Re: Elections in Arts

Marla Chodak (
Thu, 1 Jan 1998 17:53:46 -0800 (PST)

Hi all, and happy new year to you too. Hope you're all enjoying the
holiday. Thanks to Bob for doing this summary.

The current practices are pretty much accurate as Bob has described
them. A couple of notes: there are different turn-over dates for
Council committees and Senate reps: Senate turn-over is July 1 and
Council committees change on Sept. 1. Contract faculty are eligible
for positions on every committee with one exception (T&P) and Senate
(indeed there is a number of contract faculty -- currently 4 -- which
must be elected as reps to Senate). Finding candidates willing to
undertake the responsibilities of chair/vice-chair of Council has
been particularly challenging.

I've already warned my successor (who is Gwyn Buck, by the way, though
this has not yet been announced; you -- Arts Council -- will be in very
good hands) that sending out the call for volunteers for positions is one
of the very first things she must do when she arrives on Jan. 12.

Must get back to the turkey; the in-laws arrive shortly. Cheer, Marla

On Wed, 31 Dec 1997, Robert Drummond wrote:

> Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 11:09:49 -0400
> From: Robert Drummond <>
> To:
> Subject: Elections in Arts
> You will recall that Marla reminded us the nominations and elections for
> Arts committees and Senate reps would come in the Spring, and we might
> well want therefore to make some of our first recommendations as a
> governance committee on the subject of nominations and elections. I
> imagine we will find it easiest to proceed if we have a document to tear
> apart, so I have prepared a very rough first draft of a section on
> nominations and elections. Marla will have to tell me if I've got the
> present practices wrong, and the rest of you will have to figure out if
> I've got the recommendations all wromg -- too timid, too bold, too
> wordy, etc. See you in January. Happy New Year! Regards, Bob
> Nomination and Election of Faculty Members for Arts Committees and
> Senate Seats
> At the present time, the Nominating Committee of the Faculty
> Council ordinarily meets
> in the early Spring and the early Fall to develop a list of nominees for
> vacancies on Arts Council
> committees and in Arts representation on Senate. The larger task is the
> Spring exercise, since
> terms ordinarily coincide with the academic year, ending June 30;
> persons elected in the Spring,
> replacing people whose term is about to end, take office in the
> following September. A call for
> volunteers is sent out to all eligible members of Council well before
> the Nominating Committee
> meets in the Spring. Fewer vacancies occur in the Fall and are usually
> the result of unforeseen
> circumstances; persons elected in the Fall take office immediately upon
> their election.
> The Nominating Committee has generally accepted responsibility for
> ensuring that a slate
> of nominees is presented to Council with contests for each available
> vacancy, and with
> representation of all ranks, including contract faculty, both sexes, and
> all disciplines. Knowing
> the discipline, sex, and rank of those continuing on a committee, the
> Nominating Committee
> seeks to present nominees who will diversify the membership with regard
> to these variables. For
> example, where continuing members are mainly in the humanities, the
> Nominating Committee
> will seek to provide nominees for the vacant positions who come from
> non-humanities
> disciplines, and vice versa. Much of the work of the Nominating
> Committee consists in calling
> members of faculty and encouraging them to stand for office. The
> collegial governnace of the
> Faculty requires at a minimum that people be prepared to do the work
> necessary to maintain
> Council, its committees, and its representation on Senate; such
> willingness to serve has not
> always been evident. The result is that the slate of nominations
> presented to Council does not
> always satisfy the desiderata listed above -- i.e., contested elections
> and wide representation.
> Since volunteers, declaring their interest in particular committees,
> rarely distribute themselves
> evenly across the available vacancies, the Nominating Committee
> sometimes seeks to persuade
> volunteers to stand for a post different from that for which they have
> declared an interest.
> Ordinarily such action will be taken with a view to the
> representativeness of the slate as
> described above.
> When nominations are presented to Council, further nominations
> (including self-nominations) are accepted from the floor, provided the
> nominator can provide assurance that the
> nominee has agreed to stand. Such assurance can be in writing, or can
> be given orally by the
> nominee if he/she is in attendance. When the slate of nominees is
> approved by Council, an
> election is held.
> In the past, the names entered on the ballot have been identified
> only by rank and home
> department(s). In recent years, the large number of retirements and new
> hires have created a
> situation in which many members of the Arts faculty are not well known
> to one another.
> Obviously efforts to make faculty memberw more familiar with their
> colleagues in other units
> will assist collegiality, and it should be one of the tasks of the Dean
> and the Faculty Council
> office to promote such familiarity through the Arts Newsletter, faculty
> seminars, and other
> opportunities for meeting. Some efforts have been made in that respect,
> but they have not been
> all that successful yet. It has been suggested that candidates for
> positions on Arts committees or
> Senate representation be invited to prepare a brief biographical and/or
> policy statement for
