Letter to the Editor:
Some more thoughts on the Petition Process
AAPG was formed in 1917 and has had 92 elections for officers since then. Like most organizations, the candidates selected to run in these elections have been chosen by nominating committees composed of knowledgeable AAPG members. Selection criteria include demonstrated skills, experience, talent, and other factors such as geographic balance. Prior to the election of the 2002-03 officers, AAPG had never had a petition candidacy. In four of the past six elections, we have had petition candidates. What has changed? Why are we having this sudden onset of petition candidacies? Is the Advisory Council suddenly not doing a good job of candidate selection or are other issues causing this development? A lot of debate has been occurring around this topic including HoD committees reviewing whether or not the petition process needs to be revised.
My take on these past few years is that there are two interpretations on what is happening with regards to the petition candidate process:
- it is being abused by some individuals that are pursuing personal ambitions or agendas that may or may not be in congruence with what is good for AAPG; or
- There is a real problem with the process by which the candidates are selected and are coming out of the AC. It could even be both.
I’d like to believe it is the latter situation.
Let’s first focus on the potential “abuse of the process” problem.
I don’t want to believe that this is what is happening but an argument might be made that the process is being abused by either specific ambitious individuals for their own personal promotion or agendas and/or the process is being used to the advantage of large regions/sections. Of the four petition candidates, all were/are from Texas and three of the four from Houston (while the fourth was recruited by Houston based individuals). The four petition candidates ran mostly against candidates from outside of Houston (Rocky Mountain vs. Pacific Sections, Pacific vs. Eastern Sections, Gulf Coast Section vs. Latin America Region, and European Region vs. Eastern Section). The cynic in me presumes that these particular races may have been targeted, in part, because a petition candidate from Houston, or Texas in general, might have an advantage by having a larger natural voting base. I don’t believe this is a healthy trend for AAPG in that it will prove to be divisive to AAPG in the long term to have leadership only derived from the Texas region while others are excluded. What kind of signal are we sending to smaller sections and regions when their candidates are targeted by people from larger sections? How does an international member feel when they get a candidate on the AC nominated slate but then get potentially pushed aside by petition candidates (as has happened in two of the last three presidential races)?
If this is argument is a valid one, then it argues for tightening up the petition process using some of the methods previously discussed in HoD committees. This might include steps such as 1) requiring a larger number of signatures (either a larger arbitrary number or a set percentage of the Active AAPG members) and/or 2) requiring a minimum number of signatures from say 3/4 of the sections and regions with no more than a certain percentage coming from one section or region (to ensure a broad level of support for the petition candidate across AAPG). Perhaps we need a combination of the above. Any steps taken along these lines need to be done by the HoD. Any steps taken will be controversial and contentious but perhaps they are needed.
If the problem is the second identified issue, that is in the identification and selection process, then steps need to be taken to improve either 1) the process by which the nominees are identified for consideration as candidates or 2) the process of selection of the final candidates by the AC Nominations committee. Note that changing these processes need to be done by the AC and not directly by the HoD. I believe that there are improvements that can be made here.
Getting a sufficient number of candidates for the AC to vet is essential to ensure that the best candidates are nominated. There have been complaints (both inside the AC and outside) that recently too few members are being reviewed for consideration as candidates. This may contribute to the concerns that the AC is not doing its job. It is my opinion (as a former member of the AC) that the mechanics of how the AC selects candidates is working well but they are not currently getting enough candidates to review. This is quite a change from when I was on the AC when the complaint was too many candidates to consider. Maybe the AC needs to revisit how long the names stay on the list for consideration (it was reduced a few years back from 5 to 3). Perhaps the AC members have to be more involved with the actual recruitment of candidates. Perhaps there needs to be a way an individual can self-nominate for candidacy. Perhaps the process of getting a name in front of the AC needs to be streamlined a bit. Perhaps the list of nominees under consideration should be more transparent and widely known so others can make sure their favorites are on that list (and if not, arrange to submit their names).
It is my opinion that the process of actual selection is fairly robust and fair but the process of bringing forward potential nominees to be considered may be flawed and cumbersome. As it is currently configured, someone has to nominate the candidate, determine their willingness to serve, get their signature on a form, gather the supporting documents and submit it to the AC.That’s a lot of work for an individual to do when everyone is busy and it tends to favor organized groups, the “activists” and the “incumbents”. Some might call it the good old boy (gal) network.
Improvements need to be made as to how the potential candidates are identified and brought to the attention of the AC. One way would be to make the AC members more responsible in identifying several candidates from their section/region for each office and to push the paper work through the process. Another would be to allow members outside of the AC to submit names of people who might be considered as candidates and having an AAPG staff person contact that individual to assess their willingness to run. If they are, then they (the nominated individual) are responsible to get the paper work submitted. If they don’t, they’re not considered. The individual originally submitting the name could then canvas for and submit letters of recommendation. In this way, the labor is spread wider and we’d end up with larger lists and more qualified candidates from which to select.
Then there is the issue of how to get candidates willing to run and to serve. Perhaps some effort to identify why so many are unwilling to put their names forward needs to be undertaken. Is it the amount of travel required, the costs involved, the multiple years involved or is it some other factor? You can’t solve the problem without understanding what it is.
In closing, my advise would be to do the following:
- Ask the AC to look at how to surface more candidates and to make the process less arduous for everyone involved. There would be no HoD involvement in this effort, unless there is a joint committee. Some of the ideas outlined above might help that process.
- Investigate (survey??) why it is so hard to get people to put their names forward as candidates. Perhaps they’re just not being asked or perhaps there are serious roadblocks that discourage them. Based on the information gathered, make appropriate recommendations to make it easier for people to put their names forward. A joint AC/HoD effort might make sense in gathering this information and making recommendations.
- If the above doesn’t stem the flood of petition candidates, then a decision needs to be made to either tighten up the process or just accept petition candidates as a fact of life. The risk of the latter is of alienating the smaller sections and regions if it is perceived that the larger sections/regions are abusing the process to exclude candidates from the smaller sections or regions. These sections and regions may gradually disengage from AAPG. If that happens, the AAPG may cease to be an International Organization, or even a large US National organization, and become merely a large Regional (Texas oriented) organization. This is probably not what most of us want for AAPG.
Delegates wishing to offer comments on this or other key issues and challenges before the House are encouraged to e-mail their Letters to the Editor as an attached Word document to Bob Shoup at .