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RVC Columns

THE TENTH STORY for July

At this writing, the agenda for the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting in July has not been finalized, so I cannot provide details. However, I will post notices on the Region 10 Mensa Connect community and the Region 10 Facebook group once the agenda has been finalized. By the time you read this, the agenda for both the AMC meeting and the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) plus the quarterly reports from officers and committees should be available at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/.

The AMC meeting will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2022 in conjunction with the Mensa Annual Gathering (AG) at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, NV, and the ABM will be held the next day, on Friday, July 8. I expect that members who are not in attendance at the AG will be able to listen in on the AMC meeting via a link to be provided in early July, or via a recording posted after the meeting. At this time, I do not know if the ABM will be similarly recorded (it was not last year).

____________________________________

Before each AG, the Mensa Foundation presents a full-day Colloquium on a single major topic, with this year's topic on July 5 being "Giftedness Across The Lifespan: A More Complete Picture". Speakers will present on topics ranging from emotional and social lives of gifted youth, careers and work environments of gifted adults, aging and support for gifted elders, and more. For the first time, the Colloquium will include a livestream option, so members who cannot attend in person can still participate, both in observing the presentations and participating in the question & answer sessions. There is a (discounted) fee of $99 for virtual registration, or $79 for Mensa members, with an additional $20 discount for students. More information can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/colloquium/.

____________________________________

Over the past year the Volunteerism Task Force has worked on examining volunteerism in social organizations in general and providing recommendations to improve volunteer levels and satisfaction in Mensa, with a final report to be included for the July meeting. This report will be included with the committee reports at the link referenced above. The report is comprehensive, and will be valuable at the local group, regional, and national levels.

____________________________________

One of the places I need to improve upon in this area is getting more volunteer involvement at the Regional level. While I have focused on attending Local Group business meetings when I could, I have not been able to put as much time into the various project-level positions in the Region. For instance, all local groups should have some sort of Gifted Youth program, but I'm not fully qualified to help with that.

A better approach would be to have a Regional Gifted Youth Coordinator to help the local group Gifted Youth Coordinators with advice and support. While I have been managing the Region 10 social media, having an individual serving as a Region 10 Social Media Coordinator to advise and support the local groups would be more efficient. There are a significant number of young adult Mensans, but I'm not in that demographic anymore (however much I wish I were), and having a Regional Young Adult Mensan (YAM) Coordinator to help encourage and develop YAM programs in local groups would be invaluable. And so forth.

To this end, and to help identify leadership beyond the local group level, I will be posting Region 10 Coordinator positions on the Volunteer Marketplace (https://www.us.mensa.org/volunteer/volunteer-marketplace/). In addition to the positions already mentioned, I'll be looking to appoint a Regional Ombudsman, Regional Testing Coordinator, Regional Membership Coordinator, and more. I'll announce these on the Region 10 social media platforms (links below) as I complete each posting. If you're interested in any of these, or have any feedback to offer, please read up on the descriptions and 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.thomasMensa Connect https://connect.us.mensa.org/communities/local-groups/region-10
Region 10 Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

THE TENTH STORY for June

The next meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) will be held on Thursday, July 7, 2022 in conjunction with the Mensa Annual Gathering at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, NV. The Annual Business Meeting will be held the next day, on Friday, July 8. The agendas are not yet available, but will be posted at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ in June.

For those who attend the Annual Gathering, I will be hosting a Region 10 Meet and Greet on Wednesday, July 6 at 3:00 p.m. Come and meet other Region 10 members and discuss topics of interest - I look forward to seeing you there!

____________________________________

In last month's column, I mentioned the clean-up of the Actions Still In Effect (ASIEs) Appendix 23: Policy and Guidelines for Administrators of Internet Communication Services. Following that, Mensa Connect was updated on May 10. This did not have a large impact on the Communities, but did require that users logging into Mensa Connect sign a one-time agreement to the Terms of Service before they may post or reply to comments (they may still receive posts from their respective Communities).

