Learning Through Research

CUR Nominations Task Force Summary Report to the Council – May 2007

CUR Nominations Task Force
Summary Report to the Council

May 2007


The task force was initiated by CUR President Lori Bettison-Varga to review the nomination and election process of its executive officers and report to the council at the June business meeting.  Our charge includes the following:

  • To investigate and summarize the nominations practices of similar multi-disciplinary and disciplinary professional organizations, including your analysis of the pros and cons of each system
  • To develop a set of recommendations and supporting rationale regarding the nominations procedure.

The task force includes the following members: 

Neal Abraham
Sam Abrash
Franci Farnsworth
Susan Larson
Karen Lee
Julio Rivera (Chair)

Research Process

Early in the study, a number of long-standing former and current members of the nominations committee were contacted to get a sense of what the current process entails.  In those conversations, there was a consensus on how nominees are selected and what the process entails, but there was also a consensus that this process was not well known by the general Council and that more transparency would be desirable.  The current process is based largely on an oral tradition and not codified like the councilor nomination and election process.  In the process for executive board officers, candidates are identified and discussed in formal and informal settings involving the Nominations Committee and members of the Executive Board.  A top candidate is identified and is approached to stand for office.  In the candidate selection process, consideration has been given to the need for the leadership to reflect the diversity of CUR’s divisions, membership and mission; hence such factors as gender, academic discipline, and CUR division of recent officers and of proposed candidates is carefully considered.  An important consideration in the selection process heretofore has been finding the person who is at the right moment in his or her career who will have the time to devote to the office and strong support from the person’s home institution.  Candidates often have had to be recruited to serve.  This is a process of selection and recruitment; the vote of the council is a confirmation. 

The committee met and outlined a list of organizations to contact and questions to ask.  The questions included:

  • How many candidates stand for each office?
  • How are the candidate(s) placed on the election slate?
  • What kind of support is asked from the home institution of the candidate?
  • If there is a slate with multiple candidates, what happens to people who lose election?—are they elected to leadership positions later or do they fade away in the organization?
  • What is your opinion of your model and how do you think it serves the organization?

The organizations contacted represented societies with a variety of membership sizes including those that matched the size of CUR.  They included both disciplinary and interdisciplinary organizations. 


Summary of Results

The task force interviewed the presidents or executive directors of organizations to find out the answers to several questions about their nominations and elections procedure.  The following is a condensed summary of what was discovered:

  • How many candidates stand for each office?

All except 2 of the 14 organizations interviewed has two candidates stand for their President office.  One organization reported that more than two candidates were allowed but the winner needs 51% (even if it means a runoff vote). 

The numbers of candidates for other officers (secretary, treasurer) and executive board varied.  In some instances multiple candidates were put forward and other instances only single candidates were put forward.  For some organizations it was less important to have two candidates for these offices.  It was more important to have two candidates for President. 

One organization used to run elections and went to a single candidate for each office (selection) to ensure quality control and because elections in the past created some hard feelings.

  • How are the candidate(s) placed on the election slate?

Most organizations have a clearly defined process for selecting candidates for their ballot.  This selection process consists of two distinct parts:  nomination and vetting


Nomination Process

Most organizations interviewed put out a broad call for nominations from the membership (e-mail, newsletter, website, etc.).  Some organizations have nomination committees that bring candidates names forward.  One organization receives nominations from its executive board. 

Some organizations require candidates for President to have served on the executive board or in some other leadership capacity.


Vetting and Placement

Many organizations have an elections/nominations committee made up of past presidents, board members and people who know the organization well to vet the nominations and form a ballot.  Some organizations assign the executive board to vet and set the ballot.  Some organizations make an attempt to balance areas of specialization/discipline as well as gender and racial diversity.

Most all organizations reported that candidates for President and other officers became apparent as a result of their personal involvement in the organization.

  • What kind of support is asked from the home institution of the candidate?

None of the organizations interviewed seeks or expects support from the home institution—often candidates will ask for additional support from their institution.  Most organizations pay for travel to meetings for its officers.

  • If there is a slate with multiple candidates, what happens to people who lose election?—are they elected to leadership positions later or do they fade away in the organization?

Several modifiers are used in this summary.  Their use is consistent but not precise.
Modifiers:  Most (more than 50%), Many (close but under 50%) Some (more than one but not near 50%) One (a single organization).

The responses from this question were the most varied. Many organizations reported that losing candidates often remained active in the organization. Some reported that occasionally there were hard feelings and the candidate dropped out of sight. Some organizations make a concerted effort to connect with unsuccessful candidates, and encourage them to remain active in the organization and stand again for office (sometimes multiple times). One organization reported that concerted efforts are made to move unsuccessful candidates into other leadership roles in the organization. Some organizations reported that unsuccessful candidates are often asked to stand again for office.

  • What is your opinion of your model and how do you think it serves the organization?

Most organizations indicate that their model serves their organization well.  Some organizations report that their model allows people to become involved in the organization at smaller or local levels and that by the time they are involved at a larger or national levels they have significant experience.  People are groomed for these positions.


The Task Force Recommendations

We believe that the Council should make a series of decisions regarding the election of officers.  Based on the interviews with other organizations there are potentially six separate decisions the Council can debate and decide on.  Each decision should be weighed separately—although intertwined and related, debate and consideration should be separate and sequential.  The potential decisions are: whether to change at all, how many candidates should stand for office, how nominations are sought, and who vets nominations, how the nominations are vetted, and who should elect the officers.  In the table below the Task Force has outlined the decision followed by our recommendation and then followed by a suggested motion to be brought before the Council.

