Category: Key Leaders

Opposition Statement from 6 Past Presidents, etc.

Dear IEEE Member,
As you are likely aware by now, voting in the annual IEEE election has begun. Members are asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that would fundamentally change IEEE.  The matter that has become quite contentious within the IEEE leadership. You may access the ballot at

The overwhelming majority of IEEE’s technical societies, 26 of them, plus many sections, have expressed opposition to the constitutional amendment at the level of their leadership.  Six past IEEE presidents, among other leaders (see the signatories below) have also expressed their opposition.
Why is there such widespread opposition?  Because, among other reasons, the amendment would enable:

  • a small group to take control of IEEE
  • transferring of power from over 300,000 members to a small group of insiders,
  • removing technical activities representation from the Board of Directors, thereby diminishing the voices of technology in steering IEEE’s future,
  • removing regional representation from the Board of Directors thereby making it possible that, e.g., no Asian or European representatives will be on the Board of Directors – thus breaking the link between our sections and the decisions the Board will make,
  • moving vital parts of the constitution to the bylaws – which could be subject to change by a small group, on short notice.

The opponents feel that the risks and detrimental effects of the amendment would far outweigh the purported benefits.  The existing IEEE constitution offers alternative, less complex ways of accomplishing the intended improvements while maintaining members at the core of the decision making process.

Additional reasons for opposing the constitutional amendment and the proposed restructuring may be found at the “Loyal Opposition’s” website and at the Washington, DC Section’s website. It is important that IEEE members be informed about the possible consequences if this Amendment were to pass. The possible benefits of the amendment are discussed at the amendment website.

Please share this message with other members, and please VOTE AGAINST the amendment!  IEEE members may access the ballot via the Access Ballot button here.

Charles K. Alexander 1997 IEEE President
W. Cleon Anderson 2005 IEEE President
Marc T Apter 2013 IEEE-USA President, and
2004-2005 IEEE Vice President, Regional Activities
Anthony C Davies 2003-2004 IEEE Region 8 Director
Harold Flescher 2003-2004 Division IV Director, and
2009 Technical Activities Vice President
2011-2012 IEEE Treasurer
Jim Isaak 2002/4 IEEE Division Director, and
2010 Computer Society President
Tony Ivanov 2016 IEEE Washington DC Section Chair
Michael Lightner 2006 IEEE President
Roberto de Marca 2014 IEEE President
Troy Nagle 1994 IEEE President
John Vig 2009 IEEE President


Why I am going to vote NO on the constitutional amendment (M.Lightner)


As an IEEE Life Fellow, 2006 IEEE President and CEO, former VP-TAB, VP-PSPB, VP-EAB, President CAS and many, many more positions I have a clear view of the power and value of IEEE.  IEEE is designed to have members become volunteers and volunteers become leaders. Many great ideas in IEEE have come from members and volunteers. IEEE is a bottom-up, grass-roots, volunteer-led organization and these characteristics are what allowed IEEE to have such an impact on my career and those of hundreds of thousands more.  I view the proposed constitutional amendment as a fundamental threat to these key characteristics of IEEE.  I do not want a corporate board. I do not want a command and control structure for IEEE. Therefore, I will NOT vote for the amendment and urge you to vote NO as well.

 If you have more time

I want to begin by saying that I hold the current IEEE leadership in high regard and don’t believe anyone is behaving except in IEEE’s best interest – in their opinion.  I happen to have a different opinion on what is in IEEE’s best interest and would like to say why I am voting no.  First, some background. I am a Life Fellow, have been an IEEE member for over 45 years, have served as CAS society president, division director, VP TAB, VP PSPB, 2005 Pres-elect, 2006 President and CEO, 2007 Past President, VP EAB and a myriad of roles in committees in my society and at the board and organizational unit level.  During this time, I served on the Board of Directors for ten years.

However, for the first half of my time in IEEE I was not even aware there was a Board of Directors, never paid attention to who was President, I did not know there was a TAB until I was a society president and only then learned of some of the other organizational units.  The point of this is that I was highly engaged, involved in conferences, journals, committees, felt I was making a difference to IEEE and my profession and certainly benefited from IEEE.  Why was this possible? Because IEEE was set up to be highly driven by volunteers at the grass roots level. New ideas came from grass roots volunteers and IEEE was organized to enabled this.

In the second half of my time in IEEE I was much more connected with the “higher” levels of the organization.  I believe that some very good things were facilitated by these higher levels, but many of the key ideas came either from grass roots volunteers, or came from volunteers at the higher levels based on their experience at the grass roots  their experience making things happen.

In short, IEEE is NOT a typical business organization and its’ unique and powerful character comes from being different.  We don’t have a ‘corporate board’. We don’t have a ‘command and control’ structure.  Sometimes this slows us down, other times it gives us the wisdom to make the right decisions.  We are an organization that inherently is successful when we enable members to be volunteers, when we enable volunteers to be creative and serve their particular community, be it technical, geographic or both.

Does the proposed constitution change mean that what I think has been most powerful and important about IEEE would immediately disappear?  Not necessarily.  However, the nature of the organizational hierarchy would change and the ability of the new Board to continue to make changes would be essentially unchecked. The board would have much greater power and authority and much less representation of the membership.  As stated at the beginning, I don’t believe that any of these changes would be done with malicious intent.  But, they would be done with a much more corporate/command and control mindset and, I believe, this would change the essential characteristics of IEEE.  The IEEE that was a continuous enabler of my career would fade away.

