NEW YORK: Some members are disputing the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) decision to integrate its Multicultural Communications Section (MCS) into its Diversity Committee. Last week, PRSA said it would combine the units due to a failure of the multicultural section to meet financial and other benchmarks.
“To be clear, the Multicultural Section is not being disbanded,” PRSA president and COO William Murray said in a statement. “Rather, it is being merged into our Diversity Committee because, as a standalone section, the Multicultural Section simply was unable to meet the established metrics for member satisfaction, member benefit and financial performance for the past two years running.”
The Diversity Committee will now address ethnic diversity along with LGBT issues and individuals with physical disabilities.
MCS' co-chair Kerri Allen disputed the decision, saying some members may lose their right to vote in association elections. Allen, director of PR , told PRWeek that PRSA sections like MCS are able to vote in the board of directors election and are part of a formal decision-making body, while committees are not.
“The committees don't have voting rights and don't have a say in creating PRSA bylaws, which may lead some members to reconsider how they identify,” said Allen, who also said she had no prior knowledge of the decision. She is also director of PR at Hispanic marketing company Revolucion.
On December 17, the board sent an e-mail to executives notifying them that the 26-year-old group would be integrating effective January 1. Allen said she arranged a phone call for the following day with PRSA board members and a number of MCS's executive members, in an effort to save the section.
“We gave our point-of view, but basically this was really just a decision they made,” she said.
Allen added that during an executive committee call in November she was told that membership numbers were on par with other sections. PRSA was unavailable for further comment due to holiday closures, but it stressed in its statement to PRWeek that the decision to implement this change followed a lengthy review of its business.
Meanwhile, Allen has been using her last days with the section to contact members of the press and urge Twitter users to share their thoughts on the merger, generating a hashtag on the site: #PRSAfail.
Cheryl Harris Forbes, a 10-year PRSA member and founder of Harris Forbes Associates, which specializes in multicultural and diversity affairs, said she found the news a disturbing departure.
“In the past, the organization has expressed an interest in increasing diversity,” she said. “People of diverse backgrounds might be reticent to join an organization that doesn't seem to support their causes. It doesn't bode well for other people in the industry who look to PRSA to set a standard.”
PRSA also announced its Travel and Tourism and Food and Beverage Sections will merge, and its CSR Section will now become a council of experts.