The Graduate Nominating Committee and Policy Changes
Prepared by: Jeremy Glesner, Longwood ‘93
National Governance Advisor

The elections process at our National Conventions has evolved significantly over the last two decades.  I am sure that some of you remember the elaborate and time consuming campaigns leading up to the Convention with all nominations being handled from the floor, complete with flyers, t-shirts and slogans.  Given the abbreviated duration of the Convention, attendees did not have the necessary time to interview all candidates and assess their qualifications. In addition, these campaigns often turned highly political, forming factions within the Fraternity, and the process nearly dominated the entire Convention, preventing other important business from receiving its due attention.

To reform this process and address the issues highlighted above, our members at the 59th Convention approved changes to the Constitution and Statutes to create a Graduate Nominating Committee and a process for submitting nominations for open Graduate positions prior to the Convention.  This new Committee was devised to review the qualifications of all nominated candidates, conduct interviews, and to recommend the most qualified candidates to the Convention. This did not prevent members from running for positions from the floor of the Convention; however, it was intended to streamline the process and help our members make the most informed decision possible.

At the 61st and 62nd National Conventions, a fair contingent of the attending brothers expressed discontent with the way the Graduate Nominating Committee was being executed.  The chief complaints were that the Committee and associated process failed by: (1) not providing transparency and consistency in Committee execution (e.g., formation, attendance, procedures, timelines, member obligations, and member qualifications); (2) not conducting thorough and consistent candidate interviews; and (3) making recommendations to the Convention without any basis or substantiation of the qualifications of the slated candidates.

This is largely due to the fact that process execution was left to the discretion of the appointed chairman of the committee. At the 62nd Convention, incoming National President Mike Dovilla addressed these concerns by promising that his Administration would review the Nominating process and make reforms to address those concerns within the first six months of his term.  This task was immediately sent to the newly formed Governance Committee for analysis, review and recommendations.

The Governance Committee initiated several actions.  First, we assessed the research and discussion that went into the original recommendation to create the Graduate Nominating Committee.  Second, we solicited our fraternity and sorority peers through the Fraternity Executives Association (FEA) for feedback to a survey we created to source information about their graduate nominating processes.  Third, we received, correlated and analyzed the 32 survey responses. And finally, from this analysis, we drafted (1) an amendment to the Fraternity Statutes and (2) a new Graduate Nominating Committee Policy. The new policy went through numerous reviews both within the Governance Committee and the National Council before being adopted unanimously in October of 2017.

The first change to the Statutes occurs in Title III, Paragraph 26, which was amended to read as follows:

  1. Appointment of Committees. The National President shall appoint for each National Convention the following committees and such other committees as are necessary: Credentials, Jurisprudence, Delegates’ Requests, Scholarship, and Resolutions.

In addition to the aforementioned committees, the Graduate Nominating Committee (GNC) shall be convened for the purpose of succession planning and to screen all candidates submitted ahead of the National Convention for elected, graduate positions. The GNC’s purpose is to identify and slate the best candidates for any open, elected, graduate position. The GNC must be formed and operated in adherence to the Graduate Nominating Committee Policy which may be amended by the National Council from time to time.

This change was necessary to enact the new Policy and require that the procedures put forth be followed.  The new Policy includes numerous provisions. The first is designed to set the size of the GNC and to define how the Chairman will be selected.

The Nominating Committee will consist of seven (7) members; six (6) participants lead by a chairman. The seven (7) members will choose a Chairman from among their ranks.

Members of the Governance Committee and National Council agreed that rather than pick a leader to assemble a team, we wanted to pick the right team, and surface a servant leader from amongst the members.  Next, we address the qualifications of membership.

To serve on the Nominating Committee, a brother must be a member in good standing, and must have the time to participate in committee activities, to include speaking with all final Nominees either physically or virtually before any votes are conducted. In addition, the Chairman must have demonstrable experience leading teams.

