TxA’s Response to the Proposed New Governance

A Letter from Bill T. Wilson, FAIA

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First, I fully support the concept of repositioning the AIA. However, I do not support the current proposed redesign of our governance model.

I urge all members to look closely and with a critical eye at the proposed governance model. As all Architects know, good or bad is contained within the details of a given design. Many of the unintended consequences of this proposal are evident to even a casual observer. If we truly care about the future of the Institute, we should follow the old adage from the medical profession, “First, do no harm.”

One can make a compelling argument that the proposed governance model is a “solution in search of a problem”. It is clear that a singular objective in the new model is reducing the size of the current board. However, those who designed the proposed new model used the proverbial “hatchet” when the task called for surgical precision.

The current National Board size is fifty-three (53) individuals including our CEO. Of this number, eight (8) members are officers that are elected by all voting delegates of the Institute. Thirty-seven (37) members of the Board are Regional Directors. These Regional Representatives are elected by their own regional membership. The locally elected Regional Director is the core of our current board. Each Director reports directly to and is accountable to their regional components and membership. The proposed governance model removes all directly elected Regional Directors from the Board and places them on a “Strategy Council”. This proposed Council will have no policy making authority, will have no fiduciary responsibility, and will have no direct authority.

Under the proposed new governance model, only eight (8) “At Large” members of the Strategy Council would be elected to the Board. It is likely that at least one Student/Associate and a CACE representative would fill at least two (2) of the eight (8) available positions. This will place a practical maximum of six (6) Regional Directors on the National Board………a huge reduction from our current thirty-seven (37) representatives. Additionally, these “At Large” representatives would be elected by the Strategy Council, not by their respective regions. How can this model possibly achieve more transparency and regional accountability? The answer is simple: it cannot and will not do so!

My regional component works very well with a board of thirty-three (33). Having served as a Regional Director on the AIA Board, it is my personal opinion that the size of our national board is not the source of many of our problems. Agenda management is a far larger problem than board size.

It is my belief that the Institute has made great progress in restoring member trust over the last several years. We should continue to work to become a more responsible, transparent and member driven organization. This proposed governance model will not accomplish these goals!

2. The proposed model will reduce transparency and accountability. It will reduce the opportunity to engage more Associates and Interns in a meaningful leadership experience. It will effectively eliminate our leadership incubator. It will remove the essential communications conduit that has long existed between the National Board of Directors and the Regional Components. By extension, this will reduce the opportunity for our members’ voices to be heard.

Voting authority on the financial matters of the Institute by Regional Directors is a core concept of accountable representation. It is the first basic responsibility of a Regional Director. This proposed governance model seems to be designed to appeal to those board members who prefer to avoid the “heavy lifting” that comes with this position of responsibility.

While it may be possible to design a more efficient and possibly a slightly smaller Board, a successful model must include the following:

  • Directly elected Regional Directors with fiduciary responsibility (voting authority) – no less than 12 to 24 Regional Directors;
  • Proportional regional representation of membership;
  • Representation positions for Associates, Students and CACE.

By maintaining these core principles and by focusing on more effectively managing the work of the Board, leadership can move the Institute forward.

We can ill afford to implement a small, elite, and effectively closed club to run the financial matters of the Institute. One of the difficulties facing leadership and staff in any member organization is this………it would be so much easier to operate and manage if you didn’t have to put up with all those pesky members!

I urge you to demand the responsible and wise redesign of our National Board. Be a “pesky” member of the AIA, demand representation and accountability

Bill T. Wilson II, FAIA

2010-2012 Regional Director
2001 President – Texas Architects
1988 President – AIA Corpus Christi Chapter