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USA Fencing Board Greenlights Key Initiatives for 2024-2025 Season

05/18/2024, 7:15pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

Budget approval, operations plan approval, a new independent director and a new tournament format for Y8 highlight the May 18, 2024, meeting of the USA Fencing Board of Directors.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Couldn’t make the May 18 Board meeting (streamed live to all members on Zoom)? We’ve got you covered. 

While you were doing other activities on Saturday, your USA Fencing Board of Directors approved the 2024-25 budget, passed motions to publish to the membership for comment, made crucial bylaw amendments to  improve committee structure, appointed new Board member Andrea Pagnanelli, and introduced exciting new tournament formats, including a Y8 category to keep our youngest fencers engaged and competitive.

Read on to see how it went down (and, as always, find Board meeting minutes and agendas at this link):

Committee & Task Force Updates

We heard updates from various committees and resource groups. Here are some highlights:

  • FenceSafe Resource Group: The group reviewed the 2023 SafeSport reporting data and discussed the upcoming 2025 US Center for SafeSport MAAPP (Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies). Key changes include better clarity on lodging policies for minor athletes and more clear application of exceptions. The group also explored creating more user-friendly versions of the FenceSafe Handbook and MAAPP.

  • Ethics Committee: The committee reviewed conflict of interest forms submitted by board members, committee members and others involved in USA Fencing. They identified and addressed potential conflicts to ensure transparency and integrity within the organization. Additionally, the committee began discussions on adopting a sports betting policy tailored to fencing, focusing on preventing sports betting, bribery, and event manipulation.

  • Audit Committee: Presented the latest financial statements, confirming the association's healthy financial status. The committee also outlined the audit plans for the upcoming fiscal year to ensure continued financial transparency and accountability.

  • Task Force on Committees & Resource Groups: This task force recommended several bylaw amendments to enhance committee structures and functions. These changes aim to improve efficiency and ensure diverse representation across all committees. They proposed the disbanding of certain less active resource groups, with their responsibilities to be absorbed by other committees or handled through regular surveys and feedback mechanisms.

  • Task Force on Balanced Leadership: Proposed amendments to the bylaws to ensure more inclusive and flexible leadership opportunities. These changes will allow for a broader range of directors, including athlete directors and independent directors, to hold key leadership positions.

  • Paralympic Development Resource Group: The group provided updates on initiatives to support and promote parafencing. They highlighted recent successes and upcoming events aimed at increasing participation and visibility for parafencers within the broader fencing community.

  • International Relations Committee: Discussed ongoing efforts to strengthen USA Fencing's ties with international fencing bodies and outlined plans for upcoming international events. They emphasized the importance of maintaining strong relationships to support our athletes competing globally.

  • Division Resource Group: Provided updates on regional fencing activities and initiatives aimed at increasing grassroots participation. The group discussed plans for regional tournaments and programs designed to nurture young talent and expand the fencing community across the country.

  • Tournament Committee: Discussed new tournament formats, including the successful test of the "Sharks and Minnows" format for youth fencers. They also reviewed feedback from recent events and outlined improvements to enhance the competition experience for all participants.

Consent Agenda

The consent agenda included these approvals:

  • 2023-2024 Auditor: BiggsKofford PC will continue to keep our finances in check.

  • Officials Support Policy: A new policy to better support our referees and officials.

  • Operations Plan 2024-2025: Ensuring smooth operations for the next season.

  • Y8 Format*: Approved a new tournament format for our youngest competitors.

  • Referee Commission Liaison: Donald Alperstein was officially appointed as the Board Liaison to the Referee Commission.

*More About the Y8 Format

The Board approved a new tournament format for Y8 (under-8) fencers. This new format aims to provide a more engaging and age-appropriate competition experience for our youngest fencers. It includes modified rules to ensure safety and fun, shorter bout times, and an emphasis on participation and skill development rather than competition results.

How Bylaws Are Amended

When bylaw amendments are considered, the Board of Directors first votes to bring forward the amendment for a 45-day membership comment period. (See how to comment below.) The act of moving an amendment on to the membership comment period requires a simple majority. The actual amendment is made 45 days (or more) later and requires a two-thirds majority to pass. You can read more about how bylaw amendments work in Section 14 of the USA Fencing Bylaws.

New Business

Motion 1: Approval of the 2024-2025 Budget

  • What happened: The Board passed a motion to approve the budget for the 2024-2025 season. 

  • Why this matters: This budget aligns with the USA Fencing Strategic Plan and Operating Plan, ensuring financial stability and supporting our goals for the upcoming year. (See our full analysis of the 2024-25 budget.)

