I joined Mensa in October 2018. Upon joining this organization into which I was initially proud to have been accepted, I joined an online community called American Mensa Firehouse. It was implied that I should “join at my own risk,” implying that this unmoderated yet official forum is representative of Mensa while simultaneously a rite of passage for new members. Why else would it be advertised to a tenderfoot with such zeal? Many rolled their eyes and bantered playfully about the group, saying that it “is what it is.” I didn’t know what exactly that entailed. Within a week, I learned that Firehouse was a place where racism, homophobia, misogyny, bigotry and credible threats of violence could all exist under the guise of intellectualism and Mensa-approved carte blanche.
It was stated almost daily that what happens in Firehouse stays in Firehouse. There remains a community-wide agreement of “mass banning” people who have shared screenshots outside of the group, or who threatened the existence of said group; often, it was stated that Firehouse absolutely goes against the Facebook Terms of Service but that to protect it, everyone would need to agree to these terms and NOT report misconduct to Facebook.
The affectionately nicknamed “dumpster fire” of Mensa became too much for me after mere months. Upon receiving death threats, threats of doxing, constant bullying, and a never-ending stream of horribly negative notifications, I decided to leave Firehouse and instead turned my attention to American Mensa Hospitality.
From everything that I’ve seen and continue to see in Hospitality, I don’t believe that this group should be representative of Mensa either. Though the idea there was to create a moderated group / foil to Firehouse, it is still ineffective and allows a wide variety of internet trolls to mock, post wildly misleading articles, and bring down the general intellect of an organization revolving around IQ (which, in itself, is pretty ironic.)
I am writing to you now in the hopes that you will take my concerns into account and remove the “American Mensa” branding from both the Firehouse and Hospitality Facebook groups.
At this point, I believed my interest and participation in Mensa had waned. Why would any young person want to involve themselves with an organization so ready to shirk responsibility for holding its own members accountable? But then it occurred to me – to truly hold an organization accountable is to bring flaws to light in the hopes of eliciting change. One positive change that can propel Mensa into the 21st century would be to remove gendered language from the ASIEs. Examples of gendered language are as follows:
B. Procedures at Meetings. (page 2)
1. Robert’s Rules of Order. The AMC shall be guided by and conduct itself according to the most current edition of "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised," modified to permit the Chair to speak, vote, and to make motions only concerning appointments and consent agenda approval, and to permit the Parliamentarian, if he or she is a voting member of the AMC, to speak, vote and make motions, and to allow a mover to amend a pending motion at any time before a vote is taken. 2003-066 13-Dec-2003 (last amended 18-May-2016 by 2016-005)
M. Indemnification. (pages 30-31)
American Mensa, Ltd. shall indemnify, to the full extent permitted by law, any person made a party to any action, suit, or proceeding by or in the right of the Corporation to procure a judgment in its favor by reason of the fact that he or she […] by reason oft he fact that he or she was a director, officer, other appointee, or employee of the Corporation […] if such person acted in good faith for a purpose which he or she reasonably believed to be in the best interests of the Corporation and additionally, in criminal actions or proceedings, had no reasonable cause to believe his or her conduct was unlawful. 1986-001 22-Mar-1986
H. Refund Policies. The following dues refund policies are established. 3. Life dues plans. (page 47)
a. If a member pays for a single year's dues, then pays for a life membership during the year for which he/she has paid the single year's dues, the life membership dues may be refunded in full prior to the end of the fiscal year for which the single year's dues have been paid.
POLICIES AND RULES GOVERNING THE CONDUCT OF NATIONAL HEARINGS (Appendix 5, page 18)
All members of the Hearings Committee must maintain an arm’s-length impartiality in all matters pertaining to charges, or the possibility of charges. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a putative Hearings Committee member who is in the line of succession to the Committee, but not on the Committee as of the time charges are brought, shall not be held to the same standard of arms-length dealing with the Parties as is a standing member of the Committee, but is encouraged to conduct him/herself with the understanding that he/she may be called upon to serve on the Hearings Committee
NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS GUIDELINES | GUIDES (Appendix 10, page 37)
The production manager is responsible for all general editing and layout duties, whether the templates are a part of our Web efforts or printed versions. He or she will also ensure that all guides are consistent with AML style and kept up-to-date with ASIEs, organizational, and general contact information.
MINIMUM STANDARD BYLAWS (Appendix 13, page 53)
The chief executive officer of a local group may be titled Local Secretary, President, or Chairman, whichever one or more the group prefers; however, no local group may have, as separate officers, more than one of the three. He or she shall be the chief point of contact between AML and the local group. The Local Secretary shall notify AML (through the National Office) and the Regional Vice Chairman (RVC) for the local group within two weeks of the results of elections and of changes in the officers of the local group. (See Clarification 3Ei.)
