​The crowd was estimated to be over one million, and the local ABC television affiliate also aired the event. Over 50 Mensa members and supporters marched or rode on our float. The banners read “Diversity is Smart” and “Rainbow Mensans” along with a small Chicago Area Mensa marquee logo. Funding was provided by member donations and Chicago’s Good Old Burt Spain (GOBS) trust. This year, Cat Sterritt was the organizer-in-chief and did a terrific job of pulling it all together. It's not every day that Mensa's name gets in front of a million people in a very positive way.

Marching in the parade is also a darn good time. One would think that after hiking 4 miles along the parade route, one's feet would be the body part that hurts the most. Not for me: it's my face that hurts the most. Try constantly smiling for several hours and you'll see what I mean. The energy from the crowd is amazing.As I write this, I’m preparing to travel to our Annual Gathering (AG) in Sparks, NV. I haven’t missed an AG in many years and am eagerly anticipating the many offerings. Being on the Board of Directors (AMC), I spend time in business meetings and our Region 4 Meet & Greet, but I’ll have a little time to sample some of the other proceedings. I’m also looking forward to the “Wild Mustang” tour. If you’ll be there, please be sure to say hello.


July 2022 ​– Board of Directors (AMC) Update

We held our regular AMC meeting on March 19 at our new headquarters in Hurst, TX. The meeting minutes were 37 pages long, so we talked about a lot of stuff. I’ve summarized the more important points below:

  • We reported American Mensa had more members than we had at the end of the prior fiscal year. [Note: We finished the 2021-2022 fiscal year with 50,074 members. That’s +748 or +1.52% over the prior year.] Our retention rate was 90%.
  • The AMC voted no confidence in the National Ombudsman.
  • A lengthy motion was passed to strengthen members’ ability to manage how third parties use personal data. Novel projects should use the same opt-in/opt-out preferences the member previously established for third-party communications. A committee or member should review and approve third-party communications, and contracts will require personal data destruction after projects complete.
  • The 2022-2023 budget was passed. It projects a modest budget surplus without a dues increase.
  • Several housekeeping motions were passed, including the appointment of our auditor, an update on how the Strategic Planning Committee is appointed, deleting language in our Actions Still in Effect (ASIEs) related to online “AML Forums” that no longer exist, and updating language around “online services”.
  • A 3/5 Year Membership Fund was established. This essentially codified our current practices for the use of those multi-year dues funds.
  • A Volunteerism Task Force was established. Look for their report on-line which should be posted with the July AMC meeting information.
  • A Criminal Acts Task Force was not established – at least not yet. The motion was committed for further study and refinement before potentially reviewing it again at our next AMC meeting.
  • Prohibited Local Groups from maintaining online directories separate from the directory on the National website. This will help ensure privacy preferences will be respected as members can change these at any time.
  • Updated the guidelines for administration of internet communication services. The policy was originally adopted in 2005, well before American Mensa became involved with social media including Facebook.
  • Our Treasurer, Taz Criss, reported on our financials and provided some background on revenue recognition. As Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, I presented an update regarding the status of projects prioritized for action in 2021. Kimberly Strickland, Membership Officer, presented results from the June 2021 lapsed member survey.


Our next AMC meeting will be at the Annual Gathering in Sparks, NV on Thursday July 7th. Members are welcome to attend and optionally address the AMC. We’ll also have our Annual Business Meeting on Friday July 8th. There, our previous year’s results are presented. Members can also address the meeting and submit bylaws proposals. If approved, bylaws changes would be voted on by the entire membership during our next elections in 2024. I hope to see you there.


June 2022 ​– Having Fun with Mensa

Surveys show most members don’t participate in Mensa activities, preferring to get their entertainment from the Bulletin and reading wonderful articles in their Local Group newsletters – maybe even this column? OK, perhaps not that.

