[Note: The following article was written early in July, before the 1996 NomCom acted. As it turned out, once again a NomCom exceeded its proper mandate, substituting its ill-informed judgment for that of the members. The documentation supporting this conclusion is appended to the end of this article.]
For subsequent developments see Judy Dosse's proposal at Dick Amyx' site.
Dave Remine's explanation of NomCom [InterLoc Jun/Jul '96, p. 18] needs some amplification and further consideration. There is an unfortunate implication in Dave's comment that the NomCom knows more than the membership and therefore its recommendations should be followed by the voters (and the editors). That's a plausible generality, but unfortunately the world doesn't work that way. As George Cooper points out [same issue, p. 30] the original NomCom was established in 1971 as a separate branch of the Election Committee [ElecCom] that was provided for in the bylaws. Since I was AMC Chairman at that time, I can write with more than a little authority.
The problem then was three-fold:
- We needed somebody (or some body) to perform the function of getting members to run for office. Previous AMCs were essentially run by New Yorkers and we needed to reach out to get a wider representation of candidates.
- The Bylaws had been written by a previous administration that had been focused on authority and control and had included direct AMC appointment of the ElecCom chairman. We wanted to distance AMC from the nomination process, so we left it to the ElecCom chair [Frank E.G. Weil, Esq., from D.C.], who was not an AMC member, to organize a nominating section without recourse to AMC.
- We needed to get the function performed without the delay and confusion that a bylaws amendment process would entail. Do the right thing first, we said, then follow up with the formalities later if necessary. While some of the AMC insisted that the ballot distinguish NomCom from petition candidates, largely as a courtesy for the efforts of the NomCom members, we never let it be claimed that the NomCom nominations had more validity or authority than petition nominations.
In the drift and politicking that gripped Mensa for over a decade, our leaders lost sight of the original principles that inspired a NomCom and elaborated its function beyond reason. There have been good and bad NomComs, good and bad members. Some have recognized their limitations and have done their best. Others have asserted special knowledge without understanding the way in which an unwieldy, large committee can be (and has been) manipulated to give inordinate influence to a few aggressive individuals with an axe to grind. I've seen NomCom situations in which serious contenders were summarily dismissed by a single blackball with scarce, if any, discussion. Much of NomCom's activity can be internal administrative churning, wearing on its members but not conducive to superior decision-making. It is past time for explicit recognition of the needs of Mensa and the limitations of committees.
Note added May 2000: In dicussion of this and related proposals on the Grapevine discussion group, it was suggested that the term NomCom be replaced by Search Committee. It is a good idea that clarifies the intent of the proposal, and the reader is invited to make that substitution mentally in the following text.
I want to revive here a proposal I made some years ago that was suppressed by a former InterLoc editor. Mensa's election process requires that there be a fair choice of candidates for each election. In some cases, there may legitimately be only one possible candidate for an office, but two should be the minimum norm, and more than four might suggest that office has become too desirable for the society's own good. As a start, the following ground rules should secure what is necessary:
A. The primary source of candidates will be the petition process as set up by the ElecCom. It should be timed to bring out candidates before and during the period in which NomCom is active.
B. NomCom's mission will be to assure that there are at least one and up to four candidates for each office. They will use their resources to elicit reluctant candidates that they deem worthy. They will work through the petition process by procuring petition signatures, their own and those of other members.
C. The more members on the NomCom the easier their job. Membership should be open to any member in good standing except national officers or candidates for office.
The principal mode of operation would be NomCom members persuading others to sign petitions for candidates they favor. Yes, there will be log-rolling, but that is what happens anyway under present conditions.
It has been suggested that there is need for a body to verify claims in election statements. I don't think that there is a need, but would not object to such a body if its functions and procedures were carefully delimited. It ought to be constituted as a subcommittee of ElecCom, not play gotcha over immaterial issues, submit its findings in the first instance to the respective candidates, and limit its actions to reporting any substantial findings as an adjunct to the election material provided to the members. It is ultimately for the members, not any committee bound by confidentiality considerations, to make an informed choice.
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Press here for my initial letter to the NomCom chair.
Preceding the following exchange of e-mail, I received letters from the NomCom chair and copies of two comments about my potential candidacy. One claimed to know me at a level of 8 out of 10 and indulged in presumptuous comments about my motivations. His claim of knowledge was greatly exaggerated (he had never worked with me), and his comments were offensive. His comments implicitly suggested that form of communication was more important than substance. The other commentator modestly suggested that the membership should have the opportunity to make its own judgment on my candidacy; her views were evidently ignored.
