Save the American Society for Psychical Research!

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T. C. Goodsort
T. C. Goodsort signed this petition

The American Society for Psychical Research must be saved!

The present Board, the Executive Director and President have allowed this society to be run into the ground. They need outing from the society and thoroughly questioned! As a non-profit charity and educational institution, the ASPR for a long time has not been offering what it should be. No one has gained 'real access' for educational purposes for a long time, they ignore emails, telephone calls and have produced nothing since 2004! The journal stopped in 2004, the newsletter stopped, no annual conferences, and no research (or research being funded). People have visited and had no answer at the door on days it is meant to be open. People have even sat and waited on the steps all day! Prior booking for use of the library does not seem possible since no one answers the telephone or emails. The current Board/Council are not displayed anywhere but the tax returns, and their contact details are not public. Both should be! Restructuring and continuity must be established by organisations such as the Parapsychology Foundation, Rhine Research Center and the Society for Psychical Research (UK). This has gone on for far too long! See the extract below of the situation (in brief) from the Psi Encyclopedia:

ASPR in Decline (1990- )


Personnel and Main Events


The ASPR spent more than it brought in throughout the 1980s, an unsustainable situation aggravated by the election of Scott Jones to the Presidency of the branch for a two-year term in 1990. Jones was a career naval intelligence officer and political operative. He had a lay interest in parapsychology, which had landed him a seat on the ASPR branch in 1986, but he had no training or expertise in the field. More conservative members, such as physicist RA McConnell, considered him to have New Age tendencies that made him unsuitable to the role.

One of Jones’ first actions as president was to push through a revision of the ASPR’s bylaws that reduced the number of branch members from 12 to 10 and restricted to 3 the number who could have professional ties to parapsychology. The new bylaws also placed many governing decisions in the hands of the president. Despite protests from more responsible members of the branch and Voting Members Committee, the revised bylaws were adopted. Professional parapsychologists were pushed out of the Voting Members Committee when their terms expired, giving them even less of a voice in the Society’s governance.

In 1992, Jones made Patrice Keane Executive Director with a contract that many regarded as sweetheart deal for someone similarly unqualified for the job. Keane had served two years as acting executive director and before that had been the Society’s director of public information and education, despite the fact that she had ‘not earned a bachelor's degree, shows no record of having studied science at the college level, and has had no scientific experience beyond that gained in several parapsychological experiments as a student investigator at New York City's Maimonides Hospital 14 years ago.’

Jones was replaced as president by a lawyer, JD Fruhstorfer, in 1992, who in turn was succeeded by Nancy Sondow in 1993. Sondow, a parapsychologist friend of Keane’s, has continued in the position since then, the longest-running branch president in the history of the ASPR. Keane has been executive director for 26 years as of 2019, a record for tenure in that office as well. Sondow and Keane have overseen a steadily worsening financial situation, as revealed by the Society’s income tax filings. In 1991, the ASPR had a net worth of about $3 million, $1 million of which derived from the value of its building. The ASPR had an operating deficit of $205,000 in 1989 and $292,000 in 1990. In 1992, the deficit was $338,000, the endowment worth about $1.51 million. According to the 1998 tax filing, the Society’s assets totaled $927,428, but by 2010 they had fallen to $-1,693,720. Total assets were reported as $-6,137,140 for 2014 and $-7,531,564 for 2015.

Part of the reason for the downslide was the loss of revenue from a collapsing membership base. In July, 1989, the Journal’s paid circulation was 1433, according to the ‘Statement of Ownership Management and Circulation’ that appeared on the last page of the issue. This statement, which is required by law, does not appear in the Journal in subsequent years, but membership was said to be around 1100 in 1991. The Journal began appearing intermittently after 1997, causing membership to drop further. George Hansen estimated from tax returns and membership fees that membership stood at 591 in 1998 and 23 in 2005. The Journal was issued biannually after 2000, with a single number only in 2001. Its final issue, dated January-April, 2004, was not mailed out until July, 2007. The ASPR Newsletter ceased publication in 1996.

A major contributing cause of the ASPR’s financial predicament is Keane’s salary and overall compensation, which have attracted a good deal of attention. Her initial three-year contract called for $55,000 the first year, increasing by $5,000 each year, plus fringe benefits, bringing the total cost to the ASPR to about $74,250 for the first year, $80,000 for the second year, and $85,750 for the third year. In addition, Keane was granted six weeks of paid vacation each year, along with ‘a reasonable number of personal and sick days.’57 By 2001 Keane’s base salary had risen to $93,104. In 2005, it was $150,783. From 2007, it appears to have been fixed at $139,955.58  

The SPR’s Tom Ruffles drew attention to the listing of the ASPR’s building on Sotheby’s International Realty for $17.9 million in 2019.59 Mansion Global, which ran the listing, tried to call the Society for more information, but their calls went unanswered. A Sotheby’s agent told the inquirer that the building was being sold because ‘they don’t need so much space anymore’.  Ruffles expressed his worries over this news:

"First, saying they do not need as much space as before suggests they do not intend to carry out the functions they had at some point in the past, albeit apparently not recently.  Secondly, there is a danger of the surplus from the sale somehow going to wherever income has gone in the past, with little to show for it. Thirdly, the reference to not needing as much space sets alarm bells ringing because of the library and archives, which could be dispersed on the grounds there is no space for them. Technically the ASPR could function from a small office to maintain its existence but delivering little in the way of services, while its assets were deployed for expenses. If the archives and library were liquidated they would be worth a fortune. In the absence of a specific statement from the ASPR, they should be considered at risk."