Included in the Terms of Service were limits to content and behavior for participants in the Communities. Unfortunately, there were some members who immediately tested these limits, but fortunately the moderators were on top of it and blocked and removed the offending comments. It is hoped that this will make the national discussions less toxic and more inviting to our members. I am pleased to say that we have not had any similar problems in the Region 10 Community, or any of the Local Group Communities in Region 10.

To view the Terms of Service, visit https://connect.us.mensa.org/termsandconditions294. It may require that you log in to read them. As thorough as they seem, they do not address all possible circumstances but provide guidelines for how the communities may be used. The moderators have broad discretion, since every bright line rule we may provide tends to invite some gamesters to look for ways to get around them, which only leads to endless arguments about rules (which is not conducive to a friendly environment for the rest of the membership).

____________________________________

In last month's column I also mentioned that the proposed Criminal Acts Task Force was committed back to Beth Anne Demeter (RVC 7), who was to be the Chair of that Task Force, for revisions to the charter. I was not persuaded that the original charter as provided addressed the broader concern of member safety that I had been hearing from several members. I am fully in favor of a Member Safety Task Force, because it has become clear that some members have been threatening to others, without clear recourse on how to deal with the issues. We already have a process for addressing member complaints (Appendix 3 of the ASIEs), but it is not well-understood or implemented, and that needs to be corrected and enhanced as necessary. The ASIEs can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/policydocuments/actions-still-in-effect/, and can be easily navigated via the table of contents.

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/

THE TENTH STORY for May

The quarterly meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) was held on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the American Mensa/Mensa Foundation headquarters in Hurst, TX. There were ten motions on the agenda, plus some housekeeping items in the Consent Agenda. All but one of these motions (the establishment of a Criminal Acts Task Force) passed. Full details of the motions and the accompanying documents can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/

The first motion, carried over from the November meeting, clarified changes to the use of membership lists. Due to concerns with the rollout of the Oral History Project, it was deemed necessary to place additional controls around the way member communication preferences are observed. This motion ensures that a member's third-party communication preferences are carried over to any new communication categories, such as the Projects category that was created for the Oral History Project. There will also be communication efforts to advise members of such novel programs before they begin, so members have a chance to opt in or out of the program as they choose.

The next three motions were finance related. The budget for the upcoming year is always voted on at the spring AMC meeting, and the draft budget, which was approved, can be found at the link above. Next was the appointment of the Auditor, to audit our financial statements and tax filings, which is also done each year. Thirdly, a Three-&-Five Year Membership Fund was officially established. This is similar to the Life Member Fund, and has existed for many years, but we have not had formal documentation of this fund until now.

The next two motions concerned the establishment of new Task Forces. Due to some process issues, the Volunteerism Task Force and Criminal Acts Task Force were created at the beginning of this term without the approval of the AMC, as required by our ASIEs (Actions Still In Effect). While the Volunteerism Task Force was approved by acclamation, the Criminal Acts Task Force was debated at length (as can be heard in the recording at the link above). Because of some of the concerns about the charter for this task force, it was committed back to Beth Anne Demeter (RVC 7) until the next meeting in July for further refinement.

The last four motions were all Communications related. First was a housekeeping motion to remove the Communications Officer as the administrator for AML Forums, which no longer exist as originally defined, and which currently extend beyond the Communication Officer's responsibilities since they encompass Regions, Local Groups, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and Committees. The administration responsibilities are covered in more detail in Appendix 23 of the ASIEs (Policy and Guidelines for Administrators of Internet Communication Services), so ASIE 2006-019 is no longer needed. Second was an amendment to the Release of Information section of Appendix 15 of the ASIEs (Information and Privacy Policy). Because members can change their communications preferences at any time, it is important that Local Groups do NOT maintain their own separate directories, as these can almost immediately become inaccurate. Third, the Online Services section of Appendix 15 was amended to be brought up to date with changes since it was established over 12 years ago. Fourth, Appendix 23 was replaced in its entirety, since it was also established over 12 years ago, before many changes to social media that are now commonplace took hold.

