To: Members of the Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship
From: Presidents of the Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship
As you probably know, the Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship are the leading Oxfordian organizations in the United States. For eight years, the two groups have held joint annual conferences on the Shakespeare authorship question, with an emphasis on the candidacy of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as the true author.
Because the missions of the two groups are so closely aligned, we have often considered whether we should join forces as a single organization, dedicated to spreading the Oxfordian message in the U.S. and beyond. This year, we have had a series of talks about unifying the two groups. We discussed the differences we would have to overcome to create a single Oxfordian group in the U.S. After much discussion, we found that our differences could be reconciled. We drew up a “Notice of Intent” (attached to this message), which is a non-binding guideline of how we would accomplish unification. The Notice of Intent has been approved by the Boards of Trustees of both the Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship. We believe that the two groups can work more efficiently and harmoniously as one group.
Both Boards recommend the name “Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship” as the name of the new organization. The new name is meant to pay tribute to the two groups from which the new organization springs by combining their names. (Members are welcome, however, to suggest other names.)
A great deal still has to be done before unification is finalized. First of all, we want to hear the responses from you, our members. Please read the attached Notice of Intent and share with us your comments, suggestions, reservations, and your objections, if any. Before unification can be final, we have to work out a more detailed Plan of Unification and have a final vote by our members. We will need a two-thirds majority from the memberships of both organizations for unification to take place. Your input is important at this time because we want to accomplish it in a way that will best serve the needs of our members.
Please send your comments to either (or both) of us by April 30 at the e-mail addresses below:
NOTICE OF INTENT
This is a Notice of Intent (NOI) between the Shakespeare Oxford Society (“SOS”) and the Shakespeare Fellowship (“SF”) to unify into a single entity. This is not a binding agreement, but only a notice of general intent and a broad outline of the means of unification. The organizations expect to produce a more detailed and binding final agreement, a Plan of Unification (POU), approved by the Board of Trustees (BOT) and memberships of each organization, which will more fully delineate the details before unification becomes final.
The reasons for the unification of our two organizations are many. One overriding motivation is to save costs from duplication of efforts so that the unified organization can devote more resources to promote research and outreach. Also, since the two organizations share the same Oxfordian goal, the existence of two organizations is confusing to potential recruits and wasteful of effort. In a hostile Stratfordian world, since nothing divides us, we would do better to stand together.
The steps for unification will be accomplished by the SOS filing a “Doing Business As” (DBA) [new operational name], a proposed POU approved by the BOT of each organization, and the SF will thereafter dissolve.
At present, the organizations agree that unification will occur under the following circumstances:
1. The unified organization will be called by a new operational name, “Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship” (“SOF”), unless the memberships of both organizations approve another operational name. The name, “Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship,” is meant to pay tribute to the two organizations from which the new organization springs, knowing that the word “Fellowship” has a distinguished pedigree in the Oxfordian movement and that the original Shakespeare Fellowship in England boasted Thomas Looney and George Greenwood as officers and that the American branch had Dr. Louis P. Benezet and Eva Turner Clark. We also believe that the word “fellowship,” defined as “a group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim,” describes the kind of group we hope to have. The unified organization will retain the SOS articles of incorporation and its corporate name for purposes of the 501(c)(3) non-profit tax status, but will register a “DBA”- “Doing Business As” for the “Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship,” or whatever name the members shall prefer. The SOS will make a separate filing of a “DBA”- “Doing Business As” certificate, so it can operate under a different name. (For example: Daimler-Benz ‘DBA’: Mercedes Benz, Federated Department Stores ‘DBA’: Macy’s, Deutsche Telekom ‘DBA’: T-Mobile.) The unified organization would be SOS, Inc. ‘DBA’: Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship.