Over a span of just over three months, I personally intend to attend:

  • CultureQuest®. Teams of up to 5 Mensa members compete to answer pesky trivia questions about things that don’t matter. Our team usually winds up in the middle of the pack, but it’s fun reminding ourselves about all the things we don’t know. Other teams win cash prizes.
  • Mind Games®. Board game creators submit products hoping to win the coveted Mensa Select® seal that can be included on the games’ packaging and marketing. Several hundred Mensa members (“judges”) play at least thirty games over a long weekend, rating each on characteristics such as game play and whether the instructions are any good. This year’s winners were Atheneum, Genotype, Life of a Chameleon, Miyabi, and Shifting Stones.
  • Two Regional Gatherings. Local groups host events that often include tours, speakers, games, tournaments, food, and more. For me, the best part is meeting new Mensa friends who range from fascinating to quirky — usually in a good way.
  • The Annual Gathering, our premiere national event that in past years has attracted well over 1,000 attendees. This year it’s in Sparks, NV (near Reno). The gala speaker, Margot Lee Shetterly, wrote Hidden Figures. As usual, there will be multiple speaker tracks, tours, games, tournaments, and hospitality. This year we’re having a Sunday drag brunch. The Board of Directors (AMC) will meet. We’ll have an Annual Meeting where members can learn about the organization’s progress, express their opinions to leadership, and vote on any bylaws proposals.
  • Many Local Group events including monthly gatherings, dinners, lunches, a Memorial Day picnic, Zoom events, a museum visit, and more.


Sadly I won’t have time to attend the Colloquium on “Giftedness Across the Lifespan”, not to mention a whole bunch of other local group events including those posted on the national website. Really, there’s only so much fun one person can have.

Many of us also read Mensa’s electronic offerings. To see what’s available, you can review your communications preferences on the national website by navigating to My Mensa -> My Membership Profile -> My Communications Preferences. Among others, I enjoy Mensa Brainwave. It offers news about interesting scientific developments. Some people love seeing content posted in Mensa Connect, others not so much. In each of your subscribed Connect communities, you can elect to get notifications every time something is posted, a daily digest, or turn off notifications entirely.

Hopefully at least something here will prompt you to have more fun with Mensa, and I hope to have you join us at an event soon!


May 2022 ​– Acts Inimical

At this year’s Academy Awards, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Had one of our members slapped someone at a Mensa event, the police could have been called. We could have also initiated a hearing to determine if that constituted an act inimical to Mensa.

Like the U.S. legal system, Mensa’s hearings process is adversarial. First someone needs to bring a complaint. Then a regional or national hearing may be held where both the complainant and respondent present their viewpoints. An impartial panel decides if sufficient evidence exists to sustain the complaint, and if so, which sanctions to impose. If expulsion is recommended, the Board of Directors (AMC) must concur.

It’s an imperfect system, although I haven’t seen a better suggestion. While it protects the accused’s rights, it may force a victim to relive a very unpleasant event. The victim may therefore choose not to initiate a hearing. Even if others bring charges on the victim’s behalf, getting sanctions may be difficult without the victim’s cooperation. That leaves the perpetrator to potentially reoffend.

Our Actions Still in Effect (ASIEs) list only nine members who have been expelled over the years. While not every bad act merits expulsion, that number seems low. Historically, we – along with much of society – have collectively tolerated bad behavior. The cliché of a male boss chasing a female secretary around a desk was a “joke”, not something to be condemned. Times have changed. Such behavior was never OK and must not be tolerated.

At a recent St. Louis Area Mensa monthly meeting, representatives from Alcoholics Anonymous spoke about their organization. I asked what they did about people who did bad things. Interestingly, they have no formal mechanism to kick anyone out of the organization. Someone stealing money from the coffee fund might instead be shunned or at least subjected to a very pointed discussion.