The seven vacancies on the Nominating Committee should each possess fifteen (15) years professional experience aligned to one of the following areas:

  • Higher Education
  • Executive Leadership/Governance
  • Legal
  • Accounting/Banking
  • For-Profit Business Management
  • Non-Profit Business Management
  • Government/Policy

In addition to having fifteen (15) years professional experience, eligible candidates to the Nominating Committee must be a donor at the Kappa Link Lifetime Giving Level of $5,000.

Succession planning is certainly one of the most important activities that any organization can perform.  Recognizing that the GNC is responsible for interviewing and slating the next generation of leaders from within our organization, we want to ensure that the members of the GNC are at the right point in their own professional career to (1) understand the experience and qualifications necessary to run a multi-million dollar non-profit organization, and to (2) successfully vet the candidates for their respective roles.  Requiring that the GNC members be Foundation donors at the Kappa Link Lifetime Giving Level is recognition that these members should be invested in their commitment to Phi Kappa Tau’s success. Next, we stipulate who is responsible for appointing the seven GNC members, and how those appointments are confirmed.

The National President will recommend seven (7) appointees to serve on the Nominating Committee no later than six months before a National Convention. The National Council will vote on these appointees individually, not as a group. Resumes must be provided for each appointee. The National Council will have a minimum of two weeks to review the appointee’s qualifications prior to voting.  If the National Council does not approve any of the seven (7) appointees recommended by the National President, members of the National Council may nominate and vote on new appointees to serve on the Nominating Committee. In all cases, a simple majority is required to approve each appointee for the Nominating Committee.

To ensure a speedy appointment process, the National President will be responsible for appointing the seven members to the GNC, but the National Council must approve of those appointments individually.  We agreed that each member should be discussed separately, rather than voted on as a block. If any of the appointments are not confirmed, the Council can nominate and confirm appointees.

The Nominating Committee must have a simple majority (four members) present, either physically or virtually, to have a quorum to conduct meetings.  All members must be present, either physically or virtually, to vote on the candidate(s).

It is important that the GNC only conduct official business when a quorum is present.

The Nominating Committee retains the right to ‘downselect’ or filter out candidates who they believe are not qualified for the positions to which they are applying. Removing an individual from consideration must be performed by a simple majority vote of the committee.  Each Nominating Committee member must speak to all final Candidates before the Committee can conduct any voting whatsoever.

In order to identify the best candidates, the Nominating Committee has the right to remove a candidate from consideration.  This is not a special power, as it essentially equates to a No vote on a candidate. As was implied earlier, all GNC members must interview and vote on all final candidates.  Next, we define the role of the GNC Chairman.

The Chairman of the committee is responsible for:

  • appointing a Secretary from among the members,
  • ensuring accurate records are kept of all meetings, interviews and vote outcomes for post-process auditing, should that be necessary,
  • creating the Graduate Nomination application/questionnaire,
  • scheduling regular and ad-hoc meetings of the committee,
  • making a good-faith effort to schedule meetings around the schedules of its members while ensuring the business of the Nominating Committee can be conducted in a timely fashion,
  • chairing all meetings of the Nominating Committee,
  • scheduling interviews with the Nominees for the committee,
  • disseminating information to the committee, National Council and Fraternity writ large
  • dissuading members from voting for candidates based solely on the candidate’s time spent serving the Fraternity.  Time serving does have benefits such as ‘preparedness for the role’, and ‘contributing to organizational memory’, but it does not inherently mean the candidate is best suited for a given role.

The Chairman is ultimately responsible for ensuring the GNC is successful in its mission. The above text requires that the committee also designate a Secretary, ensure accurate record keeping, running the committee, coordinating interviews, etc.  Perhaps most importantly, we felt that it was critical to ensure that we find the most qualified candidates who bring the best professional experience, to include experience inside and outside the Fraternity.

