In the spirit of answering some of the slogan attacks of Alcoholics Anonymous members of "you're not an Alcoholic so you don't know anything about AA, "How much time do you have in AA Service Work" and "you haven't worked the program so you don't know what you are talking about." I recently found information stating that the Chairperson of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc (AA GSB, also known as AA GSO) bylaws claim that the Chairman of the General Service Board HAS
to be a non-alcoholic (meaning he/she knows nothing about AA since he/she is not an alcoholic). It would appear that the Alcoholic designated as a class "B" alcoholic, is not considered smart enough to run the GSO and a non-alcoholic designated as a class "A" alcoholic is.....
If it is true that you have to be a non-alcoholic, so much for those lame slogan attacks already mentioned. Don't all of you "real" Alcoholics feel demeaned by knowing you are excluded, not worthy and can't hold the top position of the GSO?
Should Class B (alcoholic) Trustees be considered for nomination to serve as Chairperson of the General Service Board?"
In 2006, the Conference Committee on Trustees "reviewed background material and experience pertaining to a request that the selection process for Chairperson of the General Service Board be expanded to include past Class B, (alcoholic) trustees, along with Class A (non-alcoholic) as candidates." The proposal came from a trustee member of the Trustees' Nominating Committee. His concerns were (1) that there is not an adequate pool of Class A Trustees from which to make a selection. (2) Whether or not we have, or are able to obtain the services of our BEST QUALIFIED candidates. (3) Stratification of the membership of the board (using only one class of trustee). (4) There is nothing in the bylaws or articles to prevent having a Class B chair. He also stated that the question should be brought up when there is time to make an unhurried decision.
The deliberations of the Conference Committee did not result in a recommendation to the Conference but did result in a couple of additional considerations. "(1) The committee discussed the option of having a Class B trustee serve as chairperson of the General Service Board, and requested that additional relevant background be gathered and reported to the 2007 Conference Committee on Trustees, to include specific questions raised by the 2006 Conference Committee on Trustees. (2) The committee also suggests that all delegates consider discussing this topic in their areas and forward any responses to the trustees' Committee on Nominating by October 2006." (This topic posting is MSCA’s attempt at addressing (2), above).
A short history of the position of Chairperson of the General Service Board. The Alcoholic Foundation was formed 8/11/1938 with three non-alcoholic and two alcoholic trustees for a total of five. The 3 non-alcoholic trustees were Dick Richardson, Frank Amos, and Leonard Strong. The 2 alcoholic trustees were Dr. Bob, and a New York member who got drunk and was replaced. We were not able to determine who was chairman, but there was an 8 member advisory committee to the trustees which was also formed in 1938 and that committee had a majority of alcoholics. In 1954 the Alcoholic Foundation was changed to the General Service Board of AA. In 1955 the board started using Class B "regional" trustees, which were designated as Northeast; Northwest; Southeast; West; and Midwest .
The total on the board fluctuated somewhat but had a majority of non-alcoholics from 1938 until 1967. (Note, B=alcoholic trustee, A=non-alcoholic trustee). In 1939 the Board increased to 4-A & 3-B; sometime before 1945, it increased to 5-A & 4-B; in 1958 it was 8-A & 7-B; 1963, 9-A & 8-B; 1964 thru 1966, 10-A & 9-B; 1967 it started the change to majority of Class B's and was 9-A to 11-B; 1969, 8-A to 12-B; 1970, 7-A to 13-B; 1971 finally reached the current number of 7-A to 14-B.
The information is spotty in the early years, but in 1951 Bernard Smith was chairman of the board. Leonard Harrison was listed as Chair from 1958 to 1961; Dr. "Jack" Norris served from 1961 to 1978; Milton Maxwell 1978 to 1981; Gordon Patrick 1982 to 1988; Michael Alexander 1988 to 1993; Jim Estelle 1993 to 1997; Gary Glynn 1997 to 2001; Elaine McDowell 2001 to 2005; Leonard Blumenthal 2005 (scheduled to) 2009.
How many other General Service Structures world-wide have Class B Chairpersons. An email survey was sent out to other A.A. G.S.O.'s and 20 responses were received. 14 of the 20 responding have a Class B Chairperson of the board, or Class B's are eligible and have served in the past.