Perhaps we can learn something from them. If you see something, say something. If you are uncomfortable confronting someone directly, speak with an event host or your Local Group leadership. I’m not shy about protecting our members either, and my contact information is below. We need to cultivate a culture where people feel welcomed; accordingly, our national events and many Regional Gatherings now have formal and enforceable codes of conduct.

We continue to debate other aspects of member safety. What, for example, should happen if a member is convicted of a violent criminal offense? Which specific offenses might disqualify someone from membership? We have members whose offenses were many years ago and who have apparently been rehabilitated. Should they be refused membership? What if a conviction is overturned on appeal? Should becoming a member require a background check along with an IQ test?

None of these are easy questions. If anyone has answers, I’m all ears.


April 2022 ​– More Complaints

In my June, 2019 newsletter article, I wrote about people who complain – and why I liked to hear those complaints. People who complain still care about Mensa and want to make it better.

Unfortunately, most complaints come in the form of: “Somebody should do something about this!” “Somebody”, of course, means: “not me”.

There may well be good reasons for this. Some people may not have the time or skills to help. They may perceive – perhaps incorrectly – that because they’re not in a leadership role, they can’t make changes. They may have tried to help in the past but were met with resistance. We’ve all heard the excuses from “We’ve always done it this way” to “That’ll never work” – among many others.

If you have a complaint about Mensa, instead of dashing off a scathing social media post or e-mail, consider:

  • Don’t like the newsletter? Why not contribute an article, story, puzzle, or picture? Could you be part of the team that works to publish it?
  • No activities you want to attend? Establish one. It’s pretty easy. Set a time and date, make any needed arrangements with the venue, and ask your editor to include the event in the newsletter. Bonus points are given for advertising it via social media and writing a follow-up newsletter article about how wonderful it was. Maybe people will want to do it again. If it’s a flop, try hosting a different event.
  • Regional Gathering not exciting enough? Is there a topic you could present, a tournament you could host, or a tour you could lead?


There are many other possibilities, so get creative! To misquote John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what Mensa can do for you; do something for Mensa.” Volunteers are much happier with their Mensa experience – and themselves.

Finally, when you see a volunteer, please take a moment to say “thank you”. Toward that end, I’d like to say “thanks” to all our volunteers in Region 4 and specifically to:

  • Maggie Brady, Rhonda Peek, and Susan Woodill for feeding us at RGs year after year
  • Heather Booton for organizing ‘WeeM and finding us all places to meet
  • Kevin Borchers and Jim Cundiff-Woods for establishing strategic initiatives for their Local Groups
  • Jane Gmur for her work with the Foundation’s scholarship program
  • Teresa Gregory, Jan Pfeil Doyle, and Beth Weiss for their leadership as LocSecs and Annual Gathering Chairs
  • Albert Lin for keeping Iowa-Illinois Mensa a vibrant Local Group

And of course all the board members, editors, proctors, testing coordinators, membership officers, treasurers, secretaries, ombudspeople, webmasters, scholarship chairs, area coordinators, and everyone that helps in other ways.

Sadly there isn’t enough space to name you all, so if you don’t see your name, please know that I’m grateful for what you do too.


March 2022 ​– Mensa Trivia

Because the CultureQuest® trivia competition is coming, below are a few Mensa related trivia questions as a warmup.

If you haven’t participated in CultureQuest® before, give it a try. Teams of up to five people meet virtually and answer pesky questions about things that don’t matter. It’s a lot of fun – and rather humbling. Apparently, there are many things I don’t know. Registration closes March 31st and the event is on Sunday April 24th at 4:00 PM Eastern, 3:00 PM Central. The top teams get cash prizes.

