Commentary

Speak up for YMCA

September 17, 2013 

On Aug. 29, we canceled our 20-year family membership at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA. It broke our hearts to do so: this Y has been a daily member of our family since we moved here.

On Aug. 28 Maureen and other members had attended the monthly meeting of the Y Board of Directors and listened as the management consultant from Y of the Triangle (YOTA), which now runs this Y, presented the newly-revised bylaws to the board. These new draft bylaws – revised behind closed doors – will effectively strip the Y membership of its voting rights, and put selection of new board members in the hands of a very few current board members.

This stealth move should come as no surprise: in January, the board signed a management agreement with YOTA without notification to or input from Y membership. A month later, Y members were shocked to learn, from a piece of paper taped to the door, that the racquetball courts would be destroyed to make more room for workout equipment, a decision also made without any member participation.

Only the actions of an enraged membership thwarted this move, and the courts remain for now. But during this process, the board decided its membership had no business attending and observing its board meetings: they refused entry to Y members who arrived to listen to the board discussion on the racquetball court issue, and then closed the meetings to members completely. Only in June did the board begin to allow Y members to attend board meetings, with “opportunity to comment” only during the first 15 minutes of each meeting.

Now the board seeks to further limit the decision-making role of the Y membership by revising the bylaws such that the board handpicks its prospective candidates, and creates a slate of nominees to be voted on as a unit. The membership will be allowed to nominate only a single “primary nominee” to the board. And the “Governance Committee” that revised the bylaws is also the “Nominating Committee” that selects candidates for open board seats. In addition, Y members will no longer be allowed to propose amendments to, or vote on board-proposed amendments to their own bylaws: only the board will have that power.

One by one, this board, under the auspices of Y of the Triangle, is taking away the rights of the Chapel Hill Y membership: the very membership it purports to serve, and that provides the financial means by which this Y operates. We canceled our membership because we cannot support a board that treats its members so disrespectfully.

The question we have asked, and to which we have not heard an answer, is “Why?” Why does the Y board feel the need to make these changes?

Now you have a chance to ask the board yourself. Go to chcymca.org/about-us/board to find the bylaws, old and new, and read them. Then attend an upcoming breakfast with past Y board presidents (TBA; check the Y website), and a meeting at noon Wednesday, Sept. 25, in the meeting room at Carol Woods, where the Y board will meet to vote on accepting the revisions to the bylaws.

If you are a Y member, and you care about the future of this YMCA, plan to attend and to make your voice heard. To paraphrase George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “This town needs this measly, one-horse institution if only to have someplace where people can come without crawling to the YMCA Board of Directors or the Y of the Triangle.” Speak up, and take back the Chapel Hill Y now, before it’s gone forever.

Maureen Dolan Rosen was a YMCA board member from 1999 to 2006 and chair from 2004-05. The Rosens live in Chapel Hill.

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