Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The SCV Discipline System

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Commander-in-Chief's column in the next issue of the Confederate Veteran. Because of the importance of understanding the structure of the SCV's discipline process, we have obtained permission to release this excerpt ahead of time. Please keep in mind that this is only a portion of the column, and there will be more information in the Confederate Veteran:

One of the difficulties in managing an organization as large as ours is that there are always a few malcontents. These fellows come in all shapes and sizes, and their trouble-making skills derive from various motivations.

Sometimes they are just a quarrelsome personality who carelessly picks fights and thoughtlessly hurl insults at those with whom they disagree.

In other cases, we have a more sinister situation of someone who simply has evil intent. Perhaps this means that his character makes him unfit for good company. Or, we have had some cases of men who have joined our ranks specifically for the purpose of disrupting our organization and derailing our efforts.

In cases such as these, we must regrettably impose discipline upon our own members. Sometimes an official rebuke is sufficient to reform the offending behavior but, in more serious cases, the conduct is of such a nature and the offender so resolute in his misbehavior that the extreme act of expulsion is unfortunately called for.

This occurs with grateful infrequence. Since the new Constitution went into effect in 2006, we have had just three occasions to impose the severest form of discipline on a member.

In an effort to clarify how the disciplinary system works, let me explain the process.

First, Camps and Divisions are said to be the “judge of their own members.” At the most basic level, this means that a Camp has primary responsibility for deciding who is worthy of membership in the SCV. By admitting a man to membership, a Camp is approving of his character.

Under the new system, a Camp or a Division may discipline one of its own members. “Discipline” can mean anything from an official reprimand to expulsion from membership from the group. If the man’s offense is so great as to warrant suspension or expulsion from the SCV, however, the matter must be taken up by the national SCV Disciplinary Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee is elected by the General Executive Council and sits in judgment of all cases referred to it. If the accused is dissatisfied with the decision of the committee, he may appeal to the General Executive Council.

There are four reasons for designing it this way.

First, it removes the onus from the local Camp or Division of going through the difficulties associated with such an action. Especially in the case of a Camp, any disciplinary action can be a very trying and contentious affair.

By removing the case to a panel outside the local unit, the sensitive nature of the proceeding is less likely to adversely affect the comity of the Camp.

Second, it systematizes the proceedings and sets the question before an independent panel, removed from whatever political maneuvering may exist in the local unit.

When a case is brought forward, it is investigated by the Inspector-in-Chief (or one of his deputies), reviewed by the Commander-in-Chief, and then tried before the Disciplinary Committee. The final decision is subject to an appeal to the General Executive Council.

Third, one’s membership in the national SCV should only be put in jeopardy by the national SCV, and not the local Camp or Division. Charges may be lodged by the Camp or Division, but the hearing and final decision are the responsibility of the national SCV.

Fourth and finally, in the old days disciplinary actions were frequently brought for consideration by the GEC. It was not uncommon for the GEC to have to spend hours reviewing evidence, hearing testimony, and listening to arguments from the parties rather than doing the administrative work that is their primary responsibility.

Under the new system, that job is done by the Disciplinary Committee, and the GEC reviews their proceedings to make sure proper protocol was followed and intervenes only if an error occurs.

The description of Democracy attributed to Winston Churchill as being “…the worst system there is except for all the rest” applies to this problem as well.

There is a good solution. We have to act like true Compatriots and the ambassadors of Southern heritage our Confederation expects us to be.