Questions:

  1. When was Mensa founded? A) 1937, B) 1946, C) 1951, D) 1956
  2. What month of the year does American Mensa have the most members? A) January, B) March, C) August, D) December
  3. Where is American Mensa headquartered? A) Brooklyn, NY, B) Hurst, TX, C) Orlando, FL, D) San Jose, CA.
  4. American Mensa’s Board of Directors is referred to as the AMC. “AM” stands for American Mensa. What does the “C” stand for? A) Cabinet, B) Committee, C) Commission, D) Council.
  5. How many people are on the AMC? A) 5, B) 11, C) 15, D) 21.
  6. How many Local Groups are in American Mensa? A) 78, B) 112, C) 124, D) 136.
  7. Every Local Group belongs to a Region. How many Regions are there? A) 7, B) 8, C) 9, D) 10.
  8. Our next Annual Gathering will be in Sparks (Reno), NV from July 6-10, 2022. Where will the next three AGs be held after that? A) Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago; B) Austin, Milwaukee, Albuquerque; C) Salt Lake City, Nashville, Jacksonville; D) Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte.
  9. Approximately how much revenue did American Mensa have in fiscal year 2020-2021? A) $4m, $5m, $6m, $7m.


Answers:

  1. B. Mensa was conceived in 1946 when Roland Berrill and Lancelot Lionel Ware met by chance on a train. American Mensa emerged in 1960.
  2. B. March. Our fiscal year runs April 1st through March 31st. Members who haven’t renewed by March 31st are dropped from membership on April 1st, our lowest point of the year. We ended fiscal year 2021 with 49,326 members.
  3. B. We are incorporated in New York, and the organization was first run from Brooklyn. We moved from there to Texas and are now in Hurst.
  4. B. Committee.
  5. D. 21. We have 15 elected positions and 5 appointed, nonvoting positions. Our Executive Director is an ex officio, nonvoting member. The National Ombudsperson may attend meetings but isn’t a member.
  6. C. 124.
  7. D. 10. We’re in Region 4.
  8. A. After Sparks, NV, our AGs are scheduled for Baltimore; Kansas City; and Chicago.
  9. A. $4,035,231. Dues were the largest source of income, totaling $3,038,699.


P.S. CultureQuest® is more fun than this quiz was!


February 2022 ​– How the Sausage is Made

Definition: com·mit·tee. noun. /kə-ˈmi-tē/. The place where good ideas go to die.

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
 

Change in American Mensa comes in many ways. Some is unofficial, simply the product of changes in society and reflected in our organization. Behavior that once may have been tolerated is now roundly condemned. Some egregious enough can become grounds for disciplinary hearings or even expulsion from Mensa.

Officially, changes to Mensa’s international constitution may impose new requirements on American Mensa. Changing American Mensa’s bylaws requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of our membership at a special or regular election. Putting a bylaws change on the ballot can happen via:

  • A two-thirds majority vote of the Board of Directors (AMC)
  • A majority of members at the Annual Gathering’s Business Meeting
  • A proposal endorsed with 250 valid member signatures
  • Two-thirds of members at Local Group business meeting(s) attended by a combined total of at least 150 members


Changing the International Constitution and our bylaws are intentionally difficult and hence are generally only used for high level issues. Changes to our Actions Still in Effect (ASIEs) are much easier. Here, all that’s needed is a majority vote by the AMC at a scheduled meeting. Any AMC member – including appointed officers – can write a motion. If a seconder approves, the motion will be put on the agenda. Then voting AMC members can approve it, defeat it, or send it to a committee for further consideration.

Interestingly, proposals made by individual AMC members tend to fare poorly compared to proposals coming from committees. Perhaps that’s because committees have multiple people considering potential ramifications before they’re submitted. Sometimes the AMC will find a motion objectionable and attempt to “fix” it by amending the language during the meeting. This seldom goes well.

Bottom line, working through committees is the best way to accomplish ASIE-level change. I currently participate on three: Strategic Planning (as Chair), Name & Logo, and Research Review. I’ve written about the first two in previous newsletter columns. Research Review was established to consider proposals – usually from academics or governmental agencies – to use our members for studies. One recent example was a state wanting to survey Mensa members about gifted education. We do have exacting criteria to approve these proposals, including confidentiality and adherence to the Federal Policy for Protection of Human Subjects.