Decision faced
by the Council
Recommendation by
Task Force
Suggested Motion Wording
Decision #1
Should the Council consider changing how CUR officers are appointed to their positions or shall we remain with the status quo?

The Task Force recommends that the Council consider change.

Rationale: There appears to be a strong desire by the Council to consider this question. No matter how it is resolved, we believe it is healthy for the Council to consider the matter.

The council shall consider altering how CUR officers are appointed to their positions
Decision #2
Should the officers be appointed through a selection process (with confirmation by council) or by an election with a choice of candidates?

The Task Force recommends an election model for the offices of President and Secretary beginning with the 2008-09 terms of office.

Two candidates should be selected from a larger group of nominees and placed on the ballot for President

Two candidates should be nominated and offered for Secretary

The Task Force recommends that the treasurer position should be a nominated position whose appointment is confirmed by vote by the executive board and the council.  This is not a contested election, rather an "advise and consent" situation.  The primary rationale for this is two-fold.  First, few willing and qualified are available for this position.  Second, this model is likely to continue the stability and good fiscal management CUR has enjoyed in the past.

Rationale:  We believe that CUR is large enough and strong enough to support a contested election by two candidates.  Our conversations with other organizations suggested that this is a more common model of appointing organization officers.

The task force learned two important items for a multiple candidate model to be successful.  First, unsuccessful candidates must be encouraged to remain active in the organization.  This is done through personal contact from the e-board and through the appointment of the unsuccessful candidate to prominent responsible positions in the organization.  Second, unsuccessful candidates are often brought back as nominees in subsequent years.

The task force strongly supports multiple candidates for President and Secretary.  If the nominations group is unable to come up with multiple candidates they must justify this to the executive board who may choose to have them search further.

The Council should elect its President and Secretary from a slate of two candidates for each office.  It is permissible but not desirable to have only one candidate only if there is only one qualified candidate is available or willing to serve.  A single candidate should be nominated and confirmed for the office of treasurer.  The candidate will be selected and vetted by the nominations group.  The recommended candidate must be approved by a majority vote of the Council.

Decision #3
Where should nominations for President, Treasurer and Secretary come from?

The Task force recommends that nominations for all elected officer positions should be sought from the CUR membership.  These nominations would be solicited through the newsletter, e-mail, websites and other appropriate communication methods that may appear in the future.

Rationale:  It is our belief that CUR is best served by seeking input from the widest field.  We also perceive from some interview and conversations with members that there is a perceived lack of transparency in the nominations process.  This would begin create a perceived sense of openness.
Nominations for officer positions shall be sought from the entire CUR membership.
Decision #4

Who should vet and narrow the list of nominations to the desired number of candidates?

The Task Force recommends an e-board nominations group (a regularized group) vet the solicited nominations.  We recommend that the group consist of the Nominations Co-Chair, the immediate Past-President, and three members elected by the Council.  The three elected members shall serve staggered terms and must have served as a Councilor for at least two years although we think more experience and knowledge of the organization is better.  They must be Councilors at the time of election.  The staggered terms are designed to create a level of "institutional memory" about the nomination and vetting process.  The election of this group gives the Council direct representation in the selection of officer candidates.

Rationale:  This question generated the most discussion within the Task Force.  There were a number of examples of how to "regularize" this process.  Our desire is to formalize the vetting group and increase the transparency of who is in the group.  We also want to include the Council as a whole as to who is selected as a member of this nominations group.
The ballot for CUR officer positions shall be constructed by a regularized e-board nominations group.  This group shall consist of the Nominations Co-Chair, the immediate Past-President, and three members elected by the Council.  Each elected member shall serve a term of three years and must be on the Council at the time of the election.  The terms of the elected members are staggered.  Candidates for this group shall be nominated openly from the floor of the Council at the annual meeting.  The newly elected member must win approval by 50% + 1 of the Council present.  In the case there are multiple openings for the positions shorter staggered terms are assigned to the second and third largest vote-getter from the Council election. 
Decision #5
Who should be consulted about the list of solicited nominees?

This nomination group’s task shall include consulting with active senior members of CUR and members of the executive board regarding nominated candidates.  The consulted members and e-board should represent the Divisions within the Council.  The group’s discussions should be exhaustive but confidential.

Rationale:  It is our belief the most active and long-standing members of CUR will have the most informed ideas of potential candidates.  From the information provided by these members, a group of consensus candidates are likely to become evident.
The charge of the nominations group shall be to examine the solicited nominations.  They will seek information regarding nominees from all areas of CUR, including consultation with active senior members of CUR and the executive board.
Decision #6
Who should elect the officers?

The Task Force is undecided about this.  Although we like the idea of having the officers elected by the membership, the current system of having councilors elect the officers also has strong appeal, and thus, we recommend remaining with this system for the time-being.

Rationale:  Even if the will of the Council is to have the membership elect the officers, we think it is prudent for "several" elections to take place with any newly adopted system in order "to work out" possible problems.  This question should be revisited within four years.  A regularized written ballot should be part of the official process if contested elections are approved.
The officers should continue to be elected by the Council using a written ballot.  The question of who should elect the officers shall be revisited in 4 years.

Contacted Organizations

AAG—Association of American Geographers
APS—Association for Psychological Science
FAST—Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology
HAPS—Human Anatomy and Physiology Society
NACIS—North American Cartographic Information Society
NCGE—National Council on Geographic Education
NCURA – National Council of University Research Administrators
NCUR—National Conferences on Undergraduate Research
PKP—Phi Kappa Phi
PSI CHI—National Honors Society for Psychology
SICB—The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
STP—Society for the Teaching of Psychology
TCS—The Crustacean Society