Broadside to the West -- No.1
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Frederick of Holland, Duke – Beltaine, XXXX (May 1, 2005)
(All information stated as fact is believed to be fact. All opinions belong to the Writer.)

Honor, Penance and Redemption

You may have noticed at the gate that now the Constables are asking you to write down your card number on the sign-in sheet.

Why? Is this some new demand of the Board?

No. We are doing this to ourselves. It is a penance, and a hope for redemption in the goodness of time. It is being done because the people of the West failed a test which we set for ourselves; a test of honor – the only test that matters.

When the Board instituted the Non-Member Surcharge (NMS) several things happened in the West. First, the West Kingdom Welcome Committee (WKWC) was formed. Second, our Seneschal negotiated a deal which would allow the West to collect the NMS based on the assertion of our people as to their membership status, i.e. on the honor system.

Thus we could come to the gate and if asked if we were members, simply tell the Constables whether we were or not. If so, we didn’t owe the NMS. If not, the WKWC offer was open to us, or we could pay the $3 ourselves.

To be sure that we weren’t cheating an audit was made of certain events, checking the sign-in sheets against the membership rosters. And it turned out that a significant fraction of those who claimed to be members were not on the lists of membership. Somewhere between 15% and 25%, depending on the event.

Now, a certain number of people might have been confused about the nature of membership (see following article), and some others might have not realized that their membership had lapsed, and there are certainly problems with the accuracy of the membership rolls themselves. In addition, there might have been problems with the recording of membership status by the Constables at the Gate. And some people may have just plain lied, though I cannot see why they would do so.

The end result is that the Board wants its penny and we are forced into the objectionable checking of proof of membership at the gate as announced earlier this year.

There was an open meeting at March Crown. At it, King Alden revealed that the Society Seneschal is willing to give us another chance. We must educate ourselves, so that there is full realization of what the Board means by membership, so that the Constables know to ask the right questions and so that people are more aware of their membership status. If we do this and if we show that the record-keeping matches for a period of six months, then we can go back to the honor system, with checking on a periodic basis.

So, this Broadside is my contribution to the matter of education. There will be others: You will see them on Privy Posts, in handouts at the gate, etc. Read them, talk about them, make yourself aware. Then, once we have begun to take back our honor we can go on to the next step.

When is a member not a member?

I will never give up my contention that any contribution to the SCA, whether it be work or money or whatever, makes you a functional member of this Society.

However, the Board of Directors has long insisted that only those people who have sent money to the office in Milpitas, "paid members," are "real" members. Over many, many years they have systematically removed activities from the general pool available to all and restricted them to paid members.

Further, they have consistently espoused the attitude that "non-members" are somehow free-loaders despite the clear evidence of work done and the fact that the only consistently cited overall benefit of the Corporation, the Liability Insurance, has only recently had its cost rise above $100,000.

When the Board instituted the Non-Member Surcharge, two and a half years ago, they decided to tax those who had not paid money to Milpitas, regardless of how much input they had made to the SCA and regardless of the fact that the amount of the tax was exorbitant compared to the costs of benefits. The NMS was designed to coerce people into becoming paid members and designed to balance the budget of the SCA, Inc. on the backs of "non-members", generating "membership benefits" with the extra cash.

At the gate, the only membership that is allowed to count, by the Rules of the Board, is current paid membership in the SCA, Inc. If you don’t have that, they say, you are a non-member.

Their rules say that $3 per event per "non-member" must be sent to the Board. Luckily, they do not say who must pay it, so the West Kingdom Welcome Committee offers to pay the fee for anyone who comes to an SCA event in the West. This is a commitment to the idea that the contributions of all players, monetary or not, are equal, and a commitment to the idea that everyone *will* contribute if given a chance and by that contribution truly become members of the SCA.

How many Non-members are there?

Not that many. In the first year of the NMS, $109,000 was collected. In 2004 it was $170,000. Given that the NMS is $3/person/event fee, this translates to 56,667 person-events. The results of the recent poll of the SCA, conducted on-line, suggests that a highly conservative average attendance for non-members is 3 events per year. (A more likely number is 5.) That’s between 13,000 and 18,000 non members, compared to the total paid membership of 35,000. Only between 1/4 and 1/3 of the total participants are non-members. That number is also consistent with the results of tallies of members and non-members coming in the gate at events. And *most* non-members are newcomers (not all, but most).

What IS the next step?

The next step, as pointed out by His Grace, Jade of Starfall, at the meeting at Crown, is to get rid of the NMS completely. Once we have cleaned our house we need to put our energies into making sure that ALL participants in the SCA are recognized as true members of our organization.

By my hand -- Frederick of Holland.

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