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Review of the Geographic Distribution of Membership of the CMS Board

Report of the `ad hoc' Committee


The Committee was appointed by the President to review the geographic distribution of the membership of the Board, pursuant to a provision in the by-laws, and asked to provide the Board with a recommendation as to whether or not the distribution should be changed.

The Committee has reviewed the relevant documentary information and consulted the membership. The Committee finds no compelling reason to change the geographical distribution and, accordingly, recommends that the distribution remain as at present.


The last major changes to the composition of the Board of the Canadian Mathematical Society were implemented through a change to the by-laws in June 1989. Article 8.3 of the `General Operating By-Law' requires that, "The geographical distribution (of the Board) shall be reviewed by the Board from time to time, at least once every ten years." In September 1997, the President, Katherine Heinrich appointed an `ad hoc' committee consisting of Peter Borwein (Simon Fraser), Dan Britten (Windsor), Paul Gauthier (Montreal) and Jon Thompson (UNB) to conduct a review and report to the Board.

At present, the Board is comprised of 33 directors. The majority of the directors are elected on a geographical basis. There are four regions, consisting of the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, and the Western Provinces and Territories. There are 6 elected officers: the President, the immediate Past President or the President-Elect and 4 Vice-Presidents ("No two of the vice-presidents shall come from the same region"). In addition there are 22 elected directors, allotted geographically: 4 each from the Atlantic and Quebec regions, 6 each from the Ontario and Western regions, and 2 At Large. The 5 remaining positions are filled through appointment by the Board.

For some years prior to 1989, the Board had 34 members, distributed in a similar way among the four regions, but there were only 3 vice-presidents (no 2 of whom could be from the same region). In June 1989, the Board total was reduced to 31, with the geographical distribution adjusted somewhat. A fourth vice-president was added, in order to ensure that each region had one. In December 1989, electoral provisions for the presidency were changed, to allow for a one-year President-Elect, a two-year President and a one-year Past-President. In June 1997, provision was made for two appointed student directors, increasing the total membership to the present 33.

In December 1997, the membership was distributed by region as follows: Atlantic, 88; Quebec, 113; Ontario, 308; West, 234. The detailed breakdown by province is: Alberta, 77; British Columbia, 94; Manitoba, 28; New Brunswick, 24; Newfoundland, 24; Nova Scotia, 37; Ontario, 308; Prince Edward Island, 3; Quebec, 113, Saskatchewan, 35.


The Committee reviewed relevant documents and other information. These include the `General Operating By-Law' (a consolidation of all by-laws), a historical summary of changes in Board composition and a list of members of the Society as distributed by province. We wish to express thanks and appreciation to Graham Wright and Monique Bouchard of the CMS office for prompt and helpful assistance in providing this information.

The Committee consulted the membership through electronic mail. A memorandum requesting views on geographic distribution of board membership was sent out on the `cmath-l' list-server twice, on March 10 and on April 3, 1998. Not all members are on this list, but departmental Chairs were asked to distribute the memo to their colleagues. We received confirmation that a number of Chairs did this and we wish to thank them for this assistance.

The memo included the following paragraphs.

"In asking for comments on the present composition, the committee is especially interested in hearing whether members of the Society consider that there are, or are not, serious problems. For members who consider that there are serious problems with the functioning of the Board as presently constituted, we would appreciate a specific description; in such event, we would equally welcome detailed suggestions as to how changes in the composition might relieve perceived problems.

In reporting to the Board, in the event we ultimately propose changes in the geographical distribution (including possibly the numerical composition), we will be expected to address the issues of how any such changes would improve the functioning of the Board, and whether there would be budgetary implications."

The Committee conducted its business mainly by electronic mail, but held a meeting by conference call on May 7 to discuss the information received and reach a conclusion.


We were very pleased that a number of members took the time to respond to our request, in March and in April. Several, in particular, provided us with quite detailed analyses of the board composition and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of various types of changes which might be made. The responses were very helpful to us and we wish to express thanks and appreciation to all who responded.

The overwhelming majority of responses, including all those providing detailed analyses, advised us that the Board has been functioning well and that a change to the current geographic distribution would almost certainly cause difficulties, while presenting no certainty in regard to substantive benefits. Among those responding in detail were several officers of the Society with extensive service on the Board in the period since 1989, when the last major changes were made.

Only one response proposed a change in geographic distribution, to strict numerical representation in proportion to number of members in each region, but no detailed argument was offered. A few other comments were received on other aspects of Board composition, such as its overall size, but these issues did not, in our view, fall within our mandate under the by-laws.

All of the evidence available to us indicates that the Board has been functioning well, and that the present distribution of its membership provides an appropriate and adequate balance of regional representation. No evidence suggests any certain, substantial benefit which would be gained by making a change to the distibution of either the vice-presidential positions or of the other elected board positions. Conversely, effecting a change would almost certainly result in protracted discussions which would deflect the Board from its central tasks and would risk generating regional alienation.

We conclude that there is no compelling reason for a change at this time. The by-laws provide for future reviews, so that if some relevant factor were to change in time, then the matter of geographic distribution can be revisited.


The Committee unanimously recommends that the geographic distribution of the Board membership not be changed.

Peter Borwein Dan Britten Paul Gauthier Jon Thompson

May 27, 1998

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