Motion 2: Bylaw Amendment for Board Chair Election

  • What happened: The Board amended and tabled an amendment to allow all current Athlete Directors, Independent Directors, and At-Large Directors to hold the office of Chair of the Board of Directors. This was amended to remove independent directors from consideration and tabled until the September meeting to allow for more time for discussion and also for the newly elected board members to have a voice.

Motion 3: Committee & Resource Group Bylaw Amendments

  • What happened: The Board passed several amendments to enhance committee structures. These include mandatory annual reviews for the CEO and empowering the Referees' Commission to create ethical standards and subcommittees.

  • Why this matters: These amendments aim to improve efficiency, accountability and representation within our committees.

  • Changes: Item 2 of this motion was pulled out and referred back to the Task Force on Committees and Resource Groups to review further and discuss a focus on minority representation in addition to gender and the parafencing community.

  • Note: As is required when the USA Fencing Bylaws are changed, members have an opportunity to comment over the next 45 days. Leave your comment using this form.

Motion 4: Creation of Councils

  • What happened: A new section was added to the bylaws to allow the formation of councils for groups with special interests in the governance and operation of USA Fencing.

  • Why this matters: Councils will facilitate better communication and provide valuable recommendations to the Board, enhancing transparency and responsiveness. Councils are not committees and do not have the authority to make decisions for or to bind USA Fencing, and are designed to be an elected voice for stakeholders not already represented.

  • Note: As is required when the USA Fencing Bylaws are changed, members have an opportunity to comment over the next 45 days. Leave your comment using this form.

Motion 5: Establishment of Coaches’ Committee

  • What happened: The Board established a Coaches’ Committee to represent and advance the interests of the coaching community, promote fencing growth and provide a direct voice for coaching issues.

  • Changes: An amendment was made to the original motion during the meeting to require committee members to be Coach members of USA Fencing.

  • Why this matters: This committee ensures that coaches have a structured platform to influence decisions and contribute to the sport's development.

Motion 6: Disbanding Resource Groups

  • What happened: Based on recommendations, the Board disbanded several resource groups, reassigning their responsibilities to other committees or through regular membership surveys.

  • Why this matters: Streamlining these groups optimizes resource allocation and encourages more efficient use of volunteer and USA Fencing staff efforts.

  • Note: We want to sincerely thank those resource group members for the work they have done with their respective resource groups and hope that they continue to be engaged in the new structure.

Motion 7: Balanced Leadership Bylaw Amendments

  • What happened: A motion to ensure diverse and inclusive leadership, including changes to the composition of the Board of Directors and adding a Special Board Member role recommended by the DEIB Committee, was withdrawn to provide an opportunity for further discussion. It’s anticipated that it will be reviewed again no later than the September meeting.

Motion 8: Appointment of Independent Director

  • What happened: Andrea Pagnanelli was appointed as an Independent Director to fill the vacancy left by Aimee Rice. (Meet her here.)

  • Why this matters: This appointment ensures that the Board remains fully staffed with engaged and committed members, maintaining governance and oversight.

Motion 9: Petition Requirements for Elections

  • What happened: The Board approved amendments to update the requirements for petitions in support of prospective candidates, ensuring a fair and transparent process.

  • Why this matters: These updates future-proof the bylaws for membership changes and streamline the nomination process, enhancing fairness and transparency.

  • Note: As is required when the USA Fencing Bylaws are changed, members have an opportunity to comment over the next 45 days. Leave your comment using this form.

Motion 10: Appointment of Taskforce for Committees and Resource Groups

  • What happened: The Board appointed a task force to recommend appointments for committees and resource groups expiring in 2024.

  • Why this matters: This task force ensures a balanced and diverse set of recommendations for future committee and resource group appointments.

  • Note: Keep your eye out for a call for submissions for Committees and Resource Groups coming soon. We encourage a diverse set of our community to put their name forward, particularly those who have completed the USA Fencing Leadership Academy.

Motion 11: Approval of Social Media Policy

  • What happened: A motion to adopt a new social media policy that encourages responsible use of social media platforms and outlines disciplinary actions for inappropriate conduct was withdrawn for further discussion among Board members and will be brought back up at a later date.

What’s Next?

The Board will reconvene shortly to decide on an appeal to a disciplinary matter. The Board’s next standard meeting is scheduled for July 6 at the Summer Nationals. This is a hybrid meeting, meaning members can attend in person or watch on Zoom.

Tag(s): Updates  Meetings