Inside the SOA

Member comments sought on nominations process

by Peter Hepokoski, Chair, Nominations Process Task Force

The Board has appointed a Nominations Process Task Force to assess whether changes should be made to the way the SOA develops its annual election ballot, and the Task Force wants input from members.

Background on  the current process
The SOA’s Nominating Committee  is responsible for selecting the names for the SOA ballot.  This process has been in place since 2006.

In adopting this process, the Board sought to strengthen its elections by the Nominating Committee  assessing nominees’ fit with the job descriptions for the positions they seek and recommending which nominees should be placed on the ballot.  In the Board’s judgment, the previous ballot process was not adequately assessing the skills, experience and leadership potential of nominees, and that too often seniority, longevity and name recognition were the keys to winning election. The Board’s decision relied in part on reports from a Governance Audit Task Force in 2003 and a Task Force on Nominations and Elections in 2005.

Now, each year, taking into account the issues critical to the Board’s current strategic initiatives and priorities, the Leadership Development Committee identifies for the Nominating Committee the skills and experience that will best support the Board in addressing those issues.

Next, in seeking to produce a ballot with the best fit with the skills and experience so identified, the Nominating Committee carries out a deliberative process that includes:

• evaluating nominee responses to a Nominating Committee questionnaire
• conducting telephone interviews with nominees
• reviewing nominee resumes, especially with regard to leadership roles within and outside the SOA
• seeking feedback from Board and Leadership Committee members who have first-hand experience with the nominees
• discussing its own members’ first-hand experiences with the nominees

Some SOA members have suggested allowing a member to gain ballot placement via petition (signed by a specified number of eligible voters).  Their rationale is that otherwise SOA leadership runs the risk of being too “inbred.”

The Board has charged the Task Force with addressing this question, as well as offering any other suggestions it might have relative to the ballot process.

Your invitation to comment
What do you think?  Please share your thoughts by email to elections@soa.org and/or comment directly to this blog.

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One response to "Member comments sought on nominations process"

  • Tom Bakos says:

    The nine member Nominating Committee is charged, per your description, with substituting its own highly subjective points of view for a subjective decision reserved for Eligible Voting Members.

    It seems entirely inappropriate, as you have indicated, for the NC to seek “feedback from Board and Leadership Committee members who have first-hand experience with the nominees” or to discuss “its own members’ first-hand experiences with the nominees”. What if a nominee has no such experience to be reviewed? What if the nominee differed in opinion with current leadership or NC members?

    If the only route to the ballot is through the NC, then potential candidates would be well advised to conform their views and positions as stated to the NC to views and opinions acceptable to them – at least through the nomination process.

    While it might have been argued that the pre-2006 election process had an element of a “popularity” contest, the use of a Nominating Committee to pre-select candidates, vet them, and approve them using its own experiences is just another and worse form of a popularity contest. It is worse, at least, since it takes away the right reserved to Eligible Voting Members (in a one vote per member world) the right to make their own subjective decision about candidates in an election.

    While Nominating Committee members have a right as FSA-members themselves to make nominations based on their subjective observations and conclusions, they do not or should not have the sole right to make nominations for the entire membership. In doing so, they become super members with superior rights of membership granted to them solely because they were appointed to the Nominating Committee by current leadership.

    Allowing a Nominating Committee, and through them current leadership, to have the power to decide for whom members can vote is surely a way for current leadership to control the profession by excluding effective member participation in the election process.

    You recognize and I do too that the SoA Board and Officers confine themselves to providing guidance and decision making on strategic issues. Suggesting that the skills and experience necessary to do that effectively would not be obvious to our enlightened electorate composed of highly educated, diligent, experienced, and self-motivated professionals is ridiculous.
    We do not need a Nominating Committee making those choices for us!

    In the pre-2006 first/second ballot process, voting members selected candidates for a second ballot election. Since 2006 we have allowed the Nominating Committee the right to effectively vote in a first election to select candidates for a second (now only) ballot. That process destroys the free and open election process we had before 2006.

    Allowing an NC so much authority is dangerous to the future of the profession.

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