October 26, 2015
Dear Art Students League Member,
The League's historic standing as a self-governed, self-supporting institution, founded in 1875 on the principle of a participatory democracy, is in grave danger of foundering.
We are deeply concerned about the future of this unique institution, whose original purpose was to "give a thorough course of instruction in drawing, painting and sculpture" for anyone who wanted to study art (Constitution). The sense of collegiality that formerly existed between art students, Instructors and Administrators, in an "open-door" policy, has disappeared and been replaced with autocratic rule, which has included hiring armed guards for members' meetings.
The Board reflects a change toward a corporate, for-profit venture, with policies that exclude and disqualify students who need affordable, flexible workspace. And the Board, which in recent years has come to include real estate developers, business liquidators, lawyers, and employment experts, appears to be making a sweeping move towards accreditation as a for-profit college, erasing the huge advantages of the atelier system our students and members have benefited from for 140 years. Susan Matz, candidate for Pres., spoke in favor of accreditation.
The League has created an entrenched, overflowing, bureaucracy, as administrative costs have skyrocketed to $3 million annually, while member services have declined. The League building has fallen into extreme disrepair. Artificial light has replaced natural light. Instead of being restored, skylights have been covered over by plywood and rubber roofing and are now but a hollow reminder of the League's glory days.
Members will vote in person on December 2nd on proposed changes to the Constitution. This Board has approved changes to the League's Constitution that will virtually end any significant membership participation and cement the Board's absolute control. Their proposal drastically degrades members' authority and substantially increases the unchecked powers of the President and vests considerable authority in a four-person executive committee of the Board, in ways that contradict the current Constitution's clearly stated democratic principles.
This is a major vote impacting every member. All members are entitled to be informed about the details of this vote, but the Board chose not to do so by refusing to send out copies of the proposed changes to every member. As a result, the membership remains uninformed about changes that negate the League's mission. The Board will do away with voting by mail and all means of written communications other than email. The Board and Administration will then be communicating only with a small subset of members.
There is still a chance to save the League if you believe our farsighted artist founders got it right about the school's mission. You must appear in person to Vote against the Constitutional changes, and Vote out the Board that has been dominated by the President for the last 10 years. Vote for the ASL 2025 slate of candidates listed below at the December 2nd Annual Meeting or by mail-in ballot.
Whether by design or "serendipity," there are now four candidates running for President, one is a former Board member, and one is the incumbent President. If the three candidates who are challenging the incumbent President split the opposition vote, the incumbent President will surely be re-elected. Please consider this when you cast your ballot.
To receive an absentee ballot for the Annual Election by mail, please complete the enclosed letter titled: Request Absentee Ballot for the Annual Election. The written request must be received by the Board on or before Monday, November 2nd (at least 30 days prior to the
December 2nd meeting). If you wish, please cc your request to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And please note:
Members must Appear in Person at the December 2nd Annual Meeting
to vote on the Board's Proposed Constitutional Amendments.
The vote on these amendments is all or nothing. We strongly urge you to vote NO.
An informed membership is an effective membership! Be informed and make up your own mind. Don't allow the current Board to make it up for you!
To read more about the significant problems facing the League, see the enclosed COMMENTARY.
Candidates for the 2015 / 2016 Board of Control: http://www.ASL2025.org
Marne Rizika - President
Susan Brauser - Vice President
Salvatore Forte - BoC Member
Walanne Steele - BoC Member
See Platform Letter Enclosed
This letter is sponsored by members whose only agenda is to restore the League to its founding principles with a goal to support anyone who wants to study art.
To help us protect the League please consider making a donation to the address below.
For further information about issues facing the League:
There are several newspaper articles that may be of interest to you as a League member.
Please contact us by email at: email@example.com or by phone: (646) 887-5323.
- A Washington Post article
describes the vulnerability of not-for-profit corporations.
- Problems with governance of not-for-profit corporations were set out in an article by the Chief of the Charities Bureau of the NYS Attorney General's office - see this link.
- See this article
to learn about former instructor, Gary Lawrence Sussman's lawsuit against the League.