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Issue 22 – December 2003

Hi Andy,

I need a clarification and some sort of written policy guidelines to back up what you said about owning unit equipment in your October issue (#18)… Back when I went through our local council Commissioner’s College in the early 90’s, the question of ownership of Troop equipment came up but it was answered differently. We were told that even though the sponsoring organization “owns” the Troop, the Troop equipment belongs to the Troop, and not the sponsoring organization. This was to facilitate the rare eventuality that a sponsor doesn’t renew a unit’s charter, or the unit decides to move to another sponsor. In this case, we were told, ownership of the equipment being vested in the Troop allowed the Troop to take it with them to the new sponsor. It was explained that the youth and parents in the Troop were the parties that had contributed most to the fundraisers and purchase of that equipment and thus were vested with that ownership. Would you please investigate this and give me some reference for which answer is correct? (James Burrow, ASM, Gainesville, North Florida Council)

How about we start with these quotes, taken from the BSA Rules and Regulations, Article XI, Section 1, Clause 2, Paragraph (b): “In the event of the dissolution of a unit or the revocation or lapse of its charter, the unit committee shall apply the unit funds and equipment to the payment of unit obligations and shall turn the surplus, if any, over to the local council… In the case of a chartered organization, any funds or equipment which may have been secured as property of the unit shall be held in trust by the chartered organization or the chartered local council, as may be agreed upon…”

These quotes suggest that, while the unit itself retains control of any equipment that it (or its sponsor) has purchased for use by its members during its lifetime, the stuff ultimately reverts elsewhere if the unit and its CO separate or terminate. But, I’m a Scouting leader and a plain ol’ Eagle—definitely not a “legal Eagle”! So, the best thing I can tell you is this: Check with your local council’s professional staff, or the council’s attorney if you want to know what this means from a practical, day-to-day, standpoint.

Problems, in my experience, usually don’t arise over equipment—after all, what would a church or school or civic group want with a bunch of tents, rope, compasses, old Merit Badge pamphlets, and such? But there can sometimes be problems if the unit’s accumulated a significant amount of MONEY.

When I was a Scout and, later, Scoutmaster, the first time around, several decades ago, there were never any money problems, because units were expected to “zero out” at the end of each “Scouting year” (i.e., when their charter came up for renewal), that is, any money accumulated in the prior twelve months was to be spent on the Scouts who had earned and saved it in that same year. Today, it can be different, and oftentimes units will “stockpile” money earned in fundraisers and so on. This can be a problem if the unit folds or wants to move, because the question of who “owns” the money can arise.

Case in point: A Troop had accumulated about $15,000 over a period of years, and now they wanted to change sponsors (and, of course, take their money with them). Their current sponsor said, in effect, “Go ahead and move, but leave your bank account here, because WE own YOU and that means we own everything you own. And, if you don’t leave the account here, we’ll simply not recharter you, and we’ll keep your money because it reverts to us when we close your doors.” Yes, an absolute mess! And now, I’m not going to tell you the solution we on the commissioner staff finally proposed (and they both accepted) because I don’t want this to somehow become a “rule”—unique situations require unique, situation-specific solutions! But, it’s a great example of how the best of interests can sometimes go astray!

Dear Andy,

One of my units had two scouts that were ready for their Eagle Boards of Review until the Troop’s committee chairman wouldn’t sign the rank application. The Scoutmaster and other members of the committee asked him why, and he replied, “I just don’t have a good feeling about these two Scouts.” After checking the Eagle workbook and reading that a Scout can still have a Board of Review, even with no Scoutmaster’s or chairman’s signature, the application was sent up to the district advancement committee. But, when they set up the B-O-R, they invited the Troop’s chairman, and then the district advancement chair said that he couldn’t conduct the board because the Troop chairman hadn’t signed the application. Following up, I contacted our district advancement chairman, our District Executive, and our Area Service Representative. They said that they wouldn’t deal with this situation unless an official appeal was filed. I also talked to the Council Advancement Chairman, who also said that he wouldn’t proceed unless the Scouts themselves filed an appeal. After talking to the Scouts and their families, one Scout went to the district advancement committee to file an appeal, while the other was so angered over the whole thing that he decided not to file an appeal and just let the whole thing go away. The district advancement committee now decided that if the Troop’s chairman sits on the B-O-R again, his vote would be “NO” (he’s also been on the district committee for more years than anyone can remember). Meanwhile, the Troop’s own advancement chairman hasn’t said a word about any of this. How in the world do I make things right when the district itself refuses to conduct the B-O-R? (Don McDow, UC, Greater Alabama Council)

