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RVC Columns


Happy New Year to everyone in Region 10! With the holidays behind us, there wasn't much activity to report on from the National front, although various committees have been hard at work.

I've been working with the Communications Committee to update the Internet Communications Services policy (Appendix 23 in the Actions Still In Effect, or ASIEs). There hasn't been a substantial overhaul of these guidelines since they were first established in 2005, so it's due for review. Some of it covers regulations that we are required to observe with our websites and social media, such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act) (don't you just love government acronyms?), both of which are still in effect, but there are other topics to cover with the proliferation of social media sites since then, such as how to maintain ownership of Facebook or Meetup groups if the person who established them is no longer available for whatever reason and the passwords are lost. Much to think about on that topic.

I have also been working with the AML History Committee to pull together a history of officers and committee members over time. In 1997, Vincent Bonzagni compiled a "Book of Lists" from the beginnings of Mensa in 1946 through the establishment of American Mensa (then "North American Mensa" in 1965) and up to November 1997, but no comprehensive lists have been maintained for member perusal since that time. The charge of this committee includes formatting and setting up the information so it will be viable for online viewing, but the first step is to collect the data.

Other committees have been moving along as well, such as the Gifted Youth Committee, which is almost finished updating its Gifted Youth Program Handbook. And the Community Services Committee is getting ready to announce Mensa Cares Week in April, soliciting community projects from Local Groups to show that Mensa is fulfilling its Constitutional purpose to use our intelligence for the benefit of humanity.

That's just four committees, out of 25 that were identified in a list provided to the AMC members by Executive Director Trevor Mitchell (not including the AMC, or American Mensa Committee, that oversees all of them). We're always in need of members to serve on these committees, so of COURSE we are setting up a new committee, with the Volunteerism Task Force charged to generate recommendations to improve volunteer levels and satisfaction in Mensa at the local and national levels. The intention is that this committee will complete its charge by this coming December, so we don't permanently add to the list of committees.

That said, there isn't enough room in this column to outline ALL of the committees, so I'm going to provide a breakdown to Dan Tobias, our Region 10 webmaster, so you can see if there are committees that you might like to help with. I also hope to find more Regional assistants to help our local groups with their projects. We already have Julie Warriner serving as Regional Scholarship Chair, but we also need a Regional Ombudsman to assist with the gap between Local Group issues and National issues, and some groups have been looking for assistance from a Regional Young Adult Mensan (YAM) Coordinator. I will be posting job descriptions for these and more on the Region 10 website (region10.us.mensa.org) as well as to the Mensa Region 10 Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/).

Finally, I will be holding an RVC Chat session at the Central Florida Regional Gathering ("It's All Sun ‘n' Games") on Friday, January 14th to Monday, January 17th. If you have any questions about these topics or anything else, I hope to see you then, or as always you can reach me at RVC10@us.mensa.org.


Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for December

The quarterly meeting of the AMC was held on Saturday, November 13 in Charlotte, NC in conjunction with the Sweet Carolina RG hosted by Charlotte-Blue Ridge Mensa. There were several agenda items to discuss.

The first two items regarded committee appointments. Jessica Ellis-Wilson of Boston Mensa was appointed Chair of the Diversity Committee, and five members were appointed to the Election Committee: Michele Clemente of Greater New York Mensa (Chair), Lowell Aplebaum of Metropolitan Washington Mensa, Jennifer Morris of San Diego Mensa, Scott Smith of Chicago Area Mensa, and Lee Stillman of Central New Jersey Mensa. The Election Committee appointments had been on the Consent Agenda but were moved to the regular agenda because one member wanted to abstain. (Consent agenda items are considered unanimously approved; this time around it included acceptance of officer reports and AMC Committee appointments). Both of these motions passed.

The next two motions were Finance related. One related to the Life Membership Fund policy, which was last updated in 2013, to clarify the language and intent by defining the principal of the fund, defining when the fund gets updated, changing the term “interest” to “investment returns”, and adding a sentence regarding reinvestment in the fund. There was no financial impact of this motion. The other motion involved updating the deadlines for cancellations and refunds for AGs, which had previously been set to 10 days prior to the event, but hotel and event contracts have evolved since the policy was set in 2014, and more flexibility is required going forward. Both of these motions passed as well.

The last motions were more complicated than they appeared at first glance, and engendered the most discussion. They involved changes to the use of membership lists, and were a response to the fallout from the Oral History Project. Everyone agreed that some safeguards need to be put in place to prevent some of the negative impact of the recent event. However, these motions were seen as rushed, as there was significant disagreement on the language of the motions and potential unintended consequences of passing them as written. While these had been moved by Robin Crawford from her vantage point as Communications Officer with input by the National Office, the motions created potential obstacles to plans by the Membership Committee (Kimberly Strickland), the Marketing Committee (Tabby Vos), and other projects planned by the Research Review Committee. There was disagreement about who would review future messages, concern that the wording of the motions would change member preferences that had already been set by the members, and several other issues. Rather than vote on the motions as written, or wordsmithing them during the meeting and creating other unintended issues, it was decided to commit these motions back to Robin, Kimberly and Tabby to resolve the concerns and bring the motions back by mid-February for discussion and approval during the next quarterly meeting on March 19, 2022.

