The Committee System

The Writers Guild of America, West is a strong, viable organization due to the active participation of its members. The internal processes of the Guild provide numerous opportunities for member involvement. The Guild's Committee System is comprised of committees that are either:

1) constitutionally mandated;
2) Ad Hoc or Board Appointed; or
3) standing committees.

Committees function under the authority of the Board of Directors. The Board has delegated the oversight of all committee activities to the Executive Director.

REVIEWING THE COMMITTEE SYSTEM

In an effort to revitalize and better manage the Committee System, the Executive Director, with the concurrence of the Board, convened in 1995, a Working Group on Committee Reinvigoration and Restructuring. The Working Group included Board members, committee chairs, Guild members at-large and staff members. The Working Group conducted a review of the Committee System and solicited the opinions, suggestions, concerns and experiences of all members involved in committee work. Committee chairs were interviewed, and the results of questionnaires sent to all committee members and all staff liaisons were evaluated. The Working Group reviewed the focus, goals and activities of existing committees; the need for new committees; the feasibility of committees combining efforts; committee rules and methods of operation; the budget process and methods to improve communication. As a result, several important recommendations, intended to promote more effective, efficient and active committees were developed and presented to the Board of Directors, and approved.

These recommendations are being implemented. Because the Committee System is undergoing change, a complete, updated list of committees is expected to be available later in 1996. For further information, call the Guild at (213) 951-4000. Among the recommendations now being implemented are:

COMMITTEE ADVISORY PANEL (CAP)

This replaces the Committee on Committees, which dissolved in1993, but is structured and functions differently. The CAP has eleven members, including four Board members, three at-large Guild members (Board appointed), three committee chairs (elected by a Caucus of all Committees), and one staff member, who serves as the Committee Coordinator. Members serve two-year terms, with the exception of the three committee chairs, who serve a one-year term.

The CAP works with the Executive Director to oversee the activities, membership, and effectiveness of individual committees and the Committee System in general. The duties of the CAP include recruiting membership through special outreach efforts and staffing committees; reviewing and revising Committee Standards and Practices; assisting committees in achieving their goals by reviewing their mission statements, plans and activities; creating new committees and combining committees with complementary or similar functions and dissolving non-functioning committees. The CAP will be responsible to the Board on all matters.

COMMITTEE CAUCUS

In order to encourage and facilitate communication and cooperation among Guild committees, a caucus of all committee chairs will be held twice per year. The Caucus will annually elect three chairs to represent committees on the CAP. Committee chairs and vice-chairs will attend an annual retreat, or social event to share achievements and concerns of the past year and to formulate common goals, agendas and plans.

COMMITTEE HANDBOOK

The CAP will develop a Committee Handbook in order to clarify the roles, duties, responsibilities and purview of the Board, staff liaisons, committee chairs and members. Activities such as minute taking, mailings, reporting procedures and conduct of meetings will be included. The Handbook will provide helpful information about the process through which committee projects and activities can be approved and funded; committee budgets; booking special events and use of the Guild theater; and publicizing committee events and activities. Also included will be procedural rules about election of committee officers, appointment of new members and removal of inactive members. The Handbook will contain the revised Committee Standards and Practices.

BOARD LIAISON

The responses to the questionnaires distributed by the Working Group on Committee Reinvigoration and Restructuring indicated strong support for the idea of having Board members, in addition to staff, serve as liaisons to committees, so as to provide continuous and direct access to the Board. Each Board member will be asked to serve as the Board Liaison to at least one standing committee. The Board Liaison will act as an advisor and an advocate on behalf of the committee. It is important to emphasize that the Board Liaison is not a member of the committee, nor a supervisor of the committee. The Board Liaison will attend at least one meeting of the committee she/he serves each year, but will not generally attend committee meetings. The Board Liaison will always be accessible to the committee chair.

STANDING POLICIES

Until such time as the new Standards and Practices are instated,the following policies will apply: It is the constant purpose of the Board to involve the general membership as much as possible in the management of their own affairs. In staffing committees, the Board strives to select the best qualified candidates, as well as to include individuals who have never previously served on committees. The formation of new committees must be approved by the CAP. New committees must, of course, serve some useful function within the objects of the Constitution of the Guild. The formation by committees of sub-committees for special purposes is in order; and may provide opportunities to involve non-committee members in the work in hand.

Generally, committees are defined as Ad Hoc, Standing or Constitutional: Ad Hoc Committees are appointed for a particular short-term task and dissolved immediately upon completion of that task. Standing Committees meet through the course of the year to study and make recommendations concerning the GuildÕs continuing needs. Constitutional Committees are required and defined by the Constitution.

AUTHORITY

The Board is the elected governing body of the Guild and the repository of the power of the membership.

