About2022 Election

2022 Proposed AFS Bylaws Amendments

Last updated: November 22, 2022

The Executive Board of the American Folklore Society proposes five amendments to the AFS Bylaws for your consideration on the 2022 election ballot, to go into effect in 2023. These proposed amendments aim to make AFS more inclusive, adaptable, agile, and sustainable for the long term. Voting on the bylaws amendments will open December 15 and closes January 31.

On the ballot, you will be presented with each proposed Bylaws change, which you will vote on individually, though Proposal 5 is contingent on the outcome of Proposal 4. Each proposal must be approved by two-thirds of the voters to pass.

Join the Discussion

In response to a request for more time for public discussion of the proposed amendments before voting begins, the first ballot members receive is limited to the candidates for office, and voting on the bylaws amendments will take place on a separate ballot. Voting on the bylaws will run from December 15 to January 31.

Town Halls were held on November 22, November 29, and December 5 where members were invited to learn more, ask questions, and share their views. Additional Town Halls for discussion of the proposed amendments are scheduled for:

These January sessions are being intentionally offered for members who have questions during the voting period and seek clarification about the proposed amendments.

You can share your public comments with this form, or contact us with thoughts or questions you’d like to address privately with the staff or board.

AFS aims to be transparent in representing all concerns and views that have been shared with staff or officers and that AFS has received permission to publish. You can see a round-up of arguments, questions, and replies that have been aired in the Town Halls or by email to AFS concerning the proposed bylaws changes, and add your own comments in the give-and-take.

Proposal 1: Clarifying Language

  • Vote yes to correct the ambiguous and contradictory language in Article IV to reflect the intention and current practice of the Executive Board.
  • See Marked-Up Bylaws Amendment: Proposal 1 to view the specific wording changes that are proposed.
  • Rationale: The Executive Board asks you to approve this proposal in order to remove confusion about the current make-up of the Board.

Proposal 2: New Council of Past Presidents

  • Vote yes to establish a new standing committee, a Council of Past Presidents, to serve at will in an advisory capacity when called on by the AFS President or Executive Director and to aid in succession if needed. 
  • See Marked-Up Bylaws Amendment: Proposal 2 to view the specific wording changes that are proposed.
  • Rationale: The Executive Board asks you to approve this proposal to formalize a plan for maintaining longevity of organizational knowledge and perspective during challenging times. Past Presidents of AFS sustain long-standing commitment and knowledge of AFS and the field and could serve as a resource for regular advice and support. Additionally, the Council of Past Presidents would be the formal body drawn upon if there is ever a need for the succession of the Immediate Past President.  

Proposal 3: Succession

  • Vote yes to establish a protocol for filling permanent vacancies among the Board, including Past President, President, President-Elect, and Executive Board members.
  • See Marked-Up Bylaws Amendment: Proposal 3 to view the specific wording changes that are proposed.
  • Rationale: Though the current Bylaws make some provision for permanent vacancies, they are incomplete. They don’t address a Presidential vacancy when there is no President-Elect, and they don’t address the departure of a Board member. The Executive Board asks you to approve the proposed plan, since these gaps could lead to confusion, delays, or even contested appointments if such an occasion comes to pass.

Proposal 4: Annual Adaptation 

  • Vote yes to empower the Executive Board to elect a Board member each year who brings the knowledge, experience, and/or perspective needed to address current needs or challenges.
  • If approved, the total number of Board members will expand, unless Proposal 5 is also approved.
  • Concerns Article IV, Section 1f. See Marked-Up Bylaws Amendment: Proposal 4 to view the specific wording changes that are proposed.
  • Rationale: The Executive Board asks you to approve this change in order to reinforce one of our strongest mechanisms for achieving a diverse and effective Executive Board. For more than 20 years, the AFS Board has elected one representative every three years to contribute necessary knowledge, experience and perspective (See Bylaws Article IV, Section 1, Item (f)). Now, following a recommendation by the Nominating Committee, the Board proposes filling one seat each year, informed by the outcome of the general election, electing a member to round out the Board’s composition to address current needs. This change aims to create an opportunity to adapt more nimbly and strategically to challenges as they arise.

Proposal 5: Conservation and Agility

  • Vote yes to reduce the number of member-elected officers from three to two each year, in order to avoid increasing the total number of Board members, if and only if Proposal 4 is adopted.  
  • If Proposal 4 is rejected, Proposal 5 will not go into effect.
  • Concerning Article IV, Section 1d and Section 2. See Marked-Up Bylaws Amendment: Proposal 5 to view the specific wording changes that are proposed.
  • Rationale: Proposal 4, by itself, would increase the total number of Board members, so a corollary change is also proposed: for a variety of reasons, if and only if Proposal 4 is approved, the Board recommends reducing the number of seats filled by general election, rather than raising the total number of Board members. The Society subsidizes members’ travel and accommodations for Board meetings in order to make leadership positions accessible to all, so increasing the total number of Board members would add to the Society’s financial responsibilities. Perhaps even more importantly, raising the total number of Board members might weigh on the process of deliberation and decision-making, as well as dilute the impact of each member’s vote. Finally, reducing the number of candidates on the general ballot has an upside in reducing the number of talented, qualified candidates who are lost to us each year in invariably narrowly-decided races; this is a concern which has weighed heavily on Nominating Committee members for many years. 

