2020 WSFS Business Meeting

By Kevin Standlee: The WSFS Business Meeting was probably the shortest such meeting ever held, albeit not the smallest, despite fears of being able to achieve the quorum of 12 members of WSFS physically present. Because New Zealand isn’t in internal lockdown, members of CoNZealand who were in Wellington could attend the meeting were induced to do so by the provision of coffee/tea/snacks, and in the end apparently 23 people attended. That means their meeting had more people attending that were at the WSFS Business Meetings held at Nippon 2007 in Yokohama.

With none of the originally-announced WSFS Business Meeting staff able to attend M. Darusha Wehm agreed to act as Moderator (or “Emergency Holographic Chair” as I put it), working from a “script” supplied by Business Meeting Chair Kent Bloom. The intention was to deal quickly with the small number of things that couldn’t wait, and postpone everything else to next year.

Those people attending Virtual CoNZealand could follow a text description of the Business Meeting by Daniel Spector (who was attending) on the convention’s Discord at #major-events. This makes more sense than one might think, in that functionally, the Business Meeting is more like a small Event than a program item. People like me who are suffering from WSFS Withdrawal Syndrome (I’ve not missed a single session of any WSFS Business Meeting going back to 1989.) could at least follow along.

According to the descriptions from Daniel and the tweets from Soon Lee, shortly after a quroum was achieved, the Preliminary Business Meeting was called to order. It took four minutes to receive all reports, unanimously approve the Hugo Award eligibility extensions (see http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020-WSFS-agenda-20200714.pdf p.25), continue all existing ad hoc committees as currently constituted, adopt blanket debate times for everything, and adjourn the preliminary meeting so that people could attack the coffee/tea service.

When the Main Business Meeting convened ten minutes later, things went even faster. The Site Selection results (announced the previous day) were received and the ballots ordered destroyed, which is the technical point at which time the election is final, not that there was any chance of there being a protest. Question Time for conventions and bids was waived.

The meeting effectively postponed the ratification of all pending constitutional amendments for one year. (There is more than one way to do this, and we won’t know exactly which was was used until we see the recording/get the minutes, but one possible route would have been to unanimously agree to reject ratification of every proposal and then immediately pass all of those same items as new proposals, resetting their ratification clocks.) There was no new constitutional business.

Because the election of the Mark Protection Committee members is in the Standing Rules, not the Constitution, it can and was waived. This means that the three seats whose terms ended this year went vacant. The MPC will meet via Zoom (open to any attending CZ member; it’s listed in the Grenadine schedule) just before Closing Ceremonies. Per existing authority in the rules, the MPC plans on appointing the three people whose terms ended this year (John Coxon, Linda Deneroff, and Dave McCarty) to temporarily fill those three vacant seats until next year’s Business Meeting, where the BM will need to elect six people instead of the usual three, with three people being elected to two-year terms.

With all constitutional business resolved, the Main Business meeting adjourned, having lasted about two minutes. It is possible to get a lot of stuff done if every single person in the room agrees to it and does not raise an objection to it.


Soon Lee’s Twitter coverage thread starts here.

21 thoughts on “2020 WSFS Business Meeting

  1. I forgot to mention that the meeting was recorded, but I don’t know when or where it will be put online. I do hope to get a copy to the Worldcon Events YouTube channel once it is available.

  2. Kevin, thanks for paying attention and for this update. I sure hope to be there next year.

  3. I asked and was told that “ A recording will be released in the next couple of weeks, and the minutes will be released in a few weeks.” No idea why either should take that long to do.

  4. Cat: Because of all of the other things that the people with the material have to do. The minutes depend upon the recording because the BM Secretary is in Seattle and has to have the recording to do it. I have had reassurance from the person in Tech that he has the recording and we’ll get it done once he and I can work out a bit of gatekeeping on the Worldcon Events YouTube channel.

  5. The MPC did meet as scheduled (10:00, Sunday 2 Aug 2020 NZST, which would have been the “overflow” Business Meeting slot had we been meeting there in person) and as planned, appointed the three people whose terms ended to fill those seats until next year’s Worldcon. No real surprises, although I was persuaded to rejoin the MPC as vice chair. (It’s still two years until the Westercon I’m chairing, thanks to the “Westercon Two-Step.”)

  6. Kevin: ok I can see the video taking that long, but wasn’t there a person responsible for taking notes at the meeting? It was one of the shortest, least contentious such meetings ever held. Surely generating minutes should be easy.

  7. @Ita,

    Yes, New Zealand is currently at “Alert Level 1” in our COVID19 response system (goes from Level 1 to Level 4). This means we should be prepared in case of outbreaks. Currently there is no community transmission in New Zealand, and to all intents & purposes, life as as normal as can be: no masks required, no social distancing, no limits on group gatherings. New Zealand was the first to resume its national basketball league (ESPN took live feed from our games). Big rugby games currently attract tens of thousands of fans attending.

    The only positive COVID19 positive cases are currently at the border. All NZ citizens & residents returning home have to spend 14 days in government managed isolation facilities (hotels that have bee repurposed), and don’t get released into the community until they have spent the 14 days there & returned a negative COVID19 test result.

    Most of us are thankful that we are able to go about life as normal, while still concerned for friends & relatives overseas.

  8. @Ita (adding to @Soon Lee): NZ has been much in the news (IIRC not just on the BBC) for locking down early and hard, particularly wrt quarantining everyone arriving from outside the country; that’s what triggered the switch to a virtual CNZ. (I read something a while ago about quarantine possibly being relaxed for Australians, but it’s not mentioned in the extensive Wikipedia article and seems unlikely to happen any time soon given the flareup in Victoria.) NZ being islands a long way from anywhere may have helped with quarantine enforcement; the above cite mentions a number of visitors breaking the rules but says NZ went down to level 1 almost two months ago. (I do wonder whether they’d be at that stage if they’d had a conference of people who should have known better back in February, as there was in Boston — although that wasn’t nearly the only path in the US.) @Soon Lee: any thoughts on whether having a female prime minister made people more likely to behave sensibly while any local cases were sorted?

