The Rancho Santa Fe Post

RSFA: A Club I Can't Join

A key joke for me that I’ve been able to relate to in rather worrying frequency during my life is, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” Cognitive dissonance? Some other psychoanalytic category reserved for Freud? Who knows. But perhaps this joke softens the blow of the RSFA’s recent appointment to fill Mike Licosati’s vacant Board seat.

It was perhaps comforting to hear that the newly appointed Board member, Mike Gallagher, was not a shoo-in. The Board was deadlocked five times, with members at a 3-3 standstill, until an executive session broke the tie. As Mr. Licosati argues in his op-ed for the Post, “Cronyism Returns to the RSFA,” the Board’s choice of 70+-year-old RSF Golf Club member Gallagher and rejection of a younger Rowe-parent candidate whom Mr. Licosati had recommended, cements “the insularity and complete lack of diversity that has been the hallmark of the RSFA for far too long.”

Mr. Gallagher should know that this sentiment should not be taken personally. I’m sure he is a fine, upstanding person, and it is a credit to him that he is volunteering his time for our community. But the end result of the Board’s decision is deeply disappointing. It reminds me of another psychological phenomenon that I’d like to throw out here, “Groupthink,” made famous by Yale research psychologist, Irving Janis. Janis found that this occurred within a group of people in which members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints and by isolating themselves from outside influences. In one fell swoop the Board disenfranchised an entire community of people living, working and paying our HOA fees here - basically me and all my friends. To dumb it down a little, I’m the Sneetch on the Beach without a star on my belly. There are about 40% or so of us in this “outgroup,” and it’s getting rather dull having to enter through the back door.

But as you’ll see in this month’s Post, diversity of opinion and background is alive and well in our community, if not in our homogenous Board. I wish I could rustle up another old scientist to prove the importance of heterogeneity to progress and evolution, but unfortunately natural selection doesn’t work in a vacuum. In our articles ranging from Rowe School Board appointments to the future of the Ranch’s architectural aesthetic, I hope our readers will take pride in the passion of their neighbors, perhaps learn something new, and maybe even allow themselves to change their once unyielding mind on a subject. That’s the beauty of an open mind and independence of thought; without these elements, the world's just a regressive club with only one kind of member.