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/

THE TENTH STORY for April

I am writing this column before the American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting so won't have anything to report until next month's column, but you can find the agenda and mini-minutes for the meeting at https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ and selecting 2022-03-19 - Hurst, TX from the drop down menu.

__________________________________

When I first started as RVC in 2013, my primary stated focus was to improve communication between members, and even before that I had been serving on the national Communication Committee since 2009. At the time, the main method of communicating for the membership was through the local group newsletters, which for the most part included reports from local events and from the local officers, notices of upcoming events, and feature articles and puzzles from members. Although newsletters are still the only communication avenue enshrined in local group charters and bylaws, organizational entropy has set in over time, and newsletters have become smaller, and/or have gone from monthly to bi-monthly or quarterly (and in a couple of cases local groups have ceased to produce them entirely, in violation of their charters). Since we still have members who do not or cannot engage online, local group newsletters are still required, and National Communication Officer Robin Crawford has indicated that this will not be changing anytime soon.

Nevertheless, time marches on, and technical and societal changes continue to take place despite the reluctance of or resistance from some members. Online member-to-member communication has evolved from old Bulletin Boards and IRC chats, through Usenet and online forums (including Yahoo Groups, which shut down in 2020), and on to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. While these still hold on for some Mensa communities, they have been fading for a variety of reasons that would be too involved to go into here. However, a couple of reasons worth noting is the lack of security and accountability with these platforms, and the necessity to opt in to use them, which many members simply never did.

So American Mensa launched its own platform with Mensa Connect, which is automatically open to almost all members. Every adult member who has an email address who does not opt out is a member of the Mensa Connect platform, and all but one local group in Florida has a Community in which all members are enrolled. Many members are not aware of this, however, because the default setting is Daily Digest, and unless someone posts to the group, members don't see any messages. Local Groups that have been making good use of the platform to communicate with their members include Palm Beach Area Mensa, Northwest Florida Mensa, Tampa Bay Mensa, and Miami Mensa, and I have been working with Ruth Danielle in Manasota Mensa over the past couple of weeks to get the members of that group more engaged as well.

There is also a Region 10 Members Community which you can find by searching the available communities in https://connect.us.mensa.org/communities/local-groups/region-10.

All members may post to these Communities, so they can be used for interactive discussions, but a member may not initiate a conversation unless they agree to the terms of use by logging in for the first time at https://connect.us.mensa.org/home.

The Communities have certain advantages that members like, such as being able to participate without sharing their private email with the other users of the community, since all emails are sent through the platform with names but no email addresses included. Only other Mensa members may participate, and real names are used, so there is no anonymous trolling.

Let me know if you have any questions. I hope that more members will make use of this tool now that we have it available.

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/

THE TENTH STORY for March

The next meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC) will be held on Saturday, March 19, 2022 in Hurst, TX at the American Mensa headquarters. At the time I'm writing this column the agenda has not been finalized, but it's scheduled to be posted to https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/amc/meeting-reports/ by the end of February.

That said, it appears that the agenda will be packed. Because it's been a while since the last meeting in November, a lot of committee work has been underway in the interim. I expect there to be motions to create a pair of Task Forces which have already started working in anticipation of being approved (these being the Volunteerism Task Force and the Criminal Acts Task Force). The Communications Officer has been working on a number of motions regarding Internet Communications Services (which includes websites, email services and social media). The Gifted Youth Committee has been working on their Gifted Youth Coordinator (GYC) handbook, which hadn't been updated for many years. The Finance Committee has been working on the budget for 2022-2023, which will be presented for approval by the AMC along with a motion to clarify our investment policies. A motion has been prepared to address concerns about the use of our membership lists. And these are just the ones I know about; others may be coming in over the next few days.

