There is a NYRA and ASFAR Schism that exists.
Source of dispute
ASFAR was founded by Matt Walcoff and Matt Herman at some point in 1996. By mid 1997, Walcoff and several other key members were upset with the direction ASFAR was heading. ASFAR's internal structure was essentially a direct democracy. Elections were held too frequently and the board could do very little without permission from the general membership. It was also around this time that ASFAR's membership began to add positions on more and more youth rights issues to ASFAR's â€œDeclaration of Principles,â€ which Walcoff had intended to be a less extensive, more moderate document.
ASFAR President Joshua Gilbert was the first to make a clean break from ASFAR, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Gilbert went on to found the now defunct Canadian Youth Rights Association (CYRA). Gilbert sat on NYRAâ€™s Board of Advisors, and was critical of ASFAR until his death.
When Gilbert resigned as ASFARâ€™s President, then Vice President Avi Hein replaced him. Walcoff sent an open letter to Hein, in which he offered several suggestions as to how Hein might better ASFAR. The letter, which triggered a heated discussion on ASFARâ€™s mailing list, reveals the essential grievances which lead to the founding of NYRA. Walcoff complained that ASFARâ€™s membership had been split in to two factions; pragmatists and dogmatists. Walcoff felt that the dogmatist influence would make it impossible for ASFAR to ever become a politically viable organization.
By late December of 1997, Walcoff, Hein, Herman, and others were holding meetings to discuss the formation of the National Youth Rights Association in IRC chatrooms. It took until June 1998 for NYRA to elect its first board and incorporate as a Maryland nonprofit corporation.
The first "NYRA meeting" was referred to at the time as a "meeting of the ASFAR leadership"; it was, in reality, a very small meeting of a few disillusioned ASFAR members, most of whom were of some importance at ASFAR. An excerpt from the log of this meeting reveals that Joshua Gilbert, Avi Hein, Matt Walcoff, and Brent Allison participated.
The meeting's minutes, most likely written by Walcoff, summarize this meeting (which likely took quite a while) in seven bullet points. The first two are of the most importance to the ASFAR-NYRA Schism:
"1. Propose reforms to the membership of ASFAR. If the membership of that organization does not approve of the changes, they will be ignored and a new group will be created without them.
2. Propose naming the organization the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA)."
ASFAR's internal documents from December 22nd to December 24th, 1997, seem to be missing. However, there is no indication from an ASFAR ballot sent to the membership on December 25th, 1997, that those present at the December 22nd meeting made any serious effort to bring their proposed reforms to the membership of ASFAR. The ballot includes several proposed reforms, most of which were aimed at making ASFAR more broad and radical. The only ballot item that could really be seen as stemming from the December 22nd meeting is one proposed by Gilbert, calling on ASFAR to "simplify the declaration of principles." The minutes of the December 27th NYRA meeting do not mention reaching out to ASFAR or attempting to change ASFAR in to NYRA. Aside from that one line in the minutes from the December 22nd meeting, there is no indication that early NYRA leaders seriously attempted to bring ASFAR's general membership in to the picture. In fact, evidence suggests that they remained silent about the formation of NYRA, though the missing ASFAR documents makes this hard to determine. Eric Anderson later claimed that he and Justin Mallone were aware of ASFAR as early as December of 1997, but Anderson is not a trustworthy source. Avi Hein remained President of ASFAR for months after the formation of NYRA.
In February of 1998, Eric Anderson (then Vice President, later President) made the exsistence of NYRA known to the general membership in an email entitled "Save ASFAR." Anderson's email and the subsequent discussion is somewhat controversial, and Anderson's reputation was later destroyed by an unrelated incident. The email consists of a general appeal to the ASFAR membership to impeach Avi Hein, an email (supposedly from Justin Mallone, who had supposedly been contacted by Gilbert), the minutes from the December 22nd NYRA meeting, which match the ones from Matt Walcoff's personal files, and an extensive log of an IM converstaion between Anderson and Hein that is of questionable authenticity.
The contents of the forwarded email from Mallone, dated December 24th 1997, state that Mallone was contacted by Gilbert, who sent him the minutes from the December 22nd meeting. The email also expresses Mallone's wish that Anderson not reveal the contents of the email to the membership, which he did on February 17th, 1998. Perhaps most importantly, the email from Mallone states that he thinks the early NYRA leadership had plans to overthrow/destroy ASFAR in the event that the proposed recommendations did not pass. If the email is real, Mallone righfully seemed really upset.
(Later: Write something about the rest of "Save ASFAR" and the discussion that followed.)
ASFAR did not incorporate in their present form until well after the schism was complete. ASFAR incorporated in Missouri in 1999, while NYRA incorporated in Maryland in early 1998 making it the first goal of the new organization. Thus, the NYRA-ASFAR schism can be seen as precipitating the foundation of both organizations in their present form (as nonprofit corporations).
Animosity between ASFAR and NYRA lingered for some time after the split. Over the years, this animosity has decreased, and the two organizations presently enjoy amicable and collegial relations. Each recognizes that the other has a different role to play in the greater youth rights movement.
This interplay carries over to the sharing of staff and volunteers. Former ASFAR President Svend la Rose was formerly Research and Education Director of NYRA. ASFAR board member Kelvin Oliver was formerly South Region Director of NYRA, and former ASFAR Webmaster Chris Batchelor serves as Student Rights Coordinator for NYRA. Three NYRA board members once served on ASFAR's board, and at least five NYRA board members are members of ASFAR.
Most of the people involved in the schism have left the youth rights movement, except Brent Allison who continues to post on NYRA's forums. Although neither organization is presently seeking reunification, neither organization has formally sworn off reunification at some point in the future. It is entirely possible that greater synergy between ASFAR and NYRA could result in reunification of the youth rights movement in the years to come.