The fundamental issues, again, are: 1) Does the NomCom undertake the kind of investigation that justifies reliance on its conclusions? 2) Should NomCom, which conducts its business in secret, effectively preëmpt the members' choice of leadership?
>Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 14:47:23 >To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cher Burnham) >From: Sander Rubin <email@example.com> >Subject: Candidate Evaluation Form > >To: Cher Burnham > >I have just received (a few minutes ago) your letter dated >September 4 and note that the deadline for reply is >tomorrow (when I shall be en route elsewhere). > >My comment on Robert Beatty's evaluation is that he exaggerates >his knowledge of me; level 8 is about 4 points too high. He >has never worked with me, and his innuendo about my personal >motivation is both irrelevant and offensive. I am sure, however, >that he and I could work together, if need be, when he gets to >know me better since I do not begrudge him his ignorance of me, >a remediable circumstance. > >My effectiveness as a leader is attested by my record. Look >into the history. Read my WWW pages. Trace the growth curve >of Mensa. Note that my success at turning around a declining >society does not bespeak poor leadership qualities although my >style may differ from that which Mr. Beatty prefers. > >I remember Helen Lee Moore well for her sensible occasional >writings in InterLoc and, particularly, for her appreciation, >as a member of a previous NomComm, of the appropriate role of >NomComm. > >Sander Rubin
>Date: Thu, 03 Oct 1996 13:58:05 >To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cher Burnham) >From: Sander Rubin <email@example.com> >Subject: Status of Nominations > >My last message to you was on 12 Sep in response to your >letter of 4 Sep and the comments of Bob Beatty and Helen >Lee Moore. I am making this (possibly premature) inquiry >so that I may better plan my commitments. > >Most likely, NomCom is still cranking through its process, >and I have no trouble with that, but one possiblity >concerns me. The triggering circumstance (like Sherlock >Holmes' dog that didn't bark in the night) is that I >haven't heard from any member of NomCom since sending >you my response (particularly to Beatty's comment). > >With only two submissions for AMC Chmn, NomCom may have, >either formally or tacitly, decided to offer both to the >membership. In that case, there's no problem; I'll just >have to wait for the natural course of events. > >The other possibility is that NomCom is still weighing a >single choice. If so, the fact that no NomCom members >have called or written is disturbing. The process isn't >a horse race with handicaps; it's a serious matter to >strive for the best leadership for the society. I just >can't believe that the best result can come from relying >on rumor and a few forms; personal contact is important. > >I don't suggest that the second possibility is the case, >but I've learned not to take anything for granted in >Mensa and want to jog the system before a mistake >becomes irremediable. > >Would you let me know how the process now stands? > >Sander
>Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 16:19:26 -0400 >From: Cher Burnham <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: Status of Nominations >To: Sander Rubin <email@example.com> > >Sander, > >The NomComm process is complete. A letter stating the results is on its >way to you. In the meantime, the results are as follows: > >Chairman > Dave Remine Nominated >First Vice Chairman > Robert Beatty Nominated > Tony Jackowski Nominated >Second Vice Chairman > Ed Ashworth Nominated > Jean Becker Nominated >Secretary > M. Russell Bakke Unopposed - Nominated Without Evaluation. >Treasurer > Gerald Fortner Nominated > Stacey Van Geest Nominated >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 1 > Steve Slavin Unopposed - Nominated Without Evaluation. >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 2 > Stephen Slepner Nominated > Steven Yaros Nominated >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 3 > Linda Hathaway Nominated > Dick Martin Nominated >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 4 > Barbara Ploegstra Unopposed - Nominated Without Evaluation. >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 5 > Ike Kullman Nominated > Stephen Zink Nominated >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 6 > Carol Hilson Nominated > Edward Rowland Nominated >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 7 > Stephen Burnham Unopposed - Nominated Without Evaluation. >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 8 > Jim Werdell Unopposed - Nominated Without Evaluation. >Regional Vice Chairman - Region 9 > Bob Cox Nominated > Mark Hutchenreuther Nominated > >Thank you for your interest. I hope you will take the opportunity to run >for office using the petition process. > >Cher Burnham