Ouch, what a mess! I’m going to start off by giving you not one but two answers. The first will be what the BSA has to say about such conduct by a committee chair, and the second will be what I personally think about this situation. In that order…

BSA advancement policies and procedures state (CAP’s mine): “…the unit committee reviews and approves THE RECORD of the Eagle candidate…if a unit leader or committee fails to sign or otherwise approve an application, the Eagle candidate may STILL BE GRANTED A BOARD OF REVIEW…”

Now, let’s look at the particular language used: The SM and CC approve the RECORD of the candidate—that is, his record of having completed the requirements. They are not “approving” the candidate AS A PERSON—that is, A HUMAN BEING. Consequently, signatures such as these should not be arbitrarily withheld. However, even if either or both should be withheld, the BSA policy states that this does not prevent or preclude a Board of Review. Thus, it would seem to me that there are several errors taking place here. First, the CC is withholding a signature for a highly vague and undefined reason that appears to have nothing to do with the records of the Scouts. Second, having this person attend or participate in a B-O-R, when he has already declared himself to be a non-neutral party, is senseless. Third, your district advancement chair is obviously misinformed about BSA policies or the Board of Review would have proceeded—fairly. Fourth, at the meeting itself is one heck of a time to renege on these Scouts.

Now, my own opinion: I think something a little more tangible than “not having a good feeling” is in order by the CC here. That’s way too vague to hold any credence at all, and I’d like to know why these Scouts’ Scoutmaster isn’t reading the riot act to the CC! Moreover, to try to torpedo these Scouts at this point in their advancement careers is the antithesis of what Scouting’s all about, and the Troop committee itself needs to take their CC outside and have a very, very serious talk with him—maybe Messrs. Smith and Wesson should join them! And the Troop’s advancement chair should be hard at work making this right; not heading for the nearest foxhole. So, it seems to me that both the Troop’s and the District’s advancement chairs need to grow spines and do what’s right, and the Scoutmaster and committee need to think hard about the kind of adult leadership this Troop wants to have around—and then do something about it.
There’s no question but that formal appeals need to be written and submitted, and both of these Scouts need instruction on how to do this. And, that one who’s about to walk away from his Eagle needs to be told in no uncertain terms how foolish it will be for him to let one person stand in the way of his personal accomplishment, and that the only result will be that he’ll be kicking himself (or off-loading blame onto others rather than taking personal responsibility for his own actions here) for the rest of his natural life!

As far as having the CC sit on the “appealed” board of review, this is…how shall I put it…totally stupid! What genius thought this one up –Here’s someone who comes into the appealed board pre-prejudiced, and they’re going to let him get away with this? The members of the board must be absolutely neutral, or they should be disqualified (if they don’t have the brains to disqualify themselves). So, the answer to your question about “how can this CC sit on an appeal eagle board?” is simple: HE CAN’T. Period.

So, how do you make things right? You tell the council’s Scout Executive what’s going on and you assure the SE that, if this isn’t straightened out right here and now, inside the council, there will be three letters written to the BSA national office—one from you, and one from each of the two Scouts. If that doesn’t get things moving in the right direction, write the letters and send them.

Dear Andy,

My son, Joe, will be having his Eagle Court of Honor soon. Can you tell me how to go about getting a letter of congratulations from the President of the United States. I can’t seem to find the info on any of the Boy Scouting web sites. He’s in Troop 1723, in Trenton, MI. Thanks, Mary Jane Reidy.