> circulation with the ballots. Such a practice is common in some
> professional organizations and
> might be accomplished with littel additional cost, especially if the
> statements were accessible
> electronically (on an Arts website) rather than by widespread paper
> circulation.
> Ballots for elections in the Faculty of Arts are sent to
> departments and Colleges where
> faculty members have their offices. The ballots are sent to the
> Administrative Assistant of the
> department or College, together with a list of those to whom the ballots
> are to be distributed.
> Individuals complete their ballots, if they wish to vote, and send them
> back to the Secretary of
> Council for counting. This system replaced (for cost reasons) an
> earlier one in which ballots
> were mailed individually to eligible voters. There has been some
> concern expressed recently that
> the present system does not assure the security of ballots. Unsealed
> ballots left in mailboxes are
> open to possible removal and use by persons other than those to whom
> they have been allocated.
> Since ballots are not numbered, it would in theory be possible for
> someone to duplicate massive
> numbers of ballots and send them all in, thereby assuring the election
> of a particular candidate.
> The eagerness of persons to be elected to Faculty Committees or Senate
> has not to date been so
> extreme that such tactics seem likely, but it must be conceded that the
> above techniques could be
> employed to ensure (or prevent) someone's election with little hope of
> detection in the present
> circumstances. However in the absence of any evidence that
> ballot-tampering has in fact
> occurred, the security issue must be weighed against the probable cost
> of any more secure
> alternative.
> What more secure alternatives exist? First, we could return to the
> pre-existing system for
> ballot distribution, wherein ballots were sent with individual address
> labels, as is done by Senate
> Secretariat with the (much smaller number of) ballots for Senate
> Committees. There would be
> added costs for labels and the time of someone to apply the labels, and
> the desirability of ballot
> secrecy would suggest the need for an extra sheet of paper (or an
> envelope) which would separate
> the ballot from the label. With some 900 eligible voters, the added
> cost is not negligible. A
> second possibility is to ask that ballots be held by the Administrative
> Assistant to whom they
> have been sent and handed out to the eligible voter in person, for
> completion and deposit in the
> department or College office. In short, the Administrative Assistant
> (or designate) would take on
> the role of returning officer. Given the other responsibilities of
> department and College office
> staff, this added task seems like a burden we could not easily place on
> them. A third possibility
> is the establishment of a ballot box for some reasonable period in a
> central location (or set of
> locations) staffed by the Council Secretary's designate(s), as is
> commonly done for YFS student
> elections and for YUFA contract ratification. Such an alternative seems
> likely to cost more than
> simple mailing of addressed ballots and is therefore not a preferred
> alternative. Of course none
> of these alternatives solves the problem of unnumbered ballots and the
> opportunity for
> duplication. A fourth possibility is the use of computerized voting; if
> practicable, this alternative
> has the added advantage of permitting people to vote from remote
> locations. The challenge to
> practicality is to obtain or design software that would permit the
> identification of eligible voters,
> assure their restriction to one vote each, and preserve the secrecy of
> their choices. If such a
> system were possible at reasonable cost, perhaps through a Faculty of
> Arts website, it would
> solve many of the convenience, cost, and security issues at one stroke.
> In that event, there would
> have to be a back-up system for those few faculty members without
> computer access, perhaps
> through a ballot box in the Dean's Office.
> One of the real problems with elections in the Faculty however is
> the embarrassingly low
> voting "turnout," in which ordinarily elections for committees of a
> Council with some 900
> members are decided by the votes of fewer than 150 electors. This fact
> is a more serious
> impediment to the democratic and collegial governance of the Faculty
> than any insecurity of the
> ballots.
> A final issue on which we have received some comment is the
> question of whether ballot
> results should be made public in full, i.e., with the vote totals of the
> successful and unsuccessful
> candidates. The argument against doing so in the past has been that it
> is difficult enough to get
> people to stand for election to these offices, without the added
> disincentive that they may be
> embarrassed by the low level of vote support they receive. Since YUFA
> routinely announces the
> results of its elections with full information on candidates' totals,
> there is at least one precedent
> for contests in which the potential for humiliation has not deterred
> participation. We suspect
> there are very few members of faculty whose self-esteem turns on the
> level of their vote in an
> election for Faculty office, and the more open and democratic procedure
> would be to announce
> all vote totals (including the overall turnout). We believe it is
> useful information for members of
> Council to have and we therefore recommend that Council election results
> be announced with the
> vote total for each candidate included.
> --
> Robert Drummond
> Associate Professor
> Political Science
> York University
> (416) 736-5265
> fax: (416) 736-5686
> email: