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By Gary Brown
The Division III Presidents Council began a discussion Wednesday and Thursday to determine whether there is any appetite for fortifying the division’s philosophy statement or strengthening the voting requirements necessary to change legislation regarding the division’s core principles.
Served as food for thought were the division’s groundbreaking “white papers” crafted in September 2008 to guide membership growth in lieu of structural change deliberated two years before that when the membership rejected the idea of a new NCAA division or subdividing Division III.
While much of the white papers would end up as the bricks and mortar of the strategic-positioning platform and identity campaign that are going strong today, some of the ideas those papers broached remain unaddressed.
To kick-start the discussion, the Division III Administrative Committee recently suggested that the presidents consider sponsoring a legislative package for the 2012 Convention that includes the following items identified in the white papers:
The Presidents Council talked about pros and cons of all six at its Wednesday meeting and then reconvened on Thursday to decide what to do about them.
At the outset, the presidents do not appear comfortable with the idea of proposing “division-dominant” voting requirements as a way of governance, even on core issues. Several members thought that financial aid issues in particular might rise to that level, but most were uneasy about the approach not only from a terminology perspective but also as a practical matter.
Some felt the terminology could be divisive, which is precisely the opposite of what the white papers were intended to accomplish. One president equated it to being a “referendum.” Others thought that establishing areas of “division dominance” drew an unintended distinction and would be hard to manage if in fact those provisions needed to be reversed or modified in the future.
“Writing the white papers was in retrospect a stroke of genius to initiate an identity that could have been somewhat fractured through the restructuring process several years ago,” said Presidents Council chair Jim Bultman of Hope College. “What I heard at this meeting was that establishing ‘division-dominant’ on core issues seems heavy-handed and has the potential to backfire in terms of our attempt to be cohesive in our identity.”
With that as a backdrop, the presidents were more interested in the first three items that amended the philosophy statement itself. Some members in fact suggested that the philosophy statement itself be established as “division-dominant” in the future. Currently, amendments would require just a simple majority, but the Council may consider proposing that subsequent changes would require a super-majority.
The Presidents Council asked staff to circulate a revised philosophy statement that incorporates relevant amendments to governance groups for additional feedback. Members also considered circulating the division-dominant amendments but decided that there wasn’t enough support from the Council to warrant soliciting feedback on those concepts.
Presidents also agreed to network with their peers about the amendments to the philosophy statement, particularly with members of the Presidents Advisory Group (a group of presidents representing conferences not represented on the Presidents Council or the Management Council).
The Council will consider that feedback at its August meeting and determine future steps, including possible action at the 2012 Convention.
“The takeaway from this meeting is that presidents recognize that the philosophy statement ought to reflect the principles of the division. The current version obviously does that, but the Council has agreed – and the white papers support – that there is room for enhancement,” Bultman said. “However, there doesn’t appear to be the sense that the division-dominant recommendations were necessary, because presidents feel there is widespread agreement philosophically on these principles and how they are articulated legislatively.”
Further vetting of these issues throughout the governance structure and elsewhere will give the Division III membership a chance to see if they agree.
In other action at the Presidents Council’s April 28 meeting, members: