Why change the ASPB nomination process?

Dear ASPB colleagues,

This is a response to the negative reactions to the Council-approved ballot request to change the ASPB Constitution, and specifically those modifications that have to do with how individuals are placed on the election ballot. In retrospect we should have included with the ballot a link to information explaining the rationale for the proposed changes: lesson learned.

I detect a strong dose of confirmation bias in some of the comments I have read, reflecting the following assumption: an early career member is on the ballot this year because he got the most nominations; therefore the Constitution is being changed in ways that would allow a small group of individuals to prevent future EC members from participating in leadership. I normally would be opposed to providing the level of detail that I share below, but I feel that our members deserve this information.

Here are some facts and opinions from someone involved in crafting the change. Please read the whole document.

  1. We proposed this new approach because we think it is important for future Nominating Committee members to have greater flexibility. I strongly believe that people who are actually serving in elected leadership positions for ASPB will have a good idea of the time commitment, professional network and temperament required to be president-elect, president and past-president. You may have a different opinion and that is fine; we can agree to disagree.
  2. There was already a concern with the ‘highest number of nominations is one of the candidates’ approach because it is untenable. Prime evidence is that for the two years that I have been involved, individuals who were already serving in elected leadership positions received nominations.

Data: this year, current president-elect Judy Callis received three nominations despite already being in leadership. Last year I received three nominations (the largest number of nominations!) while president-elect, and Harry Klee received a nomination while President. Should I have been placed on the ballot last year so that I could potentially serve as president elect and president at the same time? The members would have revolted, and for good reason! Clearly this rule needed to be changed, and I wish we had started the process to try to change it last year.

  1. There seems to be a strong sense that the proposed change is intended to allow the old guard to protect their interests and keep young people off of the ballot in the future. In fact, this year Rishi Masalia did not receive the highest number of nominations, and thus would not have automatically been on the ballot. The nominating committee asked Rishi if he wished to have his name on the ballot to make it clear that we are open to change. I feel that this is evidence that members of the nominating committee – each of whom is directly elected by the membership – can be trusted.

No proposed changes to the Constitution make it to the ballot unless they are passed by a 2/3 majority of Council. That body passed the resolution to put the changes on the membership ballot by greater than the required margin, although not unanimously. Whether the membership passes the changes or not, we have already communicated to Council that we would ask them to discuss the pros and cons of different systems for future elections, although I would not be in favor of going ‘back’ to the current system (see point 2 above).

Final thoughts on our collective and individual futures.

  • The current tripartite (Council, BoD, BoT) governance system is burdensome and has not been implemented as effectively as I would like. We are working to establish a smoother implementation with regular phone conference calls of each group.
  • I am happy that we have members who are willing to share their thoughts. Okay, now the ‘but’: This is a good moment for introspection: in the future, please gather information before you type, give people the benefit of the doubt while you seek facts, and consider that you may be experiencing confirmation bias: we all are subject to this very human phenomenon.
  • In the future, if you are angry or doubtful about an action, think for a moment and then pick up the phone. Discussion and debate of consequential matters is far superior by synchronous communication than on social media.

If you wish to talk, please email me.


Rob Last
ASPB President