Details of the agenda can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ under the dropdown "2021-11-13 - Charlotte, NC".


Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for November

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AMC will be held on Saturday, November 13 in Charlotte, NC in conjunction with the Sweet Carolina RG hosted by Charlotte-Blue Ridge Mensa. The agenda had not been set as of the deadline for this column, but it will be posted before the end of October at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/.


As I noted in my September column, the Mensa Oral History Project was launched on August 3 with an email to the full membership, explaining the project and providing a link to be able to opt out if not interested. Additional notices were sent out to local group officers on August 10 and August 24 via the Mensa Leader e-newsletter, and to members subscribed to the Mensa Wired e-newsletter on August 17. We thought we had covered our bases in letting members know about the project, but we were blindsided by the method used by the company (PCI) to implement it. As a result, emails and postcards were sent using PCI's boilerplate messaging, which looked a lot like phishing to many members (and to several of us on the AMC as well). The yellow postcard went out with the header "IMPORTANT NOTICE" and didn't mention the Oral History Project at all, except in the return address.

The second message that went out corrected this with input from Communications Officer Robin Crawford, and explained upfront that the primary purpose was to gather stories for the oral history. Unfortunately, by that time the well had been poisoned, with many members certain that their privacy had been compromised. While this is not the case, it's harder to gain back trust after it is lost than it is to maintain it in the first place, and this has been damaging in ways no one had anticipated. This is particularly disappointing to me as a member of the AML History Committee, since I believe in the value of the project. I want to emphasize that member information has not been sold (or given away) for any purpose outside of gathering stories from members. The company is bound by their contract to use the information solely for this project, and to offer to sell the final book of stories to members while gathering the information, but not for any other purpose. There will be additional messages sent out in November and December, but you can opt out of additional contact from the company by going to https://members.us.mensa.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=CommPref, scrolling down to the Project box, and unchecking the Mensa Oral History Project box to stop receiving messages.

On a positive note, many members did take the opportunity to update their contact information after the first contact, and over 8,000 phone numbers were updated and/or added. This is the sort of information that is not kept up to date when a member's address changes, so this was a side benefit of the project. You do not need to contact PCI to make updates to your profile, however. You can update your information yourself online by visiting "My Mensa" directly at https://www.us.mensa.org/profile/ where you have the opportunity to view your phone number, address, and email on file, and edit them if they are incorrect or missing.

The FAQ about the project (at https://www.us.mensa.org/featured-content/american-mensa-oral-history-project/) has been updated to answer many of the questions that have been asked, but if you have additional questions or concerns, please let me know.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/


As noted in my previous column, the quarterly meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was held on Thursday, August 26, 2021 at the World Gathering in Houston, TX. There were no changes to the agenda I previously announced, and all motions passed. We did break into executive session to review a hearings committee report, but no actions came out of that session.

Taz Criss pulled double-duty during the World Gathering, not just running a tremendously complicated event under unprecedented circumstances, but also providing her Treasurer's report at both the AMC meeting and the Annual Business Meeting (more on that below). Her full presentation is available at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/, but she made one important announcement that I'd like to note here. Over 12 years ago American Mensa filed a trademark protection lawsuit when it appeared another company was appropriating the Mensa brand as part of its marketing. (I won't go into details on that; it preceded my time on the AMC and members have had endless arguments since then about the appropriateness of the lawsuit, with no indication that those members will ever come to a consensus on the issues involved.) One common misconception about that lawsuit was that Mensa went into debt to pay for it (all going to legal fees and related documentation). In her Treasurer's report, Taz reiterated that contrary to rumor, Mensa did not borrow any money for the lawsuit, but that it was entirely self-funded. We did take money from our investment funds to pay for the suit, but the Life Membership fund was paid back years ago, and the 3-to-5-year member fund was paid back in August. So, all funds used for that lawsuit have now been paid back in full.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AMC will be held on Saturday, November 13 in Charlotte, NC in conjunction with the Sweet Carolina RG hosted by Charlotte-Blue Ridge Mensa. The agenda for the meeting will be posted before the end of October at the link above.


The Annual Business Meeting (ABM) was scheduled on Friday, August 27 as a hybrid on-line and in-person meeting. In order to comply with New York law (American Mensa Ltd. is chartered in New York), all members attending whether in-person or remotely needed to have the same opportunity to participate, so members were asked to register in advance so everyone would have the voting tool to conduct business. Unfortunately, although there were sufficient pre-registrations to ensure a quorum, at the meeting itself too few members actually attended, and the meeting could not be called to order. The State of the Organization reports were provided by the previous year's officers (LaRae Bakerink (Chair), Taz Criss (Treasurer), Charlie Steinhice (Foundation President) and Trevor Mitchell (Executive Director)), but the minutes of the 2020 ABM could not be approved. Nevertheless, documents for the meeting, including the American Mensa and Mensa Foundation audited financial statements, can be found online at https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/calendar/entries/2021-abm/. We'll try again at next year's ABM on July 8, 2022 in Sparks, NV.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

THE TENTH STORY for September

The quarterly meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC), usually held in September, took place on Thursday, August 26 at the World Gathering in Houston, TX. Since I am writing this column prior to the meeting I do not have any details yet, but since this is taking place so soon after the July meeting, it was expected to be a brief meeting, and the agenda only included two motions.