>Date: Fri, 04 Oct 1996 17:19:04 >To: Cher Burnham <firstname.lastname@example.org> >From: Sander Rubin <email@example.com> >Subject: Re: Status of Nominations > >-----------REPLY---------- >Cher, > >Thank you for notifying me. The effect of your committee's action is to >deny the membership an opportunity to choose their own leadership. You >do so without any factual basis. > >The implication of your selections is that I am unqualified to seek >AMC Chairmanship, but you relied on rumor and innuendo by persons who >do not know me (although they claimed to). At no time did any member >of the NomCom approach me with questions or seek explanations of my >programs and policies. Sherlock Holmes was right about the dog that >did not bark being a significant fact. > >The NomCom's nominee for AMC Chair was deeply implicated in the near >bankruptcy of AML a few years ago. Policies that he (and others) >actively pursued, while refusing to listen to better counsel, (indeed, >actively repelling such counsel) almost destroyed American Mensa. He >has also taken credit for improvements that are due to others' efforts. >There is a better way to take Mensa into the future, but NomCom, >arrogantly, has seen to it that the members will not hear about it. >You should have listened to Helen Lee Moore, who has always spoken with >good sense, rather than Bob Beatty, who (as I pointed out previously) >wrote out of ignorance. > >About the only comfort I can get from the performance of this NomCom >is that you have confirmed the wisdom of my letter to InterLoc >(#286, Aug '96, p. 64) in which I advocated a return of NomCom to its >original mission: assuring that there will be candidates from which >the members can make a choice, not preempting the members' function. >You relied on rumor and ignorance; all Mensa will eventually be the >big loser. > >Sander
>Date: Sun, 6 Oct 1996 23:18:25 -0400 >From: Cher Burnham <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: Re: Status of Nominations >To: Sander Rubin <email@example.com> > >Sander, > >All information received by me was circulated to the NomComm, including >your reply to Bob Beatty's remarks and your original CIF telling people how >to find information regarding your candidacy. All of the national >representatives, after having received the information, were eligible to >vote as to whether or not to nominate each candidate for national office, >and candidates in a two person race who received as many yea votes as no >votes were nominated. > >I do not feel that this committee denied the membership the right to choose >any candidate, as you are still free to run for office as a petition >candidate. It might be helpful if you were to supply the voters with >information instead of just telling them where they can find it. > >I will not apologize for the findings of the committee. If you would like >to see the NomComm run in a different manner, I would suggest that you >volunteer to chair the next one. > >Cher >
>Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 19:29:55 >To: Cher Burnham <firstname.lastname@example.org> >From: Sander Rubin < email@example.com> >Subject: NomCom performance (Was: Status of Nominations) > >At 23:18 10/6/96 -0400, you (Cher Burnham ) wrote: >>Sander, >> >>All information received by me was circulated to the NomComm, including >>your reply to Bob Beatty's remarks and your original CIF telling people how >>to find information regarding your candidacy. All of the national >>representatives, after having received the information, were eligible to >>vote as to whether or not to nominate each candidate for national office, >>and candidates in a two person race who received as many yea votes as no >>votes were nominated. >--------> Sander >I don't understand the point of this paragraph. No one questioned your >ability to handle ministerial functions, such as receiving and distributing >mail. No one inquired about the "voting" procedure. The issue is whether >claims that the NomCom vets the candidates, does a serious job of evaluating >their selections, have any basis in fact. Clearly, the failure of any >member of NomCom to follow up on the information I submitted, to consider >the position articulated by Helen Lee Moore, and their acceptance of the >ill-informed representations of Bob Beatty indicate that such claims are >false. >--------> Cher >> >>I do not feel that this committee denied the membership the right to choose >>any candidate, as you are still free to run for office as a petition >>candidate. It might be helpful if you were to supply the voters with >>information instead of just telling them where they can find it. >--------> Sander >When one takes on responsibilities to others, one's private feelings have >little importance. It is NomCom's duty to provide a choice to the members; >it is not mine. Shifting that responsibility to me is a dereliction. >Nor is a theoretical "right to choose" an issue. The practical effect of >NomCom's performance is to cast a cloud over any candidacy I may put >forward by implying that they studied the candidacies and (unknown to the >voters, failing to investigate) found me unqualified to stand for >election. My freedom to exert myself to run under these conditions is >not something for you to suggest to me; I can make up my own mind. >--------> Cher >> >>I will not apologize for the findings of the committee. If you would like >>to see the NomComm run in a different manner, I would suggest that you >>volunteer to chair the next one. >> >>Cher >> >--------> Sander >NomCom owes me nothing personally. They do owe the membership an acknowledgement >of their lack of diligence. They do owe truth to all those with whom they deal. >They do owe performance of what is promised in their name. They did not do a >competent job of vetting, and they owe an admission of that fact. > >Your suggestion that I volunteer to chair the next NomCom is thoroughly out of >order. I cannot chair NomCom if I wish to run for office. I provided you with >a full historical account of the origins and proper functions of NomCom in my letter >in the Aug '96 InterLoc. It was a gift to you, to NomCom, and to Mensa. I've >volunteered for more things than you can imagine and am insulted by your >suggestion. > >Sander >
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Sander Rubin E-mail.
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Created: 16 Jul 96
Revised:25 May 00