Letter from the Chair of the Royal Institution – A response

Earlier this evening I received a letter from Richard Sykes, the Chairman of the Royal Institution, sent out to members.

Below is the text of his letter, followed by my personal response:

Dear Miss Perkins,

Thank you for the tremendous amount of support and suggestions that have come in over the past week. I am truly overwhelmed by the strength of feeling about the future of the Ri, and this is hugely encouraging as we work through some very complex issues.

No one more than I would like to see the Ri flourish at its home in Albemarle Street, delivering our vibrant events programme and global outreach via the Ri Channel and Christmas Lectures, set against the backdrop of our wonderful heritage.  

 However, as I have said previously, we have significant debt and a major challenge to find a sustainable operating model.

Such uncertain times are very difficult for staff, members and everyone around the world who loves this institution. The Trustees and I are very aware of our duty to safeguard the financial health of the charity and to ensure the delivery of the objects in our Royal Charter.

The scale of the challenge is significant.  Over the last two years, we have been working hard to secure major funders and partners. We have many loyal supporters, but we have yet to establish a robust endowment that would put us on a firm financial footing.

I am committed to finding the best way forward for the Ri and whilst we continue to explore the various options, I will keep you informed.

Thank you once again for your support.

 Sir Richard Sykes, FRS

Chairman of the Royal Institution

And my reply to him was:

I understand that there is significant debt, and that finding a
sustainable operating model is a challenge.  And I appreciate the duty
of the trustees to safeguard the charity, and deliver its objects.

However I, and many others, are devastated that yourself and the
trustees have been so quick, it seems, to consider selling the
building. A letter from a member of the Ri Audit Committee, which
appeared in the Times recently, seemed to imply that you thought it
would be impossible to come up with a viable business plan which
included remaining in the current building.  Are you certain of this?
I cannot and will not believe it to be true.

You say that you have been working hard to secure major funders and partners – how much have you asked others for help in your quest?  To establish the endowment needed is indeed a huge task, but there may be many among the membership and within the wider scientific, financial and general community that may be able to help you with this.

Surely exploring all the options means at the very least asking your
members, and others, for suggestions?  Surely they might come up with options that you have not have even considered?  And perhaps the Ri has powerful friends that you are unaware of, because you simply haven’t asked.

Worse than this, there are rumours now of a trustee decision-meeting
being called.  You simply cannot make this kind of major decision
without giving the members a chance to have their say.

I believe an EGM needs to be called, and I will be writing to you
shortly, as a member, to call for one.  Not as a means to attack
anyone, but as a means to be involved in this decision, it being one
that affects not just the members, but the world.

Yours, sent with love (of the Ri AND it’s building),

Mary

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