My Resignation from the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas
Today I resigned from the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas (CMSA) because I view it as an organization whose values are at great odds with my own.
The recent global amplification of the long-ignored outcry for racial equality and social justice has elicited what feels to me like a complete lack of empathy from the CMSA; for me this was the last straw. Coupled with the unjust annulment of the 2018 Masters exam, I have concluded that for myself, remaining a member would be to tacitly endorse the organization and its views.
This is not a decision that I take lightly, nor would it be accurate to characterize my resignation as one of “giving up.” I am doing this only after expending a great deal of time, energy, and my own capital in an effort to affect change in the organization.
I’ve served as a board member and have taught dozens of courses and exams over the past 17 years, and I’ve always trusted that the organization’s by-laws and code of ethics would serve the membership well. Regretfully I’ve come to understand that those by-laws have evolved in such a manner as to effectively prevent all but the old guard from running for the board of directors which is responsible for shaping policy. This is not the stance of a progressive or inclusive organization, it’s one of protectionism affording no reasonable opportunity for change on anything less than an extremely protracted timescale. I do not endorse this and hope that my renunciation of the CMSA may somehow abbreviate their timeline for change.
I took my first exam with the CMSA in 1997 (CMS then) and passed the Masters exam in 2003 at which time I saw the CMS purely as an educational body. By engaging with the CMS I knew I could better serve my guests while also enjoying learning about something I loved. Somewhere in the interceding 17 years, however, this organization has seemingly evolved from an educational one to an elite accrediting one. I find this disturbing.
Recently the discourse has been about “the pin”, “the credential”, and I believe this has come at the expense of hospitality and inclusive education. If “preserving the integrity” of some elite credential is the main priority, which in turn leads us to treat our candidates in an unfair manner, then I want no part of it.
The annulled 2018 Masters exam is a glaring example of this paradigm. I believe the CMSA unfairly upended lives and wrongly discredited the moral integrity of the…