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Approve the panelists recommendations for Fencing Officals Commission members.

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The demands of a growing sport have placed increasing amounts of pressure upon the USA Fencing National referee cadre. There are approximately 120 individuals in the referee database with a rating of 3 or above who have worked at their level at National events in the past 2 seasons. These dedicated volunteers are one of the most valuable resources that USA Fencing has at its disposal, and their work at National events has been critical to returning USA Fencing to a stable financial position. Senior-level referees adjudicate the majority of the bouts at National tournaments, serve as mentors, assigners, and operational administrators at both National and Regional events, train and develop the next generation of domestic referees, and the most senior can be tapped for international assignments. Given the increasing size of National events, the increased number of Regional events, and general growth of the sport, the number of senior level needs to increase substantially over the next quadrennial. It takes several years of consistent work to promote a promising Regional-level (6 level) referee to the senior cadre, due to the competence, professionalism and dedication required to adjudicate our sport at the highest level. 

The stresses and demands placed upon the senior referee cadre came to a head during the 2014-15 season. There was a great deal of concern on the part of the USA referee cadre about referee development, assignments, training, and opportunity for international advancement. In addition, the cadre felt that there was a lack of transparency within the Fencing Officials Commission (FOC) with regards to the above concerns. In response to the concerns voiced by the cadre and to modernize the operations, the USFA BOD proposed re-structuring the FOC.

The cadre asked for and was promised a voice in the appointments, transparency in the appointment process, clear goals for development, and operational effectiveness within in the new commission. In line with the process approved by the board, panels consisting of members of the referee cadre spent many hours interviewing and vetting the resumes and plans of the applicants for the FOC. The cadre in general approved of this process as a compromise between the desire of the referee cadre to have a voice in the selection of our members and the requirements of the BOD to have ultimate policy authority.

The recommendations of the panel were submitted to Soren Thompson and then to Don Anthony for review and nominations for the chairs of the commission. Those recommendations then went to the BOD for approval.

When the appointees were announced, it came to the attention of the panels and the referee cadre at large that there were extreme discrepancies between many of the panel’s recommendations and the people appointed to the commission. It came to our attention that little or no vetting of the applicants plans took place within the BOD. There was also little or no review of the panel’s recommendations. It is evident that deliberate misinformation regarding the roles of certain commission members was used to sway the BOD members votes in this matter.

The following are our concerns: 

  1. We believe that the BOD inadequately took into account the vetting of the applicants that took place within the panels. We believe that the interviews, plans and background of these applicants are crucial in making good appointments.
  2. We believe the top leadership did not act in good faith with regard to this information. In several of the six assignments, the top recommendations were bypassed lower choice nominees were chosen. It was expected that the BOD would ensure that the panels had performed their due diligence, review the materials presented, and trust in the process that the BOD had set up, before making final selections. If the BOD felt that a different choice other than the panel's recommendation was appropriate, we trusted that would be the result of careful consideration, to include additional interviews, material submissions, and contemplation of the candidate’s suitability.
  3. The BOD asked a number of our most senior and dedicated referees to dedicate a substantial amount of time to interviewing candidates and weighing their plans. We expected the work of these panels to be respected.
  4. One of the stated purposes of the FOC reorganization was to bring new individuals with fresh ideas and new energy. The FOC as presented consists entirely of existing or previous members.
  5. The BOD appears to be unfamiliar with the roles of the various commission members and the candidates plans to fill those positions.

We ask that the following steps be taken:

  1. We the members of the USFA referee cadre ask that you nullify the recent appointment of the Fencing Officials Commission.
  2. We ask that you revisit the appointment process with full transparency. If a panel was unanimous in its recommendations, the work of that panel should be respected in absence of clear and unambiguous issues with the selection.
  3. Where the panels are conflicted we would ask the BOD to form a group to interview and collect materials from the top 3 candidates in order to make an informed decision.
  4. We ask that all of the names of the applicants for all positions be released.

In conclusion, we want to make it clear that our concerns are not political but rather reflect our experiences as domestic and international referees, managers of referees, and work in training new generations of referees.  A referee cadre that supports and believes in the process of FOC selection works better together as a group. This benefits USA Fencing as an organization, as well as the athletes we all serve. In turn, the FOC should be able to command the trust, respect, and cooperation of the cadre as a whole. We want to be able to bring our best work to the fencing strip; having leaders that we trust and have faith in furthers this goal.



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