The Nominating committee will maintain confidentiality about its operations during the selection process.  The names of the members of the nominating committee will be withheld in confidentiality to diminish outside attempts at influencing the committee’s decisions until after the committee has selected the Slate.  Under no circumstances should a Nominating Committee member be discussing candidates, process, or decisions either during the pendency of the committee’s work or after.

While the GNC is exercising its duties, it is critical that the process be shielded from outside influence.  Nor should any information be leaked from the committee to non-committee members.

The names and a short biography of the Nominating Committee members must be provided at the National Convention before the presentation of the Slate to substantiate the quality of this process.

Once the GNC has finished its job, the National Convention should be provided with the names and biographies of the members.  It is important that the Convention attendees know who participated and what their qualifications are in order to trust the forthcoming recommendations. The following sections address portions of the Graduate Nominations timeline.

The Nominating Committee must publish the open Graduate vacancies at least five (5) months before Convention.

Candidates for Graduate Positions must, at a minimum, submit a resume, and complete the Graduate Application/Questionnaire regarding their fitness and unique qualifications for the role to which they are applying at least three (3) months in advance of the National Convention. It is recommended that candidates also make themselves available for one or more interviews with the Nominating Committee.

To ensure the GNC has enough time to perform its work, graduate leadership positions must be made public five months prior to the Convention and candidates for these positions must apply at least three months in advance of the Convention. In the following sections, we address the GNC candidate voting process.

After reviewing each candidate’s resume/application, downselecting to a set of finalists, each member of the nominating committee must interview all the finalists before a vote can be conducted on each vacancy. The Nominating Committee will select a single candidate for each vacancy via one or more simple majority votes.

After downselecting, interviewing and voting on the finalists for Graduate Positions, the Nominating Committee must codify a minimum of FIVE reasons they chose to slate each of the chosen members to fill Graduate leadership vacancies. The Nominating Committee will present these reasons when presenting each slated candidate to the National Convention.

The Nominating Committee should codify constructive feedback for each candidate who asks, containing a minimum of ONE reason as to why the candidate was not selected for the Slate and/or how they could improve their candidacy for the future.

When the slate is presented to the National Convention, we felt it important for the GNC to substantiate their recommendations – to inform the body as to why the recommended candidates are the most qualified to hold their positions.  Prior elections at Convention have lacked this level of detail, requiring the Convention attendees just to trust the process. In addition, it is suggested that the GNC also provide those individuals who were not slated with constructive feedback on how they could improve, or what experience they lacked.

Once the Nominating Committee selects the slate, but no later than one month prior to the National Convention, the Committee must provide a report to the National Council that contains the selected members of the Slate and the reasoning for each.

The Nominating Committee will notify all the applicants as to whether they were selected, and with the reason(s) for the decision, no later than one month prior to the National Convention.

To ensure that the GNC has performed its duties, a report must be provided to the National Council that contains the selected members of the Slate, and reasoning for each.  These candidates are notified that they have been slated, and are encouraged to attend the National Convention.

Members of the Nominating Committee can be removed and replaced by the National Council with a simple majority vote. Members who willfully violate the guideline set forth herein for the operation of the Nominating Committee, or other elements of the Constitution or Statutes are eligible for removal. If a member is unable to perform their duties on the committee, or violates their responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of the process, they should be removed and replaced promptly.  If a member is removed, the National Council must nominate and approve another member in fill the vacancy. The replacement candidate must possess the same professional expertise. This requires a simple majority vote by the National Council.

Finally, members of the committee who willfully violate the guidelines set forth above can and will be removed from the Committee according to the process defined above.  A timeline of this entire process is shown in the figure below:

The Governance Committee and National Council believe this Policy provides the necessary guidelines for a more consistent, transparent, and substantive nominations process.

Succession planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the Convention. To position the attendees for success, we must identify the best leaders available, screen them appropriately, and provide qualified recommendations to the Convention.  We welcome your feedback on this statutory change and policy addition.