& SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS
PETER J. STANG, CHAIR, COMMITTEE ON NOMINATIONS & ELECTIONS
PAUL R. JONES, CHAIR, BOARD TASK FORCE ON CAMPAIGN CONDUCT
One of the questions that is frequently asked by ACS members is, "How does it all work?" The "it" that members are inquiring about is the process by which the Committee on Nominations & Elections (N&E) puts forth names of members as nominees and candidates for the presidential succession and ACS Board of Directors. It may be disappointing to some that there are no secret handshakes and smoke-filled rooms involved; rather, the process is fairly straightforward. As chairs of N&E and a special Board Task Force on Campaign Conduct, respectively, we would like to share this process with the membership in order to correct any misconceptions and address members' concerns related to election and campaigning issues.
The members who serve on N&E and who ultimately put forth recommendations for the board of directors are themselves elected by ACS councilors. These local section and division councilors represent the voice of the membership. All N&E members are councilors and have extensive ACS experience. Members of N&E are also expected to have a broad understanding of the needs of the society and of the leadership skills and experiences of members who potentially would serve on the board of directors or in the presidential succession.
The committee uses a variety of mechanisms for identifying qualified persons to serve on the ACS Board. We solicit the membership for names through our website (http://chemistry.org); we seek input from leaders in government, academe, and industry; and we ask councilors, as well as current and former members of the board of directors, for their suggestions. N&E members, during committee meetings, review and evaluate these suggestions in terms of established criteria and member experience. These criteria include, for president-elect, inter alia, national name recognition, demonstrated leadership abilities, and service in positions of leadership in non-ACS professional and/or scientific bodies. In addition, criteria for board members include outstanding service in ACS governance activities at the national/regional/local levels, scientific/technical achievements, business acumen and/or managerial experience, incumbency with distinction, and distinguished service in non-ACS professional organizations. The committee seeks to identify individuals who meet as many of these criteria as possible.
N&E is also committed to ensuring that it proposes slates of nominees/candidates who are diverse in terms of gender, race, and geography. N&E adheres to the policy of alternating industrial and nonindustrial (academic, government, and nonprofit organizations) slates for president-elect.
The ACS bylaws also provide for the nomination of additional candidates for both president-elect and the board of directors by petition. N&E is responsible for receiving and validating proposals for nominations by petition as provided in the bylaws.
A surprisingly large number of members identified as qualified nominees for the presidency as well as the ACS Board decline the nomination by N&E to serve the society. Based upon individual feedback, factors that influence their decision include career/family commitments that prohibit service at the time, rigors of serving the society in this capacity, and dissatisfaction with the nomination and perceived campaign process.
Since the primary objective of N&E is to ensure that the nomination and election process is conducted in a manner befitting the professional image of ACS and is a fair, financially equitable, and pleasant experience for all, the committee conducted a survey of all nominees and candidates who ran for national office during the past four years. We were pleased that nearly 70% of those surveyed sent in responses. Results indicate that a majority of past nominees and candidates want clearer guidelines with regard to the campaign process and believe that the campaign places a financial burden on them. In addition, many respondents believe nominees/candidates should not be allowed to raise campaign funds and that ACS elections have become too "political."
Based on these results, N&E has identified immediate improvements that could be made in the election process. Several recommendations for improvement were unanimously approved by N&E at its meeting in Boston in 2002 and include the following:
- Nominees and candidates for national office will be provided with the option of using an N&E-sponsored, ACS standardized website for communicating with the membership and which can be linked to their own personal website.
- Increased efforts will be made to communicate N&E's "Guidelines on Campaigning & Communication," a document that describes recommended campaign practices, to the entire membership.
- N&E will provide a nominal amount of financial support to nominees for president-elect who do not receive society support from any other sources to attend the spring council meeting.
We are also considering Web-based voting as well as possible changes in the nominating and petition procedures.
In addition, a special Board Task Force on Campaign Conduct has been appointed in response to concerns that were raised about what constitutes appropriate action by board members on behalf of candidates or potential candidates for ACS national office. The specific charge to the task force is "to review and make recommendations on the appropriate conduct of board members (and perhaps other governance leaders and key staff) with regard to ACS campaigns and elections. As part of their efforts, the task force will address the following:
- Decide which classes of individuals, what types of conduct, and which ACS elections will be covered for review.
- Determine the preferred mechanism for implementing any recommendations for changes in board regulations, bylaws, informal board policies or guidelines, or recommendations to N&E.
- Consider whether there is conduct not directly related to campaigns that nonetheless deserves scrutiny by the task force.
The task force has developed preliminary recommendations related to its charge and will meet with N&E in New Orleans to discuss these recommendations and determine potential steps for implementation.
Finally, N&E will sponsor a Nominee Town Hall Meeting in New Orleans on Monday, March 24, from 6 to 7 PM in the Versailles Ballroom of the Riverside Hilton. This forum is intended to facilitate interaction among nominees for president-elect, councilors, and members using a moderated question-and-answer format. This forum will replace the current councilor caucus presentations and, depending on its success, may be adopted for use at all national meetings.
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions on the nomination or election process, please feel free to contact either of us. Members can also visit the N&E website or are welcome to come to our open meeting in New Orleans on Monday, March 24, from 11 AM until noon in the Elmwood Room of the Riverside Hilton. Members of N&E and the Task Force on Campaign Conduct will be present to address your questions and hear your concerns. Remember, however, that there is no secret handshake, and please check your cigar at the door.
Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the ACS committees.