Here is a graphic that shows the current structure of the AFS Executive Board, which has a total of thirteen (13) members, including the President, Past President or President-Elect, and Executive Director.

Here is a graphic that shows the proposed structure of the AFS Executive Board if the Board is approved to elect a Member-at-Large each year, with the effect of raising the number of Board members to 15, if Proposal 5 is not also approved.

Here is a graphic that shows how Proposal 5 would reduce the number of total Board members to 12 if both Proposal 4 and Proposal 5 pass.

Marked-Up Bylaws

Click on the items below to see the wording changes that are proposed in the context of the affected articles. You can also view a pdf of all the proposed changes in the context of the full bylaws, and review the full, current bylaws.

Proposal 1: Clarifying Language 

Corrects the current, ambiguous and contradictory language in Article IV, Section 1 to reflect the intention and practice of the Executive Board.

  • In item (c), adding “Immediate” is important to distinguish from other Past Presidents, especially if Proposal 2, Council of Past Presidents, is approved.
  • In item (f), replacing “appoint” with “elect” ensures that this Board member is authorized to vote in Executive Board proceedings, per Article VI, Section 4.
  • The phrase “who is drawn from a group within the Society” lacks clarity and may tend to limit the options of the Board.
  • “Members-at-Large” are authorized to represent the entire AFS membership, and not just a subset of AFS members. In item (f), “Member-at-Large” should be added to clarify that, while this Board member might have been chosen to represent a group or to bring a particular perspective or expertise, this Board member, like all AFS Board members, should prioritize the broader membership and organizational goals.
  • Item (g) makes explicit how the rotation of President-Elect and Immediate Past President actually works, so that the number of officers adds up to the total specified in Section 2. 

Here is the affected Section, with the proposed changes in bold:

ARTICLE IV. Officers

Section 1. The officers of the Society shall consist of:

(a) The President-Elect, elected for a term of one year; to become

(b) The President for a term of two (2) years; to become

(c) The Immediate Past President, for a term of one year;

(d) Nine (9) Members-at-Large, elected for terms of three (3) years, three (3) beginning each year; and

(e) The Executive Director, appointed by the Executive Board and serving at the pleasure of the Board.

(f) The Executive Board shall also have the authority to appoint elect to the Executive Board, every three years or when the seat is vacant, one (1) Society member who has a perspective or expertise who is drawn from a group within the Society that the Board wants to ensure is represented on the Board, to serve as a Member-at-Large for a term of three (3) years.

(g) The President-Elect and the Immediate Past President are seated in alternate years, with only one seated on the Board at a time.

Section 2. These thirteen (13) officers shall constitute the Executive Board.

Proposal 2: New Council of Past Presidents

Establishes a Council of Past Presidents to serve at will in an advisory capacity when called on by the AFS President or Executive Director and to aid in succession if needed. 

  • Amends Section 1 to add the Council of Past Presidents to the list of Standing Committees.
  • Inserts a new Section 8 to Article IX, Committees, in order to specify the role of the Council of Past Presidents.
  • Updates the numbers of the Sections of Article IX that follow the newly-created Section 8.

Here is the affected Article, with the proposed changes in bold:

ARTICLE IX. Committees

Section 1. There shall be six (6) seven (7) Standing Committees:

(a) The Nominating Committee;

(b) The Publications Committee; 

(c) The Membership Committee;  

(d) The Cultural Diversity Committee;

(e) The International Issues Committee; 

(f) The Mentoring Committee; and

(g) The Council of Past Presidents 

[See the current Bylaws for  Sections 2-7, which have no proposed changes.]

Section 8. The Council of Past Presidents shall: 

(a) Consist of AFS Past Presidents who each serves at will; 

(b) be called upon by the AFS President or Executive Director to provide counsel or service as needed. 

Section 8 9. All Standing Committees shall submit a written annual report, including a list of current members responsible for the report, to the Executive Board, through the Executive Director, not later than the end of each calendar year.

Section 9 10. Ad Hoc Committees may be constituted at the initiative of the President with the advice and consent of the Executive Board. Five (5) or more Members may also petition the Executive Board for constitution of an Ad Hoc Committee, said petition to specify the matters to be considered.

Section 10 11. Ad Hoc Committees shall be constituted for only one (1) year. They may request continuation on the basis of justifications contained in their report.

