A Petition for More Transparency from ASA!

This year, the American Sociological Association has proposed a substantial increase in fees for most members. ASA has argued that these increases in dues will make the dues structure more progressive, but so far they have not explained why they need to increase the total dues paid. ASA is one of the most expensive professional associations (in comparison with APSA, AEA, etc.) and it’s not clear why, nor why they need to raise dues even higher. A group of sociologists has started a petition to ask ASA to increase its financial transparency and justify its expenditures. The petition is available here, and the full text of the petition is below, in case you don’t feel like clicking through. Sociology readers, please join me in signing!

We the undersigned sociologists1 hereby register our concern with the ASA leadership’s recommendation that the membership vote for a significant aggregate dues increase. (See the March issue of Footnotes for the recommendation and rationale.)2 We urge ASA members to vote against the proposed dues increase unless the ASA leadership presents a cogent explanation that specifically addresses why a substantial increase in total dues beyond the usual cost of living increase is warranted.

The published rationale argues that ASA dues should be more progressive. Like the ASA leadership, we support progressivity in the distribution of dues payments across the ASA membership. But what of the aggregate size of those payments? As shown in Table 3 of the Footnotes article, the proposal increases dues in every income bracket for employed sociologists.3 The new proposal does much more than just redistribute the dues burden in a more progressive way. It will also generate a substantial amount of new revenue, and the ASA has offered no explanation for why this is needed.

We believe that such a large aggregate increase in dues should be explained to members, before any vote, by a clear account of what more the ASA will be doing or why it needs to raise funds beyond a cost of living increase to continue existing services. This explanation must be specific about the services to be funded by additional dues revenue, and distinguish services that need additional dues funds from those that generate enough revenue on their own to break-even or make a profit. The explanation should also compare dues and services offered by peer organizations like APSA, AEA, and AAA, and provide a compelling explanation of why ASA leadership proposes dues that are higher.4

Unless the ASA leadership provides a compelling justification that meets these criteria before the May elections, we urge ASA members to vote against the new dues schedule.

Notes

1. “Sociologists” includes both Ph.Ds and graduate students in sociology, as well as other social scientists who engage in sociological research or teach sociology.

2. http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/mar11/dues_0311.html.

3. The proposal holds student dues steady and decreases dues for unemployed members by twenty dollars (http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/mar11/table3_0311.html), yet it appears the aggregate increase in other categories is far greater than what would be needed to simply balance this decrease for unemployed members.

4. For a comparison of current and proposed ASA dues with other social science organizations, see “A Comparative Look at ASA Membership Costs and Benefits“.

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