Some responsibilities/duties of Chairperson of GSB. The Chairperson chooses all members of Trustee's Committees and their Chairs. The Chairperson is an ex-officio member of all Trustee's Committees. The Chairperson shall have all those duties generally attributable by law and custom to a president (of a non-profit organization) under the laws of the State of New York, with such other greater or lesser duties as may from time to time be determined by the Board of Trustees. The Chairperson may convene or postpone meetings. The Chairperson determines the order in which matters are dealt with in all meetings of the board. The Chairperson chairs all meetings of the board.
Bill W's thoughts on Class B/Class A Chairpersons. The 1962 General Service Conference asked that a pamphlet be prepared and distributed to conference delegates and committeemen. It was titled "Bill's Recommendations on the General Service Board and the Trustees' Comments and Recommendations." In this pamphlet/paper Bill made seven recommendations. Many of them had to do with his wish to change the ratio of trustees, giving the alcoholic trustees a majority.
The first recommendation "At any time the General Service Board should be able to recommend to the Conference whatever ratio change is deemed desirable. This ought to become effective on a Conference consent of three quarters of those present. Consequently the present legal bar to ratio changes should be removed. We should also set aside the General Service Board tradition which still precludes A.A. (class B) trustees from holding its chief official posts." In his comments on this recommendation Bill states in several different ways that Class B trustees are ready for the top posts of leadership.
Recommendations 2 thru 6 deal with other reorganization, however the 7th recommendation states: "We should carefully designate our future world service leadership. The primary leadership ought to be vested in the chairman of the General Service Board, and in an A.A. member chosen from among area (Regional) and Trustees-at-large. Our secondary world leadership ought to be vested in the Vice-Chairman of the General Service Board and in the President of A.A. World Services, Inc." In his comments Bill states that for over twenty years he has been widely regarded as A.A.'s primary world service leader. He further states that it is time to turn that leadership over to the Chairman of the GSB. He also states that up to the present the non-alcoholic chairmen have been really second in command (behind himself). He goes on with several comments justifying turning over the chairmanship of the GSB, not only to a Class B Trustee, but to an "out-of-town" Trustee. In other words to a Regional or At-large Trustee. This, of course did not happen when they finally restructured the GSB in 1966. Bill also advocated that the "Presidency" or Chairmanship of A.A.W.S. also be an alcoholic trustee, which is now the case.
It has also been determined that Chairperson Dr. Jack Norris (in 1966) recommended that the GSB bylaws continue to make the board chairmanship open to both A & B Trustees.
Past decisions by the General Service Conference. In 1977 the Conference Committee on Trustees recommended the following: "The committee would like to go on record as favoring the continuance of having a Class A trustee serve as chairman of the board." In 1986, the Conference Committee on Trustees recommended, and it passed, that: "The practice of having a Class A trustee serve as chairperson of the board continue." In 1993 the Conference Committee on Trustees had an additional consideration as follows: The committee discussed a request from an area delegate that the position of chairperson of the General Service Board not be restricted to a Class A trustee." The committee suggested that the position of chairperson of the General Service Board not be restricted to a Class A trustee, and that the trustees' Nominating Committee look at the procedure necessary to implement this and report back to the 1994 Conference Committee on Trustees." In 1994 the committee passed an additional consideration: "Recognizing that the By-Laws of the General Service Board allow for either a Class A or Class B trustee to serve as chairperson of the board, the committee thanked the Trustees' Nominating Committee for their report." The report from the Trustees' Nominating Committee reported that the current by-laws allow for a Class B Trustee to be elected but past conference advisory actions instruct the board to continue its practice of choosing the chair from Class A Trustees. Assuming that a future Conference revokes that past action, the committee outlined four possible procedures to fulfill that action, including amending the by-laws to provide for a 22nd trustee position for the duration of the tenure of a Class B Chair.
Other pertinent information. It would appear that the last conference advisory action on this subject was in 1986. Therefore even though no conference action is binding on another, it would be wise for the conference to pass an advisory action to clarify the change. They could also recommend, contingent on the passage of that advisory action, procedures to fulfill that scenario in the event that a Class B was selected as chair.