The first was a change to the ASIEs to resolve conflicts in the procedures for appointing National Representatives (NatReps) to the International Board of Directors (IBD). In the earlier version, one section gave the Chair discretion on the appointments, while another section gave the approval to the AMC. The revision made it clear that the AMC must approve the appointments, and that the NatReps must be voting members of the AMC. Theoretically, as the ASIE was originally written, the Chair could have appointed anyone - friends or family, Mensan or non-Mensan - to these positions, but this motion makes it clear that the NatReps should have a first level of approval from the membership via election, either as one of the nationally elected officers or one of the RVCs in case any of the nationally elected officers could not serve.

The second motion was to set the location for the 2025 Annual Gathering. The proposed site for 2025 is Chicago, IL in July 2025.

The AMC also serves as the voting members of the Mensa Foundation, and we voted on the appointment of Deb Stone (former AMC Chair) to serve as Foundation Trustee until the annual meeting of the Mensa Foundation in 2024.


At the beginning of August an email went out to the membership launching an Oral History project in partnership with Publishing Concepts (PCI) to gather stories from Mensa members about their experiences in Mensa, with the goal of creating a book for members to purchase. Postcards and emails with more details will be sent to members in late September, but PCI will not be provided with member data. Lapsed members will not be included, since only current members will be invited to participate.

This will be the first collected history of Mensa in 25 years, following Vince Bonzagni's "Mensa Book Of Lists" in November 1997. As a member of the AML History Committee, I hope you will consider participating in the project.


With the resurgence of the COVID pandemic in Florida, most local group meetings have still not resumed. Those that are happening are subject to the requirements of the host of the event. A host has the right to require proof of vaccination or not, as they choose. This restriction is permitted per the ASIEs (Actions Still In Effect) of American Mensa, as only official meetings (business meetings or those hosted by the local group itself) are required to be open to all members. Social events are specifically excluded from the definition of official meetings, per Article 12 Section E(3) of the ASIEs. For full details, the ASIEs can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/policydocuments/actions-still-in-effect/.

Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas


The quarterly meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was held on July 10, 2021 at the new American Mensa headquarters in Hurst, TX. The meeting was simulcast via YouTube for members who wished to observe, although because there were no cameras in the conference room, it consisted of audio and PowerPoint presentations. It also started with an extended period of silence for the observers, since the first order of business was handled in executive session to discuss volunteer and personnel issues.

During the session, the four appointed officers to the AMC were confirmed, including Charlie Steinhice as Director of Science and Education and Tabby Vos as Marketing Officer (both continuing from the previous term), and Robin Crawford as Communications Officer and Kimberly Strickland as Membership Officer. Robin was the 2019 recipient of the Margot Award "for the rendering of exceptional service to Mensa for a number of years", including serving as Communications Officer several years ago. Dr. Strickland is a new addition to the AMC, and brings expertise in Marketing that she uses in MBA instruction in Marketing and Organizational Design. All four will be serving for the one-year terms that are traditional for the appointed positions, and I look forward to working with all of them.

Other business conducted during the meeting were approval of Action Committees and their appointees, appointment of Committee chairs, acceptance of the 2020-2021 financial audit, appointment of the 2023 Annual Gathering co-chairs, and the selection of Lora Mitchell (RVC 3) as the RVC representative to the AMC Executive Committee.

Regional Vice Chairs (RVCs) are expected to serve on a number of national committees, and during this meeting I was appointed to three Action Committees (Bylaws Committee, Community Service Committee, and Finance and Audit Committee). Each Action Committee requires a minimum of three voting members of the AMC to approve any actions taken by their committee. I will also serve as the AMC Liaison for the AML History Committee and the Gifted Youth Committee. The Liaison serves as representative to the AMC on behalf of the committee when the chair is not a member of the AMC.

The next meeting of the AMC will be at the World Gathering in Houston on Thursday, August 26, 2021.


During the World Gathering (August 24-29), I will be holding a Meet-and-Greet for Region 10 members (and any guests who wish to attend) on Wednesday, August 25 from 10:30 AM to 11:45 AM. I'll also be attending the Broward Mensa meet-and-greet on August 26 at 4:30 PM (that is, if the AMC meeting is over by then). I will also be co-moderating a small-group discussion session with John Neemidge (RVC 6) entitled "Best Practices for Local Groups by Size" on Friday, August 27 from 3:00 PM to 4:15 PM. This is one of 11 Leadership Development Workshops that will be held during the Gathering, ranging from getting Area groups going to Succession Planning and The Future of Mensa.

To those who will be attending, I hope I get a chance to meet you at one of these sessions.


Until next month (or until I see you online),

Thomas George Thomas
Email: RVC10@us.mensa.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.g.thomas

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