Aside from business to be conducted at the meeting, committees have been working on their projects. The Gifted Youth Committee kicked off their quarterly GYC roundtable in February. Simone van Egeren (Chair of the AML History Committee) posted an article in the February Mensa Bulletin discussing the work of the committee. The Events Planning Committee has been working on site selection research for the 2026 Annual Gathering. The Bylaws Committee has started to receive new updates for Local Group Bylaws. And there are many others I'm not aware of yet, but I expect that they will be reporting their progress via their quarterly reports at the link above.

__________________________________

Moving to Regional activity, I attended the Central Florida Regional Gathering ("It's All Sun 'N' Games") over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, this year being held at the CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort in Orlando. As usual, Debbie Freeland did an excellent job of pulling it together after locating a venue on short notice, with the great assistance of Hospitality Chair Jennifer Keating and Speaker Chair Bill Keevan, along with the many speakers and game and tournament chairs.

I've noticed that several local groups have already started pulling together their CultureQuest® teams, but there's still time if your group hasn't joined in - or if your group has enough interest in a second team! Registrations can still be taken up to March 31.

__________________________________

Local Groups have slowly started to hold in-person events again, although many members are still wary of group activities. As a reminder, the official position of American Mensa is to recommend that groups follow all CDC, federal, state, local, and venue requirements when hosting an event. As an aside and as a matter of courtesy, guests should follow the wishes of the host of an event, and conversely, hosts should make it known in advance whether or not they are requiring masks or vaccinations, especially for events to be held in private homes.

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/

THE TENTH STORY for February

Now that January is behind us, it's time to start looking at some upcoming events that I hope your Local Groups are working on.

First, CultureQuest® registrations open on February 1 and run through March 31. This year CultureQuest® will be held on Sunday, April 24. It is considered a trivia contest by many, but the questions are usually more grounded in cultural literacy, based on the 1987 book by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. The idea is that our culture has certain common knowledge that everyone knows, even if they aren't familiar with the original source material - for instance, almost everyone knows what is meant when someone is referred to as "Sherlock", whether or not they've read any of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

Each CultureQuest® team may have up to five members and two alternates, but are not required to have that many (there have been years when a single individual participated as a "team" and scored in the money). All team members must be members, and must have renewed their membership before March 31 or their team will be disqualified. A local group may have more than one team if they wish. The top 20 teams are recognized on the Awards page on the national website, as well as sharing in monetary awards for their Local Group.

More details can be found at: https://www.us.mensa.org/attend/culturequest

__________________________________

Also coming up: April 18-24 is National Volunteer Week, which is when most Mensa Cares community service projects are run. Since these take some lead time to organize, February is a good time to start.

The Community Service Committee recognizes service contributed towards the local community or society. Recognition requests may be submitted by any member who organizes a community service event by providing the name and date of the event, the number of member and family participants, the percent of group participation, the total of contributions (either in time or value), and a brief essay on the positive effect or result for the community. LocSecs will be asked to confirm or ratify the submission by a local group member, but need not be the one to submit it.

If you have a community service project that you would like to run, you can register it at https://www.us.mensa.org/volunteer/community-service/

__________________________________

A number of nominations either begin or are due in February. Nominations for National Ombudsperson open on February 1 and close on March 31. Per our Bylaws, the National Ombudsperson is elected by the Local Group Ombudspersons every six years. Although a Local Group is permitted to have more than one Local Ombudsperson, each group gets a single vote - but only if they have an Ombudsperson. So, if your local group does not have an ombudsperson, this is a good time to volunteer!

Finally, Gifted Youth Coordinator of the Year nominations are due by February 20, and nominations for Mensa Foundation Awards (Copper Black, Distinguished Teacher, and Intellectual Benefits to Society) are due by March 1. Information on all of these can be found at https://www.us.mensa.org/recognize/group-awards/gy-coordinator-of-the-year and https://www.mensafoundation.org/what-we-do/awards-and-recognition/

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/

THE TENTH STORY for January

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
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

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
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MensaRegion10/

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