Section 11 12. Each Ad Hoc Committee shall submit a written annual report, including a list of current Members responsible for the report, to the Executive Board, through the Executive Director, who shall make it available to the Members.

Proposal 3: Succession

Establishes a protocol for filling permanent vacancies among the Board, including Past President, President, President-Elect, and Executive Board members. This proposal: 

  • Amends Article IV to add Section 9, which articulates a succession plan in the event of permanent vacancies on the AFS Board. 
  • Renames the position of “Past President” to “Immediate Past President” to differentiate the individual who holds that position from the Council of Past Presidents and adds a Section to designate the duties of this position.
  • Establishes the title “Interim Immediate Past President,” which can be used in the event of a permanent vacancy. 

Here is the affected Article, with the proposed changes in bold:

ARTICLE IV. Officers

Section 1. The officers of the Society shall consist of:

(a) The President-Elect, elected for a term of one year; to become 

(b) The President for a term of two (2) years; to become

(c) The Immediate Past President, for a term of one year;

(d) Nine (9) Members-at-Large, elected by vote of plurality by AFS members, for terms of three (3) years, three (3) beginning each year; and

(e) The Executive Director, appointed by the Executive Board and serving as an Ex-officio member at the pleasure of the Board.

(f) The Executive Board shall have the authority each year to elect to the Executive Board one (1) Society member as a Member-at-Large who is drawn from a group within the Society that the Board wants to ensure is represented on the Board, for a term of three (3) years.

Section 2. These thirteen (13) officers shall constitute the Executive Board.

Section 3. The terms for all officers shall be terminal in each position. Officers may be elected or appointed to other positions after the end of their terms.

Section 4. The President-Elect shall:

(a) Succeed to the office of President at the expiration of the term as President-Elect; and

(b) Assume the duties of the President in the event of the absence, death, resignation or incapacity of the President.

Section 5. The President shall:

(a) Serve as the presiding officer of the Society and exercise all the duties and responsibilities commonly associated with this office, except as limited by these Bylaws; and

(b) Appoint members of Society committees with the advice and consent of the Executive Board.

Section 6. The Immediate Past President shall: 

(a)  Serve as an adviser to the President; and 

(b)  Assume the duties of the President in the event of the absence, death, resignation or incapacity of the President.

Section 6 7. The Executive Director shall manage the Society’s financial, programmatic, and other administrative functions and implement its policies as determined by the Executive Board.

Section 7 8. In the temporary absence or incapacity of the Executive Director, the Executive Board may designate another person to carry out the duties of that office.

Section 9. Succession 

(a) President: In the event of a permanent vacancy: 

1. In the first year in office: 

a. The Immediate Past President assumes the duties of the President in the event of the absence, death, resignation or incapacity of the President. 

b. A special election shall be held for President-Elect (see Article IV, Section 9.(b)).

c. At the beginning of the next calendar year, the President-Elect shall become President. 

2. In the second year in office: 

a. The President-Elect becomes President, serving out the remainder of the previous President’s term and then serving the President-Elect’s own two-year term. [See  Article IV, Section 4.b] 

(b) President-Elect: In the event of a permanent vacancy, a special election shall be initiated within one month of the vacancy, following all the procedures specified in Article V, Nominations and Elections, Sections 1-6 with a timeline shortened by half. Upon conclusion of the voting and announcement of the electee, that person shall immediately assume the office of President-Elect.  

(c) Immediate Past President: In the event of a permanent vacancy, the President, in  consultation with the Executive Board, shall recommend an Interim Immediate Past President from the Council of Past Presidents to be elected by the Executive Board. 

(d) Executive Board Member: In the event of a permanent vacancy: 

1. The President, in consultation with the Executive Board, shall nominate an individual in good standing from the general membership. 

2. The Executive Board shall vote to elect the Member. 

3. Immediately upon the Executive Board’s election, the Member shall become a Board Member-at-Large.

Proposal 4: Annual Adaptation

Empowers the Board to elect a Board member each year who brings the knowledge, experience, and/or perspective needed to address current needs or challenges.

  • In item (f), “responsibility,” rather than “authority,” signifies that the seat should be filled. Replacing “appoint” with “elect” ensures that this Board member is authorized to vote in Executive Board proceedings, per Article VI, Section 4.
  • “Members-at-Large” are authorized to represent the entire AFS membership, and not just a subset of AFS members. In item (f), “Member-at-Large” should be added to clarify that, while this Board member might have been chosen to represent a group or to bring a particular perspective or expertise, this Board member, like all AFS Board members, should prioritize the broader membership and organizational goals.
  • If approved, this change would go into effect in 2023. All currently elected Board members would serve out their elected terms, so the total number of Board members would be 14 in 2023, then 15 in 2024 and the following years.
  • If you vote Yes to Proposal 4, you may then vote No on Proposal 5 to have an Executive Board of 15 members, or Yes on Proposal 5 to have a Board of 12 members. 
  • If Proposal 4 is rejected, the Board will remain the same as it is currently constituted.