Good news! I just typed “eagle scout letters” in the Google dialogue box and it instantly gave me back 153 different citations. One good one was prepared by Troop 2, in Santa Monica, California. Go to http://troop2bsa.org/eagle/eagle_letters.html and you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for! And—Congratulations, Eagle Mom!

Dear Andy,

In the coming weeks everyone in our Pack will start getting “Pinewood Derby Fever,” including the dads. I noticed that the “rules” in the kit don’t cover how to actually run the race. I have three questions: Does the idea of a “derby committee” go as far back as when the first Pinewood Derby was held in 1953? Do the rules on how the race itself is conducted go as far back as the first race? Are packs required to have written rules (and, if so, when did that begin)? Our Pack does have a derby committee, and we have written rules on how to run it, and we also give the rules to our members. (Dennis Vega, Pack 96, Raritan Valley District, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

I wrote “how to run a pinewood derby” in the Google dialogue box (use any search engine you like, of course) and in a blink 18 sites came up. The best one appears to be this: http://www.abc-pinewood-derby.com/run-pinewood%20derby-race.htm Check it out, and I think you’ll have a pretty solid game-plan. One thing they don’t mention is that using an electronic scale (postage-type, if you can get one) often works best, because it has two digits after the decimal, and that might be important, because weight is (so I’ve learned) the single-most critical factor. I really don’t know how far back the “rules” thing goes, but I don’t think they’ve changed much over time—fastest car over the finish line wins. Done in “heats,” of course. And, one car per Cub Scout. No one “requires” “written rules”—this ain’t the Olympics! But, for fairness, it’s a pretty good idea, so there are no misunderstandings at the event itself. It’s also a pretty good idea to have other prizes, too—judging and prizes for things like “best body design,” “best paint-job,” “most awesome,” “most rad,” and so on, so that there are more “winners” than just for speed. But here’s one very important rule to remember at all times: KISMIF (Keep It Simple-Make It Fun)!

Hi Andy,

Love your column—I’m a new reader. In our Troop, our Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) came up with a new camping idea that they’d like to do once a year. They’re calling it a “Techie Weekend.” It would have regular Scouting events during the day and then, after dinner clean up, we’d have a “Techie Night”—video games, movies, computers, and so on. (Of course, all games and items would be subject to approval for appropriateness.) We usually have ten to eleven camping trips a year and see no problem with implementing this idea, especially since during the rest of the year our Troop follows the “no electronics on camping trips” rule. I think it’s a great idea for an annual event, but some on our Troop committee think that the “no electronics” rule should have no exceptions, period. We’ve had good discussions, but haven’t been able to reach a decision yet. Comments? (E.W.)

Here’s Andy’s unabashed comment—I think it’s nothing less than BRILLIANT! Congratulations to your Patrol Leaders and SPL for a very original and exciting idea! (“When in doubt, ask the Scout,” was always my personal motto, as a Scoutmaster.) If I were Scoutmaster of this Troop, I’d be urging the committee to vote “Aye” immediately, and let’s go do it! I’d make the first “Techie Weekend” a “trial” outing, and help the Scouts work out any bugs that might arise—a “Roses n’ Thorns” session would probably work very well. And, here are a few thoughts that the PLC might want to consider further…

– Can the electronics be “shared” amongst participants, and if so, how? How might damage/breakage be handled?

– How can this accommodate Scouts who can’t afford “personal” games/electronics (like, that’s why they go to video arcades)?

– Should this be an “earned” event — A specific number of non-techie events/outings “earns” the right to attend this one?

– If the electronics are hauled out in the evening only, will “normal” Scoutcraft stuff be done during the daylight hours?

– Could a day-outing to a video arcade be an alternative?

But the bottom line’s real simple: GO FOR IT!

