Policies for Forums and Allied Organizations
This guide describes the policies of MLA forums—their purpose and function, their structure and formation, and their governance. It also describes MLA policies regarding allied organizations. All correspondence concerning these policies should be sent to the MLA convention office. The e-mail address for the convention office is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As part of its continuing efforts to make the MLA Annual Convention more responsive to members’ needs, at its May 2011 meeting the Executive Council began the process of examining the division and discussion group structure that was established in 1974. While consideration was being given to a reorganization of the divisions and discussion groups, the council did not accept applications for division, discussion group, or allied organization status.
The new forum structure that replaces the divisions and discussion groups went into effect on 16 May 2015. New applications for allied organization status can once again be submitted as specified in these policies. Only petitions for preauthorized new forums can be submitted for review in fall 2015 according to the procedures set out on MLA Commons. Starting in 2016, consideration will be given to petitions for new forums whether preauthorized or not. The procedures governing the submission of these petitions are set out below.
Definition. The MLA forums encompass the scholarly and professional concerns of the association. Taken together, they provide a map—linguistic, temporal, and geographic—of the discipline of language and literature studies and of its connections to other disciplines. They do not, however, focus on individual authors (except Chaucer and Shakespeare) or groups of authors or on themes or motifs. The forums are not autonomous organizations but are an integral part of the MLA; they have no corporate identity beyond that afforded by the MLA, and they may not use the name of the association for any project or program unless specifically authorized to do so by the Executive Council.
Purpose of the forums. Forums promote scholarly and professional activities within their areas of concern. The executive committees of the forums arrange sessions at the MLA Annual Convention, elect representatives to serve in the MLA Delegate Assembly, and provide information of interest to their members through association periodicals or mailings to forum members. Forums advise appropriate MLA committees on research and pedagogical needs in their fields of interest and may propose to the Executive Council projects that the association might wish to undertake.
Forum membership. At the time of paying their annual dues, MLA members have the option of identifying up to five forums with which they wish to establish a primary affiliation. A primary affiliation is maintained as part of a member’s record for governance purposes; it entitles the member to receive all mailings initiated by the forum and to vote for members of its executive committee. MLA members also have the option of participating in as many forum groups on MLA Commons as they wish. Joining a Commons group does not establish a primary affiliation.
Forum governance. Forums are governed by five-member executive committees, which are solely responsible for conducting the forum’s business. Each committee member serves a term of five convention years and serves as secretary of the forum in the third year of that term and as chair in the fourth year. All committee members must have a primary affiliation with the forum. Executive committees may appoint individuals to nonvoting ex officio seats on the committee and appoint such other officers as they deem appropriate, but only the five elected executive committee members are entitled to vote on forum business. The committee carries on the major part of its business at a closed committee meeting held during the convention, and thus members who agree to stand for election to an executive committee will normally attend the convention. At other times of the year, executive committees may conduct their business through correspondence initiated by the committee’s chair. Periodically the MLA will arrange a meeting at the convention for forum executive committees to discuss governance issues and convention programming.
Elections. One new member is elected annually to each forum executive committee by mail or electronic ballot. The slate of candidates is established by the forum executive committee as follows. Voting members of the forum’s executive committee are responsible for nominating one candidate for each vacancy on the executive committee and for reviewing all the nominees suggested by the membership at large and choosing from these at least one candidate to be paired with the executive committee’s choice. Members may suggest nominations by writing or typing in the name of an individual to be considered for nomination in the space reserved for such on the paper ballot for the annual MLA election or at the MLA Web site, by sending a letter to the MLA coordinator of governance naming a potential candidate, or by responding to a solicitation from the executive committee. An executive committee that solicits nominations directly from the forum’s membership must send relevant documentation to the coordinator of governance. Any individual proposed by ten members must be included by the executive committee on the slate of candidates. If there are fewer than three suggestions from the membership, the executive committee is encouraged to give serious consideration to these suggestions but is not required to use them. If there are no suggestions from the membership, the executive committee nominates both candidates. Before their names are placed on the ballot, nominees must agree to accept the nomination. Only current MLA members are eligible for nomination. Seven convention years must elapse before an individual can serve another term on the same executive committee. No member may serve on more than one executive committee at a given time. Executive committee vacancies arising from death, resignation, or failure to maintain membership in the association will be filled at the next election, provided that the replacement committee member will have the opportunity to serve as forum secretary and forum chair; two nominees to fill such vacancies are selected by the remaining members of the executive committee.
