“FELLOW TRAVELER”

Mike Zonta, Fellow of The Prosperos

By Mike Zonta, H.W., M.

In the early aughts of the 21st century, I was a trustee of The Prosperos. After a few months, I resigned and automatically became a fellow (thus the title of this blog). A fellow is one who has a voice but no vote at trustee meetings.

Recently the Trustees of The Prosperos had scheduled a meeting for Sunday, November 17 , to discuss the “Great Deanship Crisis of 1997” when one group of Prosperos students voted to install someone as dean of the school and another group decided that the installation was illegitimate. The meeting on November 17 was designed as a sort of “Truth and Reconciliation” effort to resolve this decades-old disagreement, a disagreement which resulted in several students leaving the school.

Then, on November 12, I got this email from a member of the Executive Council who said: “I would like to add that the Executive Council has postponed this meeting pending receipt of a viable rationale for having it.”

Can the Executive Council just arbitrarily cancel a meeting of the Trustees? I thought the Executive Council and the Trustees were more or less co-equal branches of government.

So I looked it up in The Prosperos By-Laws and saw this written in Article IV, Section 6: “The Executive Council may veto any action of the High Watch or of the Trustees; but such veto must be unanimous on the part of the Executive Council.”

Wow. The Executive Council can veto any action of the Trustees. Then why even have Trustees at all?

In the national government, all state governments and city governments, the legislative body can override the executive branch, usually by a two-thirds vote. In corporations, the Board of Directors can override the CEO. As it is in non-profits as well.

For a school which promotes democracy and group dynamics, this is an outrageous abrogation of Principle. Maybe it was okay for Thane, who was an honest-to-God 4th Way Master, to run his school his way, but he’s no longer with us. And for the Executive Council to claim (apparently legitimately) a sort of “papal infallibility” is an error that needs to be corrected ASAP.

The only other kind of system that exerts this kind of unquestionable authority is that of the family. When Thane was the dean of the school, he held that kind of parental authority. Now that Thane is gone, it is time for this parental authority to give way to democratic authority. Or the school will forever remain infantilized.

Of course, even if the Trustees gave themselves the power to override Executive Council vetoes, the Executive Council could just veto it.

2 thoughts on ““FELLOW TRAVELER””

  1. Thanks, Mike, for this excellent post. Although I was very close to the person at the center of the “Great Deanship Crisis of 1997”, for a good many reasons (long story, that – way too long for a mere comment…), I held off on asking after any details about exactly what had happened, though I’ve always wondered. So any elucidation, even at this long remove in time, is more than welcome…

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