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Trustee-at-Large Election Process History

Recently, several of our members have voiced their concern with the election process for Trustee-at-Large on the Academy’s Board of Trustees. These members claimed that the current system shows no signs of democracy and even mirrors the electoral process of Saddam Hussein! For the past decade, the Academy has taken pride in its election process as being approved by the majority of its members; however, many might be unfamiliar with the Academy’s electoral history and process.

The Trustee-at-Large nomination and election process was approved by a majority of the Academy members who voted to support the reorganizational plan in 1993. Considering the political climate at that time, the Reorganization Committee felt it was better to give members a choice among candidates for the Trustee-at-Large position. This process brought more than one excellent candidate for each position through the nomination process and was thought to have reduced the “we vs. them” paradigm between candidate proposed by the Nominating Committee and the possibility of an opposing candidate submitted by members.

Since adoption of the reorganization, everyone observed the organizational stress of deciding between two excellent candidates. The Nominating Committee would select two candidates from a large list of highly qualified candidates to run for any open position as Trustee-at-Large on the Board of Trustees. However, only one of these was elected despite their active participation in a forum at the Annual Meeting and written statements circulated to the membership. This led to the nominee’s discouragement from participating in future elections. It resulted in the Academy’s loss of a potentially valuable leadership

In 1998, the Academy’s Council, representing the membership, strongly recommended a change the Academy’s Bylaws to revert to the process of nominating one candidate for each open slot by the Nominating Committee. The Council felt that in terms of selecting Trustees to best serve the Academy’s interests, qualifications should remain more important than popularity. This change was approved by the voting membership in 1999 Academy election. This recommendation avoided the loss of future candidates and valuable leaders for the Trustee-at-Large nomination process. The Academy’s Nominating Committee is made up of individuals who know the pool of candidates well. Candidates by petition are still allowed.

Currently, among the provisions of the Academy’s bylaws are the instructions for the democratic process of selecting leaders by a mail ballot for the full voting membership. These instructions set forth the particular offices and number of candidates the Nominating Committee is to identify and the board is to present to the members each year. The bylaws also allow for the addition of candidates by petition for a vacancy in any elected office, trustee-at-large or Council chair or vice chair. Members can submit a petition signed by at least 50 voting fellows and members, to stand for election for any open office. The deadline for receipt of petitions by the Office of the Executive Vice President is 60-days prior to the Academy’s Annual Business Meeting. This does not mean that the board’s candidates should step aside. It simply means that the democratic process of ensuring that our governance represents the choice and will of our members continues to function appropriately.

If the Academy’s membership wishes to change this nominating process for trustee-at-large positions on the Academy’s Board of Trustees nominating process, the option is within the power of Council members to suggest an amendment in the Academy’s Bylaws. Feel free to contact your Council Representative(s) if you wish to voice your suggestions regarding the process of nominating candidates for trustee-at-large positions on the Academy’s Board of Trustees.