Here is the affected Article, with the proposed changes in bold:

ARTICLE IV. Officers

Section 1. The officers of the Society shall consist of:

(a) The President-Elect, elected for a term of one year; to become

(b) The President for a term of two (2) years; to become

(c) The Past President, for a term of one year;

(d) Nine (9) Members-at-Large, elected for terms of three (3) years, three (3) beginning each year; and

(e) The Executive Director, appointed by the Executive Board and serving at the pleasure of the Board.

(f) The Executive Board shall also have the authority responsibility to appoint elect to the Executive Board, every three years year or when the seat is vacant, one (1) Society member who has a perspective or expertise who is drawn from a group within the Society that the Board wants to ensure is represented on the Board, to serve as a Member-at-Large for a term of three (3) years.

Section 2. These thirteen (13) fifteen (15) officers shall constitute the Executive Board.

Proposal 5: Conservation and Agility

Reduces the number of member-elected officers from three to two each year, in order to avoid increasing the total number of Board members, if and only if Proposal 4, Annual Adaptation, is adopted. This measure would realize substantial savings in subsidizing Board members’ costs to participate in Board meetings, avoid diluting the voting power of any individual member of the Board, and reduce the number of talented, qualified candidates who are lost to us each year in invariably narrowly-decided races. If Proposal 4 is rejected, the following amendments would not be implemented, keeping the current Bylaws unchanged. 

  • This change would take effect in 2023, and because the current elected Board members would serve out their terms, the total number of Board members would vary in 2023, but settle to the proposed total size starting in 2024.
  • Note: “Members-at-Large” are authorized to represent the entire AFS membership, and not just a subset of AFS members.
  • If Proposal 4 is approved, your vote on Proposal 5 will determine the size of the Executive Board. Vote Yes on Proposal 5 to reduce the Board to 12, or No to accept the 15-member Board determined by Proposal 4.

Here is the affected Article, with the proposed changes in bold and italics; [note: Item (f) includes the changes that would take effect if Proposal 4 is approved]:

ARTICLE IV. Officers

Section 1. The officers of the Society shall consist of:

(a) The President-Elect, elected for a term of one year; to become

(b) The President for a term of two (2) years; to become

(c) The Past President, for a term of one year;

(d) Nine (9) Six (6) Members-at-Large, elected for terms of three (3) years, three (3) two (2) beginning each year; and

(e) The Executive Director, appointed by the Executive Board and serving at the pleasure of the Board.

(f) The Executive Board shall also have the responsibility to elect to the Executive Board, every year or when the seat is vacant, one (1) Society member who has a perspective or expertise that the Board wants to ensure is represented on the Board, to serve as a Member-at-Large for a term of three (3) years.

Section 2. These thirteen (13) twelve (12) officers shall constitute the Executive Board.

Questions and Answers

Q: Why should the Board be given the responsibility of electing an officer every year (proposal 4)?

A: Board members are in a unique position to make timely, informed decisions about the Society’s needs. Through their work with the President, Executive Director, and AFS Staff, as well as their contact with a broad base of members within the Society, Board members are well informed more highly aware and in tune with Society-wide concerns that need to be addressed any given year, and are thus well suited to elect individuals whose specific perspective, expertise and experience will provide guidance on important issues they know do not have current representation on the Board. Furthermore, Board members themselves are elected by Society members because of their capacity to lead and make decisions for the membership, signaling trust in the Board’s capacity to assess the needs of the Society. 

Q: Why does the Board recommend reducing the number of candidates on the general ballot rather than increasing the total number of Board members (proposal 5)?

A: The Society subsidizes members’ travel and accommodations for Board meetings in order to make leadership positions accessible to all, so increasing the total number of Board members would add to the Society’s financial responsibilities. Furthermore, raising the total number of Board members might weigh on the process of deliberation and decision-making, as well as dilute the impact of each member’s vote. Finally, reducing the number of candidates on the general ballot has an upside in reducing the number of talented, qualified candidates who are lost to us each year in invariably narrowly-decided races.

Q: How many Board members would be added, compared to the current process, if Proposal 4 is approved? (Prop 4)

A: Prop 4 represents a net increase of 2 more members once it is fully implemented. But if Proposal 5 is also approved, there would be a net decrease of 1 Board seat.

Q: Under these proposals, how many Board members would be elected by AFS members?

The general membership directly elects 92% of the Board members currently, 80% (under Prop 4), or 75% (under Prop 5) of the Board members, so even if the amendments were passed, a substantial majority of the Board would be directly elected.