Tuesday, September 08, 2009

We Get Letters--Faculty Governance

As part of our occasional "We Get Letters" series, here is one from a friend who let guilt rule her/him, and now is learning more than s/he wanted to know about faculty governance.

There were 4 candidates for the position of [representative] to something called
the [many headed governance monster]. Against my better judgment I did not withdraw my name from consideration after being nominated, and to my shock I won by a plurality, which has been the customary way college-wide elections to committees have been decided.

This time the second-place finisher complained that the college's bylaws (in discussing the conduct of meetings) stipulate a majority decision, so s/he demanded a runoff. The head of our college's [assembly] (whose email I am forwarding) consulted the President of the [assembly] and the [guy who wrote down the rule manual]. Below s/he reports their Solomonic ruling--we are to keep voting until someone gets a majority of the votes.

This may make for a fascinating experiment if all four original candidates
agree to stand in the subsequent rounds.

Emailed response:

Dear [people] -
I have heard back from [guy] and want to let you know that based on his assessment and that of [another guy], we will need to hold a runoff election for the [assembly] seat. Because of the way our bylaws are currently written, we also cannot limit the election to the top two vote getters. Rather, all of the original candidates have the right to stand for election if they wish. I will be getting in touch with [other candidates] to see whether they want to run again. I also need each of you to tell me whether you are willing to stand for the runoff.

If you have questions or want more details as to why the runoff needs to happen in this way, please don't hesitate to get in touch. My plan is to start the runoff voting by noon on [day] and close it at the end of business on [next day].

Thanks, [Person]

So....the decision is that the runoff will continue until someone gets a majority. And ALL FOUR candidates will continue to be on the ballot. An excellent natural experiment. At the Libertarian Convention this year, this kind of thing brought us...BOB BARR! After six ballots, I should note....


Kunal said...

Why is this election so unique? Are Popes not elected this way?

Shawn said...

God wants nothing to do with college faculty elections (and maybe college faculty in general...I'll ask him), Kunal; the situation is completely different.

Kunal said...

How so? It is my understanding that the rules of the Papal election allow multiple candidates across multiple rounds of voting until the desired supermajority is reached. Or am I mistaken in my understanding of what Dr. Mungotwitz finds funny about the situation>

Angus said...

Kunal, you are exactly right on what Mungo finds funny. It applies to Popes too (yet another funny thing about popes).

Perhaps what Shawn is suggesting that college professors lack the divine guidance given to Cardinals and thus their endeavors are even more likely doomed to failure.

Mungowitz said...

The Pope has some power, for good or bad.

This is a TRIVIAL, ridiculous office. Generally, the "winner" is the person who missed the email informing them that they are on the ballot.

So, for the guy who came in second to insist on a majority runoff is unbelievable. NOBODY wants these offices.

There may have to be three or four votes on this. Turnout in faculty elections is often under 10% on the first vote. If they really have three more ballots, the total turnout may be 1%.

So, it isn't the procedure that is flawed. Rather, exactly as Angus notes, the amazing thing is that they are using such a serious process for such a ridiculous office.

Shawn said...

...I forgot my [/sarcasm] tag there...sorry.

Now...who does that 'their' pronoun refer to, Angus, Cardinals or professors? (little protestant dig there)

Kunal said...

So, for the guy who came in second to insist on a majority runoff is unbelievable.

So the other dudes will withdraw, and whiny procedure person gets the unwanted position s/he craves.

IOW, the system works.

Shawn said...

...sounds like if nobody wins, they should let the nobody that wants it win, eh? Rescind for the runoff?

Angus said...

Sadly, Mungo's view that no one wants these posts is contradicted by the fact that the loser demanded a runoff! I predict that at least 3 of the 4 originals will re-run and I predict that there will be campaigning!

Angus said...

Oh yeah, one more thing. If this works out like the LP convention, the eventual winner won't even be a faculty member at the university!!!

Simon Spero said...

1: What are the odds that someone checked their tenure portfolio and found themselves short a few service points?

2: Since this procedure is not guaranteed to terminate in a finite number of rounds, what happens if the election is still going by the time the office is next up for re-election?

Mungowitz said...

I. Love. You. Guys.

Excellent thread.

Tom said...

Please, can we elect people to Congress this way? Please, please! I'll run for Congress if the answer is Yes.

Dirty Davey said...

And of course if this is like many departmental positions, the fact that someone has a particular desire to take the job suggests that they are manifestly unsuited for it.