I don’t believe that a member-as-customer model is the correct one for IEEE. Based on my experience enabling members to be volunteers and enabling volunteers to create and lead IEEE is the correct model and the model that makes us a special professional organization.  If you see IEEE as belonging to the members, as being member and volunteer driven, as being an organization that fosters professional growth from student member to member of the Board of Directors, I urge you to vote NO on the proposed constitutional amendment.

Michael Lightner, IEEE Life Fellow

2006 IEEE President

Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Colorado System
Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering
University of Colorado Boulder

Past IEEE Presidents

(a censored version of this will appear as part of the ballot documentation)
IEEE members, please vote NO on the proposed IEEE Constitutional Amendment.  IEEE is a volunteer led organization.  One of the proposed changes to the Constitution is to add the Executive Director (ED) to the Board of Directors.  But, this is unnecessary because according to IEEE Bylaw I-306.2, “The IEEE Executive Director shall attend meetings of the Board of Directors and shall be an active participant in their deliberations.”  And since the ED is a paid employee of IEEE, whose total compensation is about US$1 million a year, the proposed change would weaken the statement that IEEE is a volunteer led organization. (ED compensation was US$965,322 per latest publicly available Form 990.)

As the Board sets the ED’s compensation, adding the ED to the Board, even if in a non-voting capacity, diminishes the value of the statement that IEEE is a volunteer-led organization. The change is unnecessary and unwise.

Other proposed constitutional changes have been described by the proponents as minor; as just enabling changes, but, the changes they would enable have not been specified.  The “problems” described by the proponents, even if real, can be solved by means other than changing the constitution.  Therefore, please vote NO.

Submitted by:

Charles K. Alexander, 1997 IEEE President
Cleon Anderson, 2005 IEEE President
Troy Nagle, 1994 IEEE President
John R. Vig, 2009 IEEE President

Past IEEE USA President, VP MGA: Marc Apter

Why We Don’t Need an IEEE Constitutional Amendment
The proposed Amendment to the IEEE Constitution on the election ballot isn’t needed, as the IEEE Board of Directors (BOD) could have already made any Bylaw and Policy changes needed to address the issues supposedly justifying the amendment.
The Amendment includes the following changes, followed by why it isn’t needed:
Separates the position of Delegates to the IEEE Assembly from Directors on the IEEE BOD, except for the President-Elect, President, & Past-President. There has never been an detailed explanation as to why the current Constitution isn’t flexible enough to deal with any problems in the future.
The Assembly members, elected by the members, will no longer elect as BOD members the IEEE Treasurer, Secretary, Vice-President Education, Vice-President Member and Geographic Activities, and Vice-President Publication Services and Products, and no explanation how those positions will be elected to the BOD.
It also provides guidance that the BOD says is important , “…eligibility requirements shall be specified in the Bylaws taking into consideration various diversity factors including, but not limited to, geographic and technical diversity.” This could have been included already in the Bylaws and/or Policies of the IEEE and any subordinate units months ago, vice having a Constitutional Amendment.
It adds, “IEEE Executive Director shall be an ex officio non-voting member of the Board of Directors.” This change gives the staff Executive Director the right to participate in all volunteer meetings, but no volunteer has the right to participate in staff meetings. The need for this is explained by saying the Staff Executive Director needs to participate in strategic planning efforts. But the Staff Executive Director has been participating in strategic planning for more than 10 years, and provides the staff that organizes it, so why this change?
We do not need an IEEE Constitutional Amendment; since we can’t easily go back, if we aren’t happy!
Marc T. Apter

2013 IEEE-USA President
2004-2005 IEEE Vice-President Regional Activities
2001-2002 Region 2 Director/Delegate

1997 IEEE President objects

Yes, please add my name to the list of those who want the defeat of this change!

Charles K. Alexander, PhD, HDr.Eng., LFIEEE, P.E.
1997 IEEE President and CEO
2013 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award
Director,  the Center for Research in Electronics and Aerospace Technology (CREATE)
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering – Washkewicz College of Engineering
Cleveland State University


Constitutional Changes in a Nutshell

From: Jim Isaak, 2003-2004 Member IEEE Board of Directors, 2010 Computer Society President, 2015 Society on Social Implications of Technology Vice President, 2014/15 NH Section Treasurer; (also active in IEEE-USA, and IEEE Standards)

  1. Moves definition of Board of Directors – Size, Terms, election, qualifications to the Bylaws
    This is really bad — Currently the IEEE Bylaws can be changed with minimal notice to the Board, and no notice to members. In short, moving this critical aspect of IEEE from a transparent, member managed model to a “behind closed doors”, executive decision model allows for serious abuse in the future.  The rules (bylaws) can be changed with 30 days notice to the Board to apply any criteria that a sitting Board might be lobbied into accepting (consider the 2015 constitutional amendments as an example of this) resulting in the loss of all international, diverse technical, or even volunteer experienced members from the Board of Directors.
  2.  Makes the ED a Board member (exOfficio w/o vote)
    This one is really Bad – I’ve been on the Board of Directors when we needed to initiate a change of the Executive Director (it happens regularly, for many reasons) — that would be much more difficult to discuss and execute if the ED had a constitutionally established right to be in the room.

But wait, there’s more!