Marisa Vallbona, Western district candidate for the board of PR Society of America, has jangled one of its raw nerves by noting the minimal participation of African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups in the Society.

She calls on the Society to “embrace diverse members and cultures” in a Position Statement, but adds:
“As long as I’ve been a member of PRSA (since 1993), I’ve noticed it has been primarily dominated by a specific type of member. I’m Hispanic and can count on two hands the number of Hispanic members I’ve met in the Society over the last two decades. The same goes for other ethnic groups.”

Vallbona and the other ten candidates pay lip service to the need for racial diversity but ignore the chance to integrate the 2011 board that is staring them in the face — the candidacy of 25-year PR veteran Regina Lewis, chief communications officer of The Potter’s House of Dallas.

“Race” is specifically mentioned in the nominating committee’s question to candidates on “diversity.”

Unless Lewis gets on the 2011 board, it will be all-white for the fourth year in a row.

This is absurd, African-American PR pro Mike Paul has pointed out, at a time when the nation is headed by President Obama.

Only two blacks have ever served on the board in its 63-year history—Debra Miller and Cheryl Procter-Rogers.

We don’t count Ron Owens of Kaiser Permanente because he only lasted five months of a three-year term that started in 2006. He must have
felt out of place.

Lewis is More Qualified than Walton

Lewis, a business PR pro (link, sub req'd), is far more qualified than newbie academic Susan Walton, associate PR professor of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, who was picked by the nomcom headed by Jeff Julin of nearby Denver.

Lewis has held jobs in nine companies and PR firms since starting in PR in 1986 and has been a member of the Society since 1992.

Walton just joined the Society on Nov. 10, 2005 and did not become active until 2006 when she joined the Strategic Planning Committee. She has advised the Forum student publication of the chapter and was a Silver Anvil judge and site examiner for the “Certification for Education in PR.”

Lewis, who is also active in the Black PR Society of which she is parliamentarian, was director of the Los Angeles chapter in 1993-94. She
could certainly teach the board a few things about basic parliamentary principles.

The last thing the Society board needs is another academic. Chair next year will be associate Prof. Rosanna Fiske of Florida University. Steven Grant of the National Education Assn. is coming back on the board for another consecutive two-year term (although founders of the Society, fearing takeover by a clique, decreed no director should ever succeed him or herself).

Joining the board will be Asst. Prof. Kirk Hazlett of the 2,000-student Curry College of Belmont, Mass., and Prof. Stephen Iseman of Ohio Northern University.

Five academics on a board of 17 are far too many.

Walton’s Concept of 'Diversity'

We couldn’t wait to read how Walton prizes “diversity” when BYU is more than 99% white. There are only 165 African Americans among its 34,000 students, 98.5% of whom are members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

The Mormons for many years had very negative policies with respect to black people. From 1849 to 1978 they could not be priests.

Answering the nomcom question on how her leadership style would embrace diversity, Walton cited her “diversity of experience.” She says she worked in six different U.S. states and lived in Switzerland, managing European Plastics communications for Dow Chemical. She has also “done business and implemented PR programs all over the world.”

There’s nothing in the statement about racial integration.

McCormick Confuses Ethnic with Race

Chair Gary McCormick, answering a question by an O’Dwyer reporter Aug. 10 in Lexington, Ky., said Lewis’s “single criterion of ethnicity” was not sufficient enough to win her a nomination.

McCormick does not know the difference between “ethnicity” and “race” which are regarded as “separate and distinct entities” by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Society, in a bald affront to blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic groups, last December closed its Multicultural Section because it had only 73 members and was costing too much money.

Director Lynn Appelbaum of CCNY, said a 2008 survey of Society members found they give “a very low priority” to diversity issues and that the number of Multicultural section members paying an annual fee of $60 each was “far below the 200 minimum.”

Prof. Richard Waters of North Carolina State University said, “Taking voting away from minorities/multicultural members sounds just like the 1800s.” [The section lost its vote in the Assembly.]

Kerri Allen of Revolucion, New York Hispanic brand PR firm, a leader of the section, blasted the move, asking, “If their Social Media section were down a couple of members, would they tell them the day before their office was closed for two weeks for the holiday after 26 years of involvement?”

Vallbona Discusses Issues

Vallbona did her best to address 11 Society issues that this website and four Fellows of the Society have raised with the candidates.

Asked why the Society can’t offer members a PDF of the members’ directory, she said McCormick told her that members don’t want their names to be available to vendors.

We countered with the observation that the contact points of reporters and editors are public record and we are bombarded with communications from PR people. She agreed we had a point.

On the issue of the “secret” Assembly list, she said that she could get it if she wished from a chapter delegate but could not give it to us because that would be “unethical.”

On questions like audiocasting the Assembly, providing transcripts of it, allowing proxies in the Assembly when Robert’s Rules forbids them, removing all but seven staff names from the website, getting two extensions on IRS Form 990 (which shows pay/benefits of the top six h.q. staffers), and McCormick unilaterally deciding that direct elections is a dead issue (although ordered to report on this to the Assembly), she said we would have to consult McCormick, Yann or COO Bill Murray (who is not a member of the Society).

Our reply was that they almost never answer any of our questions and that close to 100% of our e-mails to them are ignored. We can’t remember the last time we talked to Yann or Murray on the phone. Yann refused Paul’s efforts last year to set up a lunch.

Vallbona says Philadelphia got the national conference in 2013 after just having it in 2007, because the Philadelphia chapter made a better pitch than the New York chapter.