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ASL Life Member Rick Michalek responds to Tom Torak 

November 24, 2015

Dear Members:  The following letter from Life Member Rick Michalek to League Instructor and Board supporter Thomas Torak is being forwarded to you with Mr. Michalek's permission. You may view the meeting which Mr. Michalek refers to in his letter here: The September 30th By-laws presentation.

Mr Torak, 

I fear your ignorance - outside of the world of visual art - may be showing. Have you read one page of any of the complaints filed in court? They are public documents. The documents I have read do not contain a single bit of evidence supporting your assertion that this is a 'personal vendetta'.

Have you indeed read the comparatively calm and thoughtful questions the Opposition is presenting, asking for specific answers?

Why is it, I keep wondering, that all the shouting is coming from the people in, and siding with, those in power?

Apparently unlike you, I have been reading and thinking about both sides. I have read all the complaints and all the briefs by both counsels, and the opinions at the Supreme Court level. And all the letters back and forth. I am not alone in wondering why questions to Mr Barbieri and to the Board are answered by invective and vague (and incorrect) assurances of 'having answered all the questions before'. Even the simple but telling fact that Mr Barbieri and the BOC chose only certain questions to answer at an open members meeting from those written on cards, rather than allowing verbal dialogue for all to hear says a lot about the desire for controlling - and editing perhaps - what is ideally a transparent, if messy, process.

Our system of justice is not, despite your quote from Justice Scalia, a win or lose in first instance system. Judges are fallible and if no mistakes were made, there would be no such thing as 'remand' or 'overturned on appeal'. You do not seem to concern yourself with the merits of what is being debated. I'm doubtful you can even describe - roughly - what Bylaw 31 is about. But more importantly than "win or lose", the bringing and pursuit of a case through appeal forces an objective look at the claims and at the issues raised. A court may produce a single 'answer' from a legal perspective, but the "winning side" may still be revealed as having disregarded certain principles, having cut corners and having taken advantage, just as the losing side may have presented powerful arguments and raised wholly legitimate questions - perhaps best answered outside the judicial process. To reduce the entire exercise to a black and white, open and shut, 'one winner, one loser' dialectic is over simplistic to an extreme, insults the intelligence and maturity of those affected, and serves to undermine the importance of civility in disagreement.

Democracy, to be effective, demands more than blind trust in the status quo. And while positive accomplishments do matter, the process matters more. To my mind, and to the minds of many many people, the 'ends rarely justify all means'. With untrammeled and unconstrained power, all sorts of wonderful (and terrible) things can occur. It is incoherent to argue that because someone questions the process, they are also denying or decrying the wonderful accomplishments or are otherwise malevolent in purpose.

But, the one question that just keeps coming back again and again is why does someone so vigorously pursue, and so viciously protect, a 'thankless position'? Claiming that it is out of a desire to "save" the League lacks a certain.... humility. 

Volunteer boards, and not for profit institutions are often motivated by emotion, often positive, and a desire to support the fundamental goals of the institution. But in my - and apparently others' - opinion, there really ought to be a frequent "restart" that can allow the principles of the institution to reassert themselves on fresh eyes, and new minds free of any 'agenda creep' that may overtake those too long inured to the position. To encourage the constant renewal of ideas and energy, Board members appropriately have term limits at ASL; it is a terrible oversight not to have a similar 'enforced retirement' on the President. If an election is our next best alternative until such term limits can be installed, I urge everyone to take the time to read the details of the complaints and to strongly consider the 'refreshment' of the leadership of ASL. Respectfully,

Rick Michalek
Life Member

PS: I have copied the candidate for President from the opposition so that my response may be shared more widely.


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to Take Back the League for Members.