CLARIFICATIONS AND EXPLANATIONS (Appendix 13, page 60)
3H. It is recommended that the ombudsman not be a member of the governing body, as he or she might have to become involved in disputes involving the governing body.
CLARIFICATIONS AND EXPLANATIONS (Appendix 13, page 66)
It is recommended that the local group’s RVC be consulted during this process, as he or she will be included on the committee reviewing the local group’s proposed bylaws.
ARTICLE III. OFFICERS AND DUTIES (Appendix 14, page 74-75)
B. No member of the ExComm shall hold more than one vote, no matter how many positions he or she holds.
3. The Local Secretary (LocSec, or President) shall be the chief executive officer of Mensa and the liaison with other local groups. He or she shall preside at ExComm meetings and shall be the chief point of contact between AML and the local group. The LocSec shall endeavor to pass information to and from the local group in a timely fashion, and shall notify AML (through the National Office) and the Regional Vice Chairman (RVC) for the local group within two weeks of the results of elections and of changes in the officers of the group.
12. QUICK BYLAWS/AMENDMENTS APPROVAL (Hints and Comments, page 85)
We recommend including your RVC in the amendment process as early as possible, as he/she becomes a member of the Bylaws Committee for review of your bylaws.
Guidelines for Administrators of Services Supporting Official Functions of Regions, Local Groups, and Special Interest Groups (pages 118-119)
Subscriber Complaints. If subscribers to a Region, Local Group or SIG-sponsored Internet Communication Service contact the National Office or the AMC with complaints about content and practices on that Service, the pertinent RVC, Local Secretary, or SIG Coordinator will be apprised of the situation and reminded of his/her authority to terminate the Internet 119 | P a g e Communication Service if he/she deems it to be in the best interest of the Local Group or SIG members.
DUTIES, RESPONSIBILITIES, AND AUTHORITY OF REGIONAL VICE-CHAIRS OF AMERICAN MENSA (Appendix 26, pages 125-126)
The RVC shall monitor and assist the administration of Local Groups. He or she shall monitor Local Groups’ financial reports and verify that the groups are submitting them. The National Office cooperates by notifying RVCs of potential problems. The RVC shall encourage improvements to Local Group operations and the hosting of regional and national events. […] Following any such action by an RVC, should any member of the Local Group disagree with the RVC’s action, he or she may file a complaint with the National Ombudsman or with a nationally-elected ExComm member who will bring it to the attention of the full ExComm for review. […] Should the RVC be the chairman of a committee or fill another assigned duty, he or she shall submit those reports on the same timeline.
Additionally, I would like to advocate for a Code of Conduct to be adopted and enforced at all levels of Mensa. This includes but is not limited to online groups (be they on Facebook, Mensa Connect, Yahoo, or additional social media), Regional and Annual Gatherings, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and local/regional groups. A code of conduct would serve to bolster Mensa’s missions, which are as follows:
Identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity.
Encourage research in the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence.
Provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for members.
By ensuring a code of conduct within Mensa, the principles and values would allow the organization to grow by appealing to a broader variety of people. It will facilitate decision making and push the organization as a whole to be more inclusive, welcoming and safe for all members regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. As it stands, the American Mensa demographics only display the following:
Four-year degree or greater 82%
Some college 96%
Education beyond four-year degree 63%
Baby Boom (1943-1960) 38%
Generation X (1961-1981) 31%
Millennial (1982-2000) 13%
Silent (1925-1942) 12%
Generation Z (2001-2020) 5%
Depression (1901-1924) <1%
Though there is no mention of race here, I find these demographics to be troubling. The percentages for Millennials and Generation Z are incredibly low. As a millennial member of Mensa, as it currently stands, I would NOT attempt to recruit additional people from my generation or Gen Z if a Code of Conduct is not enforced. I am actually ashamed (rather than proud) to be a member of this organization that has continued to disparage female victims of sexual assault (by not addressing in a timely manner assaults that happened at MENSA-SANCTIONED EVENTS), allow bullying both online and in person (be it in Firehouse/Hospitality or in person at any gatherings) and turn a blind eye to the founding goal of fostering intellectualism.
I hope that though this has been long-winded, you will take my suggestions into consideration. The future of this organization is directly dependent on a willingness to grow with its members rather than stagnate in old policies and antiquated ideologies. I appreciate the work you have done thus far and hope that you will continue to drive change within this organization for the betterment of young, bright, diverse Mensans.