Dear Andy,

Our Pack has a tradition of wearing the Cub Scout hat indoors. Recently, a military veteran questioned this, because indoors he thought you should take the hat off, like in the military. This then ties in to Flag Ceremonies. Do the Scouts take the hat off when doing the pledge? It’s part of the uniform, so if we were outdoors they would just salute, so that’s what we’ve been doing indoors, too. Do you know what the BSA policy is on heads covered indoors, or what the custom is? I’ve looked on the Web, in the Handbooks and even asked my DE, but couldn’t find anything clear about this issue. With 80 Cub Scouts in the Pack, it’s not practical to take their hats off, because they’d be all over the place. Plus, the hat is a big part of their uniform and it indicates their rank and year (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, etc.) and they tend to display their awards that are in the form a pin on their hats. In Boy Scouts, it’s all the same hat, and I noticed that they don’t wear their hats indoors. But I thought it was traditional in Cub Scouts to leave the hats on indoors. What do you think? (Brett Husted)

Like you, I checked my own and a current Scout Handbook, my Wolf Book, and others, and came up dry. So, what I’m about to relate to you is based on what I learned as a boy, Scout, and young man, from my Cubmaster and Den Mother (Yup, I had a Den Mother), my Scoutmaster, my parents, and my teachers. And it’s this: The general rule-of-thumb I’ve followed is outdoors-on/indoors-off. As a Boy Scout back when the Scout hats were the “overseas”-type caps that folded flat, we could simply fold them over our belts when we met indoors. But, at the same time, I remember wearing my Cub Scout “beany-hat” at Pack meetings, which were also indoors! So, the first thing to remember is that this isn’t a strictly “military” courtesy—it’s pretty universal. Of course, when I was a Scout, we had lots of role models all over the place! Both men and women wore hats — they were as common as shoes! Women left theirs on, indoors, even in church, but men always took theirs off indoors. There were a few exceptions to men doffing their hats, like train and bus stations, and so on. But, largely, when a boy or man came indoors, the hat came off. Fifty years later, it’s a different world! Nowadays, if you can keep the Cubs from turning their caps backwards, you can probably consider that a success! For Cubs, my personal opinion is that, at Pack meetings, go ahead and wear caps—the Troops that they graduate to will have their own “rules” anyway! On the Pledge (while wearing caps as part of their uniforms), Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts, AND THEIR LEADERS in uniform do NOT remove their caps—They salute by bringing their two-fingered salute to the right-side outer edge of the cap’s brim. Anyone NOT in uniform absolutely does remove headgear they may be wearing and, holding same in their right hand, places it over their heart.

And so Brett writes back…

Thanks Andy! Actually I did find a related reference in one book—The “Cub Scout Ceremonies for Dens & Packs” book—but it’s vague about the indoors hat issue. It states: “When in uniform, stand at attention and salute with your right hand. When not in uniform, stand at attention and place your right hand over your heart. You should remove your non-uniform hat. When in uniform, with your head covered or uncovered, either indoors or outdoors, stand at attention and salute with your right hand (during flag ceremonies).” According to this, I think we’re in compliance. And in an old Cubmaster’s Pack Book, I saw pictures of indoor meetings and the Scouts and some of the leaders had their hats on. The person who brought it up said that they checked with our council and they said the hat should be off, which technically is right, but I guess its one of those gray areas. I just don’t want to offend anyone, especially a veteran!

Y’know, Brett, if someone’s really, really worried about caps and hats, I’d get a little worried about whether they’re seeing the “big picture” or not! As for the “military issue,” remember that Baden-Powell himself put it this way: “The Army trains men for war; Scouting prepares boys for peace.” And I’ll put it this way: GO WITH YOUR HEART AND YOU’LL ALWAYS BE RIGHT.

Dear Andy,

Camping Merit Badge Requirement 3 unclear to me. It says, “Make a written plan for an overnight trek.” Does that mean make a plan to hike during the night in the dark, or does that mean to make a hiking plan that includes setting up a campsite overnight for sleeping as part of a plan for beginning your hike on one day and continuing the hike the next day? Thanks! Adam

You have sharp eyes! Yup, that sure does sound a little vague. But I think you’d be on pretty safe ground to figure that it means hiking during the day and camping at night, and not the other way around!

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question or problem? Got an idea that will help others? Send an email to AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com – be sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(December 2003)

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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