On July 12th, 2021, USA Fencing posted a slate of proposed changes to the organization’s bylaws. The full report from the Governance Task Force as well as a clean and comparison copy to the bylaws can be found on this post.
The USA Fencing Board of Directors voted to enact a Governance Task Force on December 19, 2020. This Governance Task Force was co-chaired by Board members Kat Holmes and Donald Anthony, with a number of other contributing members. These changes will be voted upon during the August 31, 2021 Board meeting.
Of the proposed changes, the most notable one was to transition away from having a President elected by the membership of USA Fencing. Instead, the role will become the Chair of the Board of Directors, and the Chair will be elected by the Board of Directors itself instead of the general USA Fencing membership. The Chair position will generally hold most responsibilities that the President currently holds, plus the responsibilities of a member of the Board. This is slightly different from the current Presidential position which, for example, only casts a Board vote when there are ties. Previously, Presidents were limited to 2 terms, but now Chairs do not have any specifically set term limits beyond any limits imposed by their membership of the Board itself.
Another change includes moving the elected Treasurer role into a non-voting/advisor role that is selected directly by the Board of Directors. The impact of this change is generally much smaller than the President changes, as the Treasurer candidates have almost always run completely unopposed.
Changing the nature of the President and Treasurer roles will open up 2 new At-Large spaces on the board, which will be up for election in 2024. Other changes proposed include implementing a more staggered election cycle for the board, which will involve temporarily extending the term of some of the members of the Board until their next respective election comes up. By 2026, all At-Large Directors will be serving 4 years terms, up from 2 years. This would bring the Board’s composition to 5 At-Large Directors who are elected by the general USA Fencing membership and who are eligible for the Chair position; 4 Athlete Directors; and 3 Independent Directors for a total of 12 Directors.
In compliance with the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, the changes include language describing the role of an Amateur Fencing Organization Director, if necessary. This is to provide higher level representation for qualifying amateur independent organizations inside the sport (for example, high school or collegiate fencing organizations).
The bylaws would also be modified to include a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Committee which will be a 6-person committee serving in an advisory role to the Board. The role of the DEIB Committee will be generally to “provide meaningful opportunities to advise the organization, and increase the presence and protection of underrepresented communities within USFA governance”.
Other broad changes include cleaning up the language across the bylaws to be more neutral.
For more commentary and narrative on why these changes were proposed, as well as a bit more detail on certain topics, please see the the Governance Task Force report itself from USA Fencing. USA Fencing is soliciting feedback on these changes until August 26, 2021, which can be sent to [email protected]. An existing community discussion on the changes can be found on the /r/Fencing subreddit.