-Big Consequences
Change is in the air at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and your opinion matters! (Written by President-Elect: John Jordan.)
A movement to change if and when new members are vetted is being discussed at AAPG headquarters and around the House of Delegates (HOD). One might ask, “Why should I care? I’m already an Active member of AAPG.” The AAPG membership application question is the tip of the iceberg of change to our organization being suggested by the AAPG Executive Committee (EC). Why? There is a belief by many members of past and present AAPG ECs that the AAPG is a dying society. I personally do not believe this to be true. This notion is pushed by AAPG leadership at nearly every AAPG HOD, Advisory Committee (AC) and EC meeting. To “save” AAPG, we are told, the entire organizational framework (Governance) needs to be updated to a model that looks very much like the AAPG of the early 1960s. Supporters have put their efforts into three areas. First, they want to reduce the minimum criteria to become an Active member of AAPG. Second, they would like to rewrite the AAPG bylaws marginalizing the significance of the HOD in AAPG. Third, they would change how money is shared with AAPG Affiliated Societies which includes the Houston Geological Society (HGS). We have been told that all of these changes are being considered to improve efficiency and therefore grow the AAPG.
Twenty years ago an AAPG Active member needed a degree in geology, five years of work experience and three AAPG sponsors. Today’s criteria are one year of work experience and one AAPG sponsor. This is currently less than the requirements for some who join the HGS. Many members of the HOD believe that the ultimate goal is to drop sponsors and possibly the work experience as well. Even the requirement of possessing a geology degree may be at risk, so that anyone with a few minutes and a credit card could potentially become an active member. It is believed that this efficiency will instantly increase AAPG membership. Is this what the majority of current AAPG members really want?
Rewriting the bylaws, marginalizing the significance of the HOD in the name of efficiency is the first step in moving the AAPG towards a small Executive Board. We have been told that a small board is more efficient and therefore a more desirable form of Governance. We must not lose sight that most future leaders of AAPG come from the AAPG HOD. Participating in the HOD is an excellent way to gain an understanding of AAPG and an avenue to learn leadership skills in a non-corporate environment. A small Executive Board was the original model used when AAPG was established and it led to a “good old boy” system which was rejected by a disenfranchised AAPG membership in the 1960’s. These members created the current structure to rein in the power of the Executive Board. In 1970 the HOD was created by the membership so that the members of the HOD with a controlling two-thirds vote had a vehicle to make changes to bylaws.
Finally, there is a desire to change how money is shared with AAPG-affiliated societies such as HGS. It is important to recognize that just like in HGS, AAPG membership dues and advertising in the AAPG Bulletin and Explorer magazine do not generate enough revenue to run the AAPG. Where does the money come from that keeps the AAPG running? The primary source of revenue for AAPG is the (North American) Annual Convention and Exhibition (ACE). Yes, ACE does include Canada. Generally speaking, the affiliated society that hosts ACE shares in the profit from the event held since they supply most of the volunteers that organize the technical program, courses, field trips and a large social event (at their own monetary risk). Without the local society volunteers, AAPG could not hold an ACE of the quality we have come to expect. This periodic influx of money is critical in the day-to-day operations of the HGS. The HGS runs a very tight budget every year until an AAPG convention comes to town and then we receive a percentage of the profit from that event. The HGS anticipates this surplus for our 5-year budgets. This single event every few years provides a small amount of extra income that we use to fund popular, large HGS conferences such as the Mudrocks, Geomechanics and Africa Conferences, among other uses.
The changes being discussed for the AAPG have far reaching consequences for members of both AAPG and HGS. Your elected delegates are here to represent your views, so reach out to them and have your voice heard. You can find a list of the members of the Houston HOD on the HGS web site, or better yet, call HGS Nominations Chair Ken Nemeth and volunteer to run for the HOD next spring!