We currently have 28 volunteer committees and a couple of task forces helping to make Mensa better. Some work with an appointed officer (such as Marketing); many also work with the National Office. A listing of the committees is on the website under Lead -> Board of Directors (AMC) -> Committees. Members are always welcome to apply to help with these teams.


January 2022 ​– Yellow Postcards

I have seen many members’ comments about Mensa’s oral history project. Some were favorable; many were not.

The project was initiated by our national office. American Mensa’s former Chair and the History Committee Chair were consulted although didn’t make the final decision. I and the other AMC members were not consulted. We were only informed that a third-party company, PCI, would be collecting members’ stories. They would sell the compilation to recoup their investment. Mensa would neither pay nor receive money. PCI apparently does this work for many organizations.

Unfortunately, many members were surprised to receive PCI’s solicitation. The e-mails and postcards seemed scammy. After the initial outcry, the national office worked with PCI to improve the wording for subsequent communications.

Many members felt Mensa ignored their communication preference set on the national website to exclude them from external promotions. Initially, we were told this was a “project” that would benefit members, not an external “promotion”. Given that PCI was selling something, that’s a distinction without a difference. We should respect members’ preferences. Belatedly, a separate preference to opt out of oral history solicitations was added to the website.

Here were the early November statistics:

  • Total stories collected: 7,809 (our project seems to be performing better than many of the others they've done)
  • Data Verification:
    • Emails: 1,429 new/updated
    • Addresses: 597 new/updated
    • Home Phone: 6,911 new/updated
    • Cell Phone: 5,059 added (granted some may use cell phone as home phone)
  • 95% of those participating and completing the survey at the end of the call would recommend it to others
  • 164 former members rejoined to participate

At the August AMC meeting, our Executive Director expressed his deep regret for how the project was rolled out and apologized for our members’ frustration. He worked with Communications Officer Robin Crawford to craft corrective motions for the AMC to consider. Concerns about some wording prompted us to refer them to our Membership Committee. They should submit updated motions for our March meeting. Meanwhile, we have requested external projects be put on hold.

We must still partner with outside organizations to keep dues affordable. If you’re over 50, you can join AARP for $12 yearly. They accomplish that by getting revenue from companies selling everything from life insurance to cruises. We don’t want to turn Mensa into the marketing machine that AARP is, but $12/year dues sounds a lot better than $79/year. Perhaps there’s a happy medium somewhere?

Our other challenge remains – as always – communication. This project was widely advertised through advance e-mails, inclusion in Mensa Wired and Mensa Leader e-newsletters, and even in the Bulletin. Yet people still said they hadn’t heard about it when they started getting postcards. I’m not sure there is a solution to that one, but ideas are always welcome.

Feedback? Please contact me at rvc4@us.mensa.org or via phone/text at +1 309 693 1359. Region 4’s Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/695847670490858.


Copyright © 2022 Jon W. Gruebele. All Rights Reserved.


Jon Gruebele Regional Vice Chair Local Group Newsletter Articles from 2022


August 2022 ​– Doing Terrific Mensa Stuff


I’m continually delighted by all the wonderful things that happen in Mensa, almost all of which are conceived and delivered entirely by our awesome volunteers. In Region 4, we have two major upcoming events:

Regional Gatherings are a mix of speakers, food, games, tournaments, and fun. Each is unique. HalloweeM, for example, is home to the pun-tastic costume contest that presents coveted awards for best pun and worst pun costumes. This has always puzzled me a bit, since “best pun” and “worst pun” are essentially the same thing. Whatever, we’d love to see you there!

Special Interest Groups (SIGs) can also be a big part of your membership experience. Nationally there are over 130 to choose from, and many Local Groups have their own. Recently Chicago’s Rainbow SIG again sponsored an entry in the annual Chicago Pride Parade.