After twice failing to achieve a 2/3 majority on previous votes, the AMS busted up the filibuster and railroaded through their new fellows program. The initial implementation was based on having achieved one of several things, the easiest of which was to have given an invited AMS address. There was, however, another condition: you had to have been a full fee paying member of the AMS from 2010 onwards. I had given such an address, but I was not a member of the AMS – mostly out of indifference rather than anything else. The AMS had clearly accounted for this possibility; they were offering indulgences in exchange for cash: for a price, you could retroactively purchase AMS membership for 2010 and 2011 (this was in 2012) and all your sins would be forgiven. There was some ambiguity as to whether one’s invited address had to be before or after Jan 1 2012 (mine was after), and in the end, I did not pony up the cash, and I am not an AMS Fellow (nor, to take a selection of other members of my department, is Andrei Suslin or Kari Vilonen).
I don’t want to argue here about the merits of this particular program (see some opinions here), but I want instead to ask: should I become a member of the AMS? My department chair is (gently) applying some pressure for me to do so. The issues are mainly financial and moral. It is admissible for me to pay my dues with startup funds; this means that there is no immediate personal cost, although, as my startup funds are by no means infinite, this might eventually have a direct impact on my wallet. On the other hand, some have suggested that having such a fellowship will ultimately be better for one’s salary (this is hard to quantify, however). Note also that it is not so clear how easy it will be to become a member in the near future – there are presumably some really good mathematicians who have not given AMS invited addresses. Finally, there’s the moral argument: I feel a mild distaste concerning the notion that unless I pay up, the AMS will officially sanction my research output as not up to scratch. But maybe one could argue instead that the AMS does all sorts of wonderful things which mitigate such behavior. Please give me your thoughts!