IEEE elections typically show a very low level of
participation. This year, however, when you receive your IEEE ballot, you will
get to vote on an issue that has been dividing IEEE volunteers for several
months: proposed constitutional
amendments that pave the way to major changes in the way IEEE is governed.
Background: IEEE in 2030
The constitutional amendments that we will all be asked to
vote on this summer are proposed by the IEEE Board of Directors (BoD) as a
first step towards a major overhaul of the IEEE governance, called optimized
board structure by its proponents. This optimized board structure is proposed
as part of the work of the IEEE in 2030 Committee of the BoD, which aims at
positioning IEEE for success in 2030 in a rapidly evolving world.
The Constitutional Changes: What you will be voting on this
In order to accomplish the changes in IEEE governance
proposed by the IEEE in 2030, some changes are needed to the IEEE Constitution,
which can only be done through a vote by the whole membership. In particular,
the proposed changes to be voted on this summer include the separation of the
roles of delegate and director, and the inclusion of the IEEE Executive
Director (the top staff member in IEEE) as a non-voting member of the BoD.
Essentially, in the current Constitution, when delegates of Regions and
Societies are elected, they automatically become Directors and hence members of
the BoD. Currently, ten (geographic) region delegates and ten (society)
division delegates are elected and become members of the BoD. The proposed
constitutional changes allow for the IEEE Bylaws to define another way for BoD
members to be elected or chosen. In particular, the constitutional changes
would allow to implement the optimized board
structure (currently being designed), where these region and society elected delegates will only represent
their constituency on another board of the IEEE (called the Assembly, who
elects some of the IEEE officers), but not on the Board of Directors.
What the Constitutional Changes Would Enable: The optimized
The main reason to go through the proposed changes in the
Constitution is to effect the optimized board structure that is currently being
planned by the IEEE in 2030 Committee.
Although this plan is still under development and is
evolving as we speak, its current incarnation includes the creation of a new
board (Enterprise Board, under the BoD, and responsible for operations of
IEEE) as well as a complete change in the membership of the IEEE BoD (which is,
and will be, responsible for the strategy of the whole IEEE). If the
constitutional changes are approved in the upcoming IEEE election, this plan
will be enacted by changes in the IEEE Bylaws, which can be done directly by
the BoD and do not require a vote from the whole membership.
Why and Why Not?
The BoD has endorsed the proposed constitutional changes—and you will see this endorsement on your ballot. On the other hand, many IEEE
volunteers have voiced concerns over the proposed changes and started an active
campaign for the “no” camp.
Let me try to present succinctly the main points of each
camp here. I realize that this is a complex, and somewhat technical issue. I
would also strongly encourage you to make an educated decision, to consult the
resources available on both sides (see the list of resources at the end of this
article), to participate in upcoming debates and discussions, or to contact me
The main argument proposed in favor of changing the
constitution is that it will allow, in the months following the change, to
implement the optimized board structure proposed by IEEE in 2030. This new
structure is described as being more nimble, allowing the BoD to focus on
strategic issues (instead of operational issues as it currently also does), and
aligned with industry best practices in terms of having a smaller BoD.
Another argument in favor of the change is that it is
deemed a “no harm done” change: even if the membership votes in favour of
changing the constitution now, nothing forces the BoD to change the way in
which IEEE operates, and it could continue operating essentially as it does now
with a slightly amended constitution. In other words, the constitutional change
enables the optimized board structure, but it does not force IEEE to adopt it.
Arguments against the proposed constitutional amendment
include a lot of disagreement with the optimized board structure that would be
enabled by the constitutional change. Several voices within IEEE societies have
raised concern over the fact that the representation of Societies (the single
largest creators of IP and revenue for IEEE) in IEEE leadership will be
decreased: there will be no guaranteed representation for them on the BoD, and
they would be relegated one more level away from the BoD by the creation of the
new Enterprise Board. Furthermore, doubts are raised about the necessity to
make the IEEE Executive Director, an IEEE employee, a member of the BoD, as
IEEE should only be managed by volunteers.
At a more procedural level, opponents have argued that
approving the constitutional changes without knowing exactly what the optimized
board structure amounts to giving a mandate to act to the BoD, without knowing
what it intends to do with it, and that the two proposals should be set forth
together in front of members so they can make an informed decision.
This is further clouded by what several have considered a
breach of trust with the BoD; the secrecy that surrounded the development of
the first version of this constitutional amendment last year has raised a lot
of eyebrows. The fact that the electioneering rules of IEEE are also
interpreted very strictly in this instance by IEEE corporate (stating for
instance the BoD is not formally a proponent of the constitutional change, and
that it can hence use IEEE funds to promote the change, whereas any opponents
are forbidden to do so) has also alienated many volunteers who request a full,
open and transparent discussion of these issues. Opposing statements submitted
by several volunteers will only appear on the ballot after substantial editing
In Conclusion: Be informed and vote!
I hope that, by the end of this column, you are either
intrigued enough or engaged enough to want to know more and at least to take a
few minutes over the summer to cast your vote. There are many sources of
information out there, of which I list a few here. Do not hesitate to contact
me, or your region or division director to continue this conversation.
Junior Past President and VP—Membership, IEEE VTS
Member, TABin2030 Committee