    @Kevin Standlee: any thoughts on what business must be done next year? There are indications that Discon III will be able to happen safely (assuming they sort out the loss of a major chunk of space), but I’m curious as to whether there’s anything that can’t be postponed again.

  9. Now that I’ve read the agenda: does anyone have thoughts why Color Out of Space should have gotten extended for Best Related Work? The reviews I’ve seen and the Wikipedia plot “summary” make it sound like an updating of a story; I can see it getting extended, but only for DP. (This may have been a thinko carried over by the movers’ other motion, to extend an obvious RW nominee.) I’m also wondering whether any rules lawyers can comment on the validity of specifying a category, since the Constitution section under which the motions were made doesn’t say the eligibility is extended in a specific category (which may cancel out the questionable part of this motion).

  10. @Chip: Erm…working with/speaking with Olav on a lot of extensions…I think that may have been a typo no one caught.

  11. Chip Hitchcock on August 2, 2020 at 7:05 am said:

    @Kevin Standlee: any thoughts on what business must be done next year? There are indications that Discon III will be able to happen safely (assuming they sort out the loss of a major chunk of space), but I’m curious as to whether there’s anything that can’t be postponed again.

    Well, if we really had to do so, we could do exactly the same kludge that we did this year: Hold a minimally-quarate (12 members, presumably masked and distanced) meeting, pass anything time-constrained (which probably only means Hugo eligibility extensions), continue all committees, reject-and-re-adopt every item pending resolution, and adjourn without electing anyone to the Mark Protection Committee.

    (The MPC would then probably appoint the incumbents to serve until WSFS gets around to filling their seats, which would mean the following Worldcon would be electing all nine positions for variable lengths of time.)

    This would work, but it does mean causing all pending items to to hold fire yet another year, and makes it impossible to start the ball rolling on any new proposals, including anything to address either remote participation at the Business Meeting (something I think is a terrible idea) or possibly starting to consider a completely new model for WSFS governance (which I think we should be doing, but which I suspect a whole lot of people also would consider a terrible idea).

  12. @Chip Hitchcock,

    You ask if having a female Prime Minister made people people likely to behave more sensibly. I don’t think Jacinda Ardern being female made a difference, but that she is an eloquent communicator. The clear messages reduced uncertainty leading up to & during lockdown which made a huge difference.

    A number of other factors including luck got us to where we are. COVID19 arrived in New Zealand later, by which time we could all see that it wasn’t just a bad flu. The number of fatalities in Italy were a stark warning. We took COVID19 seriously.

    That New Zealand is an island nation helped. So when the decision was taken (early compared to most countries) to close New Zealand’s borders, being surrounded by sea made enforcement easy. (And really, we didn’t have enough intensive care beds to cope with an outbreak so we had to prevent that happening if possible by closing the border early.)

    Politics in our country is unlike the toxic, truth-denying, expert-disbelieving state of affairs in the USA. The Prime Minister & Director-General of Health were believed, and people complied with lockdown. Even though Parliament was suspended, the Leader of the Opposition was chair of the Emergency Pandemic Response Committee that was set up to critique the decisions of Government, and for most part, the committee took a bipartisan approach to their activities.

    So even though our infrastructure was not ready for a pandemic, luck (by being far away & getting to see how bad it gets as a warning), good decision-making (the Government went lockdown early & hard), and compliance (Google data showed NZers were 95% compliant to lockdown measures) because we felt a sense of community as a nation, and politicians took it seriously enough not to “play politics” during that early phase.

  13. Re: Discon III, we’d also have to roll over the re-ratifications of both the Lodestar and Series Hugo. Not super procedurally difficult (the obvious thing that comes to mind is to re-ratify them and then pass an amendment to strike them) but even further lengthening the Chicon 8 BM which also has the EPH and 5-and-6 re-ratifications (at least in this scenario) on its plate even before getting to new business.

  14. Thanks to Daniel Specctor & @Soon Lee, and @Kevin Standlee for the write-up above.

  15. Chip Hitchcock on August 2, 2020 at 7:56 am said:
    Now that I’ve read the agenda: does anyone have thoughts why Color Out of Space should have gotten extended for Best Related Work? The reviews I’ve seen and the Wikipedia plot “summary” make it sound like an updating of a story; I can see it getting extended, but only for DP. (This may have been a thinko carried over by the movers’ other motion, to extend an obvious RW nominee.) I’m also wondering whether any rules lawyers can comment on the validity of specifying a category, since the Constitution section under which the motions were made doesn’t say the eligibility is extended in a specific category (which may cancel out the questionable part of this motion).

    Yes. I’m sorry for the typo.

    I had meant this to be an extension for the movie in Best Dramatic Presentation. Basically, it got a very limited release in 2019 (I was actively trying to get to see it, but it was unavailable to me until 2020).

    It basically should be treated as a 2020 release because that’s when it was first available to 95 per cent of Hugo nominators.

  16. @Sarah Elkins: Thank you! That was the best 5.5 minutes of WSFS business ever. 😀 But I did like seeing it.

    Of course, someone(s) had to work all that up to make it be so quick, smooth, and rock solid by the rules, so thanks to whoever(s) contributed to that! Also many thanks to the people who showed up to provide quorum, and of course, to Darusha Wehm for herding the cats. And to the cats for not requiring any herding! 😉

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