2. This Notice of Intent, after approval by the BOTs of the SOS and SF, will be published to the memberships of both groups by mail, e-mail, newsletter, and/or website publication so that the members may make comments, suggestions, or objections regarding the general plan as outlined in the NOI. Once the POU is finalized and approved by the BOTs of the SOS and SF, the members of each organization will be asked to approve the POU by mail ballot, which approval by 2/3 majority vote of each voting membership shall be necessary to finalize the unification. Members of the SOS and SF at the time of unification will automatically become members of the SOF. The renewal dates and dues of their memberships will be determined by the POU, on a common annual basis. Every effort will be made to keep dues at or near their current level. The SF will satisfy or provide for the payment of all of its liabilities and then transfer to the SOF all of its net assets, including cash balances, tangible assets, intellectual property, etc.
3. The SOF will publish a single newsletter, and to the extent possible, the newsletter will be published quarterly. The editor(s) of the newsletter will be chosen by the BOT and will work “at will.” Should the new by-laws provide for a Publications Committee, the Chair of the Committee may make suggestions to the editors, but the editors will have final say on editorial matters.
4. The SOF will publish both of the scholarly journals currently published by the SOS and SF, The Oxfordian and Brief Chronicles. The Oxfordian will continue to be published once a year in hard copy and be sent free to full members. Brief Chronicles will remain a free online journal accessible to all. The current editors of the two journals will remain as they are at present and will work “at will.” The editors will be compensated, and the budget for editors’ salaries will be the same for The Oxfordian as for Brief Chronicles. Future journal editors will be chosen by the BOT and will work “at will.” Should the new by-laws provide for a Publications Committee, the Chair of the Committee may make suggestions to the editors, but the editors will have final say on editorial matters.
5. The POU will present a balanced budget and revenues that identify specific ways to substantially reduce administrative expenses and enhance funding for research, publications, website support, and educational programs. The POU will show that the operations of each of SF and SOS generates sufficient funds to cover its expenses, and that the BOT of the unified organization will ensure that it will have enough funding to meet its annual financial obligations.
6. The POU will present a new set of by-laws for the unified organization. A committee of members from the SF and SOS will examine the by-laws of the two groups and decide which by-laws of either group have been most workable and may also offer suggestions for new by-laws. These by-laws will be attached to the POU as an exhibit and will be subject to the approval of the members of both organizations. Assuming that the SOS and SF BOTs approve the by-laws changes, the new by-laws will take effect when the BOT of the SOF assumes control of the unified organization.
7. Once unification takes place, and until the next general membership meeting in 2014, the unified organization will be managed by a board of trustees identified in the POU. The POU will identify a new BOT with an odd number of members (probably nine), with the current SOS and SF Boards appointing the members. The SOS will appoint one member more than the SF. The new by-laws, identified in the POU, will set forth the offices. The POU will identify by name who will be president and serve as officers. The list of these board members and office holders must be approved by the current BOTs of both organizations. The new by-laws will identify the process by which the membership will elect BOT members and officers after the first year.
8. Once the POU (including operational name change) is approved by both BOTs and the memberships of both organizations, and (1) the SOS has received a certificate or date-stamped copy of the DBA filed with appropriate New York authorities setting forth the operational name of the unified organization agreed to by the memberships, and (2) SF has filed articles of dissolution and begun the dissolution process in good faith, then the unification will take place either at the 2013 joint conference in Toronto (currently scheduled for October 17-20), or, if all the aforementioned preconditions have not been met at that time, at an appropriate date in 2013 or 2014, which date shall be approved by the BOTs of the SOS and SF. At that time, the new BOT and officers will assume control of the unified organization.
9. The SF website, which the SF plans to upgrade in 2013, will become the website for the unified organization. Content from the current SOS website will be made available on the unified organization’s website in such a way as to be easily searchable by members and others interested in the Shakespeare Authorship Question. The current URLs of the SOS and SF will be programmed to redirect to the unified organization website. The current SOS Facebook page will become the SOF Facebook page. The unified organization will take steps to hire a part-time, compensated webmaster, who will manage and coordinate the website, the Facebook page, and any other social media that the organization may utilize.
Agreed upon by the Boards of Trustees of the SOS and SF and signed by the Presidents of the two organizations.
John Hamill, President
Shakespeare Oxford Society
Tom Regnier, President