Policy on Public Statements and Media Appearances
This policy applies to all members of the MESA board, staff, and committees (including standing and ad hoc committees of the association as well as task forces created by the board of directors).
Only the president (chair of the board of directors) and the executive director are authorized to speak on behalf of the association, or authorize others to speak in specific circumstances. Whenever possible and appropriate, the executive director and board chair (president) will consult with the board of directors before speaking on behalf of the organization. Any other person asked to speak on behalf of the association must refer the inquiry to the executive director first, who will consult with the president.
For matters that concern the policies and operations of a committee, the executive director and board chair may not be the individuals best positioned to comment. The executive director may in such cases refer inquiries to the relevant committee chair, or other committee officer as appropriate. In responding to such inquiries, those authorized to speak must exercise care to distinguish, where relevant, between committee policies and practices and those of MESA as a whole.
Committee chairs are authorized to speak on background to the media in time-sensitive situations, in order to elaborate upon the work of the committee and to contextualize public statements such as letters issued on the committee’s behalf. The committee chair should promptly notify the secretariat and the president of such inquiries fielded, which are limited to requests for further information. Committees should not take a public stance or make a public comment on issues beyond the inquiry or committee’s purview.
The policy for authorization to speak on behalf of MESA also applies to the use of MESA letterhead, including committee letterhead. All written communications on letterhead that bears the name of MESA must be routed through, and approved by, the president or the executive director, in consultation with the board when appropriate.
When making public statements or media appearances, all MESA board, staff, and committee members should only use their MESA title for approved MESA purposes. In all other cases, they must use their personal affiliation, and must make clear that they do not speak on behalf of the association unless they have been authorized to do so by the board of directors, executive director, or the president regarding official MESA business. Individuals should be circumspect in situations where the media or others will possibly identify their comments or stances with MESA, such as when the issue relates in some way to the person’s work for the association.
When making public comment, members of the board, staff, and committees are reminded to respect the confidentiality of internal association matters, including deliberations, negotiations, personnel issues, and policy matters. Members of the board, staff, and committees should be aware that their public statements can affect the work of not only MESA as a whole but also committees or governance bodies on which they serve. Public statements have the potential to impact one’s impartiality in, for example, the review and adjudication of discrimination complaints and professional rights violations as well as deliberations for prizes and awards.
Members of the MESA board, staff, and committees are asked to report to the executive director any media appearances or public statements they make related to their work with or role within MESA. Often, MESA will promote media appearances and public statements via the association website or social media.
Members of the MESA board, staff, and committees may from time to time be asked (or decide of their own volition) to comment publicly on issues relating to their work with or roles within the association. Instances of public comment can include giving interviews with members of the media, signing open letters, writing blog posts, and participating in social media, among other things in an individual capacity. Affiliations in such cases should be given as home institutions, and not MESA. The president or executive director would be glad to offer guidance to members of the MESA board, staff, and committees regarding media appearances, use of social media, or other public statements.
Policy for taking public positions on time-sensitive issues
For all issues that are time-sensitive, the President is responsible for deciding whether to take a public position. In cases for which an extremely fast response is required, the President is authorized to make a decision in consultation with whomever s/he deems necessary for appropriate expertise. Should the President be unavailable, the Executive Director will fill this role. The Executive Director is authorized to take a public position on behalf of the Association for anything that is indisputably core to our mission. The Executive Director should use this authority very conservatively. Whenever time permits, consultation with the board is the preferred approach.