Responsibilities of the executive committee. The committee, as a committee, is responsible for conducting the following items of business at its closed meeting during the annual convention: (1) electing from the primary forum membership a representative to the Delegate Assembly whenever a vacancy occurs; (2) selecting at least two nominees, as described above, and at least two alternates for election to the executive committee; (3) selecting a current member of the executive committee to assume all or part of the responsibilities of either the chair or the secretary in any year in which the individual whose turn it is to hold that office is unable to serve (e.g., is spending a sabbatical year abroad); (4) planning programs or special projects to promote the forum’s scholarly or professional concerns and submitting such programs or projects to the MLA office for referral to appropriate MLA committees or to the Executive Council. Unless at least three of the five voting members of a forum’s executive committee will be present at the meeting held during the annual convention, the above items of business must be conducted through correspondence or a conference call initiated by the committee’s chair. If only three or four of the committee’s members will be present, the absent member(s) must be consulted before the meeting and their views conveyed to other committee members before votes are taken.
Responsibilities of the chair. During his or her fourth year on the executive committee, a member serves as committee chair, with the following speciﬁc responsibilities: (1) with the advice and consent of other committee members, planning and arranging (i.e., soliciting papers, inviting speakers, etc.) the session(s) sponsored by the forum at the annual convention (if a forum chooses to appoint a separate program chair, these duties are entrusted to that individual); (2) arranging the committee’s closed meeting during the annual convention under the conditions described in the previous paragraph, notifying the members of the committee and MLA headquarters of the time and place of that meeting, and chairing the meeting.
Responsibilities of the secretary. During his or her third year on the executive committee, a member serves as committee secretary, with the following specific responsibilities: (1) throughout the year, handling correspondence directed to the forum’s executive committee by individual members; (2) forwarding to the MLA office, for referral to appropriate MLA committees or to the Executive Council, proposals for publications or special projects that might be undertaken by the association; (3) reporting to the MLA coordinator of governance at the end of January (by which time the secretary has become the chair) the names of the individuals nominated by the executive committee for election to the committee and the name of the individual elected to represent the forum in the Delegate Assembly and reporting to the MLA convention office information about the forum’s sessions for the next convention.
Participation in forum activities. Although anyone who has registered for the annual convention may attend convention sessions arranged by a forum, only MLA members may establish primary forum affiliations or participate in forums’ projects and programs.
Forum projects. In promoting activities within their forums, executive committees are encouraged to confer with the MLA staff about proposals for special programs or publications that the association might undertake. The staff will refer these programs or publications to the appropriate MLA committees or to the Executive Council. Proposals might include the preparation of research tools (bibliographies, indexes, guides), textbooks, or periodicals or the arrangement of national or international conferences. A forum may also affiliate with a periodical. As part of the affiliation, the editor of the periodical must serve as an ex officio member of the forum executive committee and meet annually with the forum executive committee. The MLA office must be kept fully informed of all such projects and affiliations.
Communications with forum participants and forum members. A forum’s executive committee can communicate with the members who have joined the forum’s group on MLA Commons at any time. An executive committee that wishes to communicate with the members who have a primary affiliation with the forum (e.g., for governance purposes) will need to request a mailing list from the convention office. Forum mailing lists are the sole property of the MLA. Lists will be rented only for the distribution of material that is of bona fide professional interest. Once each convention year forum chairs can request an electronic list of the e-mail addresses of the primary members of their forum. (Lists should be requested before 1 Dec.) The electronic list may be used several times during the year as long as the messages are in keeping with the MLA’s status as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and are in keeping with the MLA’s purposes. A copy of each message sent using this list must be sent to the convention office for approval before it is sent. If the chair receives requests from members to be taken off the mailing list, the chair must comply immediately. Chairs should note that this list does not contain all primary members of the forum but only those members who have consented to make their e-mail addresses available.
Creation of new forums. Members whose interests are not adequately accommodated through the existing forums may petition the Executive Council, through the Program Committee, for the creation of a new forum. Such a petition should (1) justify the need for a forum in the area of concern, (2) explain how interest in the subject has developed and cite meetings that give evidence of this interest, and (3) contain the signatures of at least thirty-five current MLA members. Petitions must be received by 15 May of the year preceding the year in which the forum would begin functioning. Petitions will be reviewed by the Program Committee, which will make recommendations to the Executive Council. Approval by the Executive Council would result in a three-year period of provisional status; the forum would be reviewed before receiving permanent status.