The authority of most committees derives directly from the Board, except those which are constitutionally mandated. All others are advisory committees to the Board. A committee is limited to specific delegated functions. No committee has any authority beyond these limits, nor may it authorize expenditures, mailings to the membership, or reports to the Press (including the Guild Journal) without approval from the Board of Directors or the Executive Director. Any report of a committeeÕs deliberations or recommendations is premature until it has been presented and approved by the Board. Even discussions of work in progress can often be misleading, tending to generate pros and cons before appropriate action is required.

The Executive Director is responsible for, and has the authority necessary to supervise and correlate the work of every committee.

RESPONSIBILITIES

In general, a committee is appointed in the hope that it will make a recommendation for appropriate action. It is the responsibility of the committee to arrive at such are commendation, even if it should be for no action of any kind. This responsibility includes the obligation of knowing and promoting the interests and desires of the membership. A committee may be partisan in its own field, recommending what it considers the best interests of the membership. It remains for the Board to assess priorities among possible competing recommendations from many committees, or to override a committeeÕs recommendations completely in the light of some larger Guild interest.

Each committee bears the responsibility of developing its recommendations in reasonable detail. Committee reports and recommendations shall be sent to the CAP (with a copy to the Board) in written form, except when the committee chairperson feels a report as of such complexity that it must be presented in person. Personal appearances on the Board agenda should be arranged through the Executive Director. The Board will always give consideration to a minority report by an individual member, or a group within a committee. Such a minority report is never considered a reflection on the work of the committee as a whole, and is valuable to the Board in its own deliberation of a committee recommendation.

The responsibility of the individual committee member is carried out by attending meetings,* studying the matters assigned to the committee, and making his or her own ideas, for or against are solution, a definite part of the deliberative process of committee work. Rubber-stamp committee members are harmful to a committee, the Board and ultimately to the membership.

*If meetings are not called, the member should feel free to consult the chairperson to ascertain the reason.

COMMITTEE SELF-RULE AND REGULATION

The work processes of any committee are a matter of give-and-take within the group itself. In practical terms, a committee must find its own methods of working productively.

If a member misses three consecutive meetings without just cause, that member will be notified and asked whether or not he/she intends to serve on the committee. If the member does not intend to serve further on the committee, that member shall be replaced. A staff liaison must notify the CAP (via the Committee Coordinator) of these changes for possible replacement.

A committee is expected to police itself in terms of sub-committee assignments, meeting places, agendas, minutes, etc. Guild staff is available for special purposes by arrangement of the chairperson with the Executive Director.

CHAIRPERSON RESPONSIBILITIES

The chairperson is expected to have a reasonable knowledge of parliamentary procedure to be applied moderately but firmly when the occasion warrants. A ruling of the Chair is final in matters of orderly procedure at all times. A committee meeting should, however, be informal in nature, and the chairpersons will encourage individual discussion leading to a consensus before calling a vote. The chairperson is expected to make a particular effort to elicit an expression of opinion from every member of a committee on a key issue before voting. The chairperson has a right to expect common courtesy from committee members, toward the chair and toward each other.

The first order of business of any committee is to set a target date for accomplishment of its work. At the end of each meeting, the chairperson will set the date, time and place for the next meeting. Action minutes (i.e., of a brief summary nature only) will be kept of each meeting (and forwarded monthly by the Secretary to the CAP via the Committee Coordinator), an agenda stated, attendance records kept and sub-committees assigned to specific tasks.

Generally, a chairperson may speak on either side of a discussion, but may not vote except to break a tie. In no event will a chairperson use his/her office, or permit others to use parliamentary devices, to suppress reasonable debate or dissent. Each committee elects a chairperson, vice-chair, and secretary. The chairperson's and vice-chair's tenure is limited to two years.

THE COMMITTEE MEMBER

Your committee work is of vital importance to the Guild, not only for its own sake, but because of the continuity of knowledge it will provide you of Guild affairs and purposes. Your interest and knowledge may enlarge into a desire for elective office. In the history and experience of the Guild, a service record in committee work is one of the primary requisites for election to office. Therefore, a copy of a members service record is made available to the Nominating Committee at the appropriate time, and is available to the general membership before elections. Since service on a committee should reflect only active participation, the committees on which such member is not active shall be deleted. Committee work is demanding, but creative -- a privilege as well as a responsibility. The committee member's ultimate compensation is the knowledge that responsible committees effect a tangible and direct influence on the successful management of writers' interests as represented by this Guild.

STAFF LIAISON RESPONSIBILITY

A Guild staff member will attend each committee meeting, serve as a resource to the committee, help coordinate committee activities and provide advice and information. The chairperson shall contact the Staff Liaison on a monthly basis or, in the event the chair does not make contact, the Staff Liaison shall contact the chair in order to establish a meeting,agenda and/or other items of committee importance.