Submitted by Anthony Covatta
May was a watershed month for the Literary Club, with two differing electoral events, the first appearing to put to rest longstanding questions on a bedrock club tradition, the second jettisoning an ancient tradition, leading to multiple resignations of senior members and casting the Club’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas in doubt.
I was ambivalent on the woman issue and offer these remarks as a dispassionate observer, a long term member and past president with a brief for neither side. My concern is the Club, not any ideological position.
The sense of the Club votes on four modes of dealing with the issue of women’s relationships with the Club went off without a hitch (after months, even years of fevered debate). The votes made it clear that a strong majority opposed female membership and lesser majorities opposed women as guests on a regular or special basis, while a final majority voted for inviting women to special events to be designed by the BOM. As this writer remarked at the close of the meeting, this gave a clear picture of Club sentiment and put to rest the long simmering debate. It was a result that all could accept, and as appeared from remarks after the meeting, it appeared that all did. Certainly the main proponents of the pro-women movement did. And with good grace and without a murmur even if they were disappointed.
But the victors for whatever reason did not accept their victory. At the Annual Elections last week the long standing tradition of treating the VP as President-Elect was deliberately ignored, and the officers who had been most strident in defense of the status quo were elected to the highest offices. All attempts to mollify the situation by this writer were shot down. It seemed as if a desire to punish those holding unorthodox opinions held sway. This has not been the tradition of the Club heretofore. Indeed, on several prior occasions where feathers had been ruffled in the electoral process, measures were immediately taken to bring the Club together and salve the hurt of the offended member. Perhaps we can no longer do that under the new rules.
But something should and must be done for the good of the Club. I am sure uncivil things were said by both sides. But all need to take a deep breath and reconsider positions. The election has been held and the new officers are or soon will be in place. While there was overt electioneering by one side ( not by the pro-fems) nothing forbids that. It’s a pity, but one can do as one wishes. Nevertheless, I call on the new officers to affirm that the Club remains dedicated to the free exchange of ideas without ungentlemanly name calling and retribution. Further, that they will dedicate themselves to leading by example. And I call on each of us to regard those who disagree with us without rancor or fear. It is a shame that we have driven valuable members out of the Club who accepted the results of the prior poll on women, but could not accept the hostile fear engendered remarks and behavior that followed.
Let’s back down before the Club is hurt more. The Club will remain exclusively male. Will it become again a haven for brotherly exchange of ideas?