Review of forums. Forums with permanent status are subject to review every five years by the Program Committee, which is charged by the MLA constitution with responsibility for general supervision over forums and for making recommendations to the Executive Council concerning their number and the fields represented. Such reviews help the association to ensure continuing responsiveness to changing interests of the membership.
Forums that are due to be reviewed will be notified at least six months in advance and asked to submit the following materials electronically: (1) a brief history of the forum since the last review and a self-evaluation that includes a description and analysis of the forum’s general and particular significance, its activities, the stability or growth of its membership, its programs at the MLA convention (including attendance figures), and any other relevant materials; (2) evidence of ongoing activity since the last review; (3) evidence that the forum has involved a large and diverse portion of its membership in its activities, including convention programs. For the Program Committee’s periodic review of forums, the electronic listings of sessions organized for the five most recent conventions are available on the MLA Web site.
The result of this review will be either renewal of the forum for another five years, provisional renewal for a shorter period, or suspension. Forums not supplying the information requested for review will be suspended. Suspended forums may appeal to the Executive Council or reapply for forum status no sooner than two years from the date of suspension.
2. Allied Organizations
Definitions. Allied organizations are learned societies or professional associations whose interests encompass disciplines represented by the MLA and whose purposes and activities are closely allied to those of the MLA. Since many of their members may also be MLA members, holding sessions during the MLA convention helps attract the maximum number of persons who share their interests. Further, these sessions enrich the range and diversity of the convention offerings. Allied organizations are, however, independent of the association and thus may not use the MLA logo or other trademarked material that would suggest MLA oversight or sponsorship.
Allied organizations may arrange one guaranteed session of one hour and fifteen minutes for the convention. Allied organizations also have the possibility of organizing up to two additional sessions; these proposed sessions will be reviewed by the Program Committee (see Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention, sec. 7).
Allied organizations have the opportunity to request space at the convention during the 8:45–10:00 p.m. time slot on Thursday and Saturday for business meetings, social events, or informal networking. The space will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis and must be requested using the form available on the MLA Web site. The events will only be listed on the MLA Web site (see Procedures for Organizing Meetings at the MLA Convention, sec. 8).
Requests for allied organization status. Qualifying organizations that would like to be considered for allied organization status should submit a written request to the Program Committee, which will make recommendations to the Executive Council. At the time of application, organizations must have been in existence for at least six years and have had in effect for at least six years a constitution or set of bylaws that provides opportunities for all members to participate in the full range of operations of the organization. Before the Executive Council considers an application, a representative of the sponsoring organization must have held special sessions at two or more different MLA conventions.
Requests must include (1) a statement of the organization’s purpose, the date the organization was founded, and its reasons for wishing to arrange meetings at the MLA convention; (2) a copy of the organization’s constitution or bylaws, with the date of adoption; (3) a sample membership application; (4) a statement of the number of current members; (5) a description of the dues structure; (6) samples of publications and official communications to members over the past four years; (7) details of the special sessions organized by a representative of the organization. In considering whether organizations should be admitted to allied status and whether they should continue as an allied organization, the Program Committee will make qualitative judgments about an organization’s scholarly publication(s). Applications must be received by 15 May. Applications will be reviewed in the fall of the year that the application is received. If the organization is granted allied status, program copy may be submitted for the 1 April deadline of the following year.
Review of allied organizations. The Program Committee will review the status of each allied organization every seven years; organizations that are due to be reviewed will be notified at least six months in advance and asked to submit the following materials electronically: (1) a brief history of the organization since the last review and a self-evaluation that includes a description and analysis of the organization’s general and particular significance, its activities, the stability or growth of its membership, its programs at the MLA convention (including attendance figures), and any other relevant materials; (2) evidence of ongoing activity since the last review; (3) evidence that the organization has involved a large and diverse portion of its membership in its activities, including convention programs. For the Program Committee’s periodic review of allied organizations, the electronic listings of sessions organized for the five most recent conventions are available on the MLA Web site.
The result of this review will be either renewal of allied status for another seven years, provisional renewal for a shorter period, or suspension. Organizations not supplying the information requested for review will be suspended. Suspended organizations may appeal to the Executive Council or reapply for allied organization status no sooner than two years from the date of suspension.