APA dissolution effort enters second year
It was one year ago this week that the APA membership voted to dissolve the profession’s largest organization. Since then, membership has continued to climb, the central office has added several staff, and the number of committees and sub-committees has exploded. ”It’s surreal,” says Peter Ludlow, who helped spark the move to disincorporate. ”I keep waiting to wake up.”
“It turns out that shutting down a 112 year-old corporation is a lot of work,” explains David Shrader, executive director of the APA. “Not only is there the paperwork, but we have to find homes for all the historical documents the Association has accumulated, make sure PhilJobs is ready to fully replace Jobs for Philosophers, and generally ensure a smooth transition from obsolescence to nonexistence.” And those things take time, Shrader says. Time, and apparently money; to fund the various shut-down projects and pay for the assistance of corporate lawyers, the APA has continued to add new members to its rolls and has even raised membership dues, a measure Shrader describes as “temporary.”
Asked about the recent growth, APA staff promise that the organization is in fact preparing for dissolution and will not continue expanding indefinitely. ”We firmly believe that the APA is in its death throes, and that all major committee operations have ended,” says Meeting Coordinator Linda Smallbrook. As a sign of progress, she points out that the APA conventions weren’t held this year, saving the organization the $50,000 it loses on them annually. What she doesn’t mention is that a “disincorporation convention” was held in their place—three disincorporation conventions, actually. ”In response to complaints that attending such a convention would be an undue financial and scheduling burden on our membership, we decided to have three such conventions,” explains Shrader. ”One on each coast and one in the central part of the country. We were very pleased with that solution.” While organizing and hosting the conventions cost an estimated $200,000, none of which was recouped by registration fees, Shrader is confident that it will be a one-time outlay. ”Oh, sure—if we have to do this again next year, it will be way cheaper the second time around. We’ve learned a lot about how not to do it.”
“The irony is, if we had voted for the APA to expand, they’d probably have gone bankrupt and disincorporated six months ago,” says a logician at a research university who wishes to remain anonymous. ”It’s like a fucking paradox or something.”
In fact, says Ludlow, it’s more like a puzzle than a paradox. Suppose that on your journey to Athens you come to a fork in the road. At the fork are two brothers, one who always lies and one who always tells the truth, and both of whom know the way to Athens. If you ask one brother which way to Athens, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get a lie. The problem is, you won’t know whether you’re being lied to. Hence the puzzle: how to determine, from asking the brothers, which road you should take. ”Similarly, we as a profession have reached a fork in the road, so to speak. Which way forward? We want to disincorporate. But if we try to do so, it’s even money that the APA will actually grow larger. If we try to expand, it’s even money the APA will go bankrupt and be forced to shut down.” The problem is that the solution to the Athens puzzle—asking one brother how the other would answer—has no analogue in the present situation.
What, then, are we as a profession to do? Ludlow doesn’t know, and worse yet, doesn’t anticipate having time to figure it out anytime soon. ”Unfortunately,” he says, “outside of teaching, most of my time right now is taken up by chairing the Disincorporation Committee.”