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Matthew DiFranco's picture

[UPDATE!!! It was brought to my attention that there was no meeting of the Election Task Force regarding the issue of the Election Rules in January. I've corrected the post below. According to the Contractor, it was at a meeting of the GA Task Force that the issue was discussed.]

Dear MCAA Members,

Today we embark on a new experiment in MCAA: fully online voting for all members. I first want to remind everyone that the voting here will be non-binding, due to the limitations of our statutes and the laws governing AISBLs in Belgium. The new Board mandate will become official at the conclusion of the Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Brussels on March 31.

We had to make this extraordinary arrangement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the cancellation of our scheduled AGA in Zagreb, and the unprecedented restrictions on travel and assembly across Europe, and around the world.

I also want to address an issue that was brought up by a few candidates, and which I feel deserves an explanation. The rules for the elections were drafted by the Election Task Force, which was initially Marco Masia, Bala Atilli, and myself, three Board members who are not eligible to run again this year, having been on the Board for 4 years.

I spent many hours helping draft the rules to ensure transparency and fairness, and also with the idea that the elections would take place in person, in Zagreb, during the AGA.

One rule (2.g.) that was very sadly overlooked was that the names of candidates and the position they were running for who registered during the nomination period (up until Feb. 1) would be announced on the MCAA Portal as they came in. In this way, a running list of nominees would be available for all to see.

There was another rule (2.e.), that all candidates with their full profiles would be published online at the same time AFTER the nomination period, and after they were checked for eligibility.

Unfortunately, when the contractor was working to implement the Election Rules for the web portal, they were confused by these two rules, and saw them as contradictory or overlapping. According to the contractor, they asked about these rules at a meeting of the GA Task Force. I was not at this meeting, as I was not available to MCAA in the month of January, as I had just begun a new job and was very much focused on that.

Without realizing the need for BOTH rules, the meeting ended with the decision that only the second rule was necessary. This was a mistake which I take responsibility for as Chair of MCAA, and as the Election Task Force member who drafted these rules, and it is a mistake which I am deeply sorry for.

I myself was not even aware of who had applied to be a candidate until after Feb. 1, as that information was only available to our contractors. When I was informed about the lack of information about candidates during the nomination period, I asked the contractors for an explanation, and they explained to me what happended as I described it above. I asked them to also publish the names of all candidates who applied for the Board, even those deemed ineligible, which they did.

Some candidates have suggested that this lack of transparency has led to some positions being uncontested (i.e., only 1 candidate). I do not think this is true, as there are positions with multiple candidates, and the contractor has assured us that they processed every candidate application that was received in the nomination period.

Nevertheless, if any MCAA member feels they applied to be a candidate for the Board elections during the nomination period, but they are not listed as a candidate, they should come forward. If this is the case, these are the people who would have a legitimate claim about the fairness of the election.

Personally, I was surprised that so few people deciced to run for Ex-Com positions, but I also recognize from personal experience that these positions come with great responsibility, and a lot of time commitment over two years.

Having uncontested elections is not ideal for any democracy, but it happens often, and it doesn't mean they are not legitimate in any way.

Nevertheless, those who run unopposed must respect their mandate equally to those who win a competitive race.

Likewise, the members of the organization need to ensure all elected representatives make decisions that benefit the organization and its members first and foremost. I invite all MCAA members to read our Statutes and understand what you can do as Ordinary members to stay informed about the decisions and activities of the Board, and have your concerns heard and met.

I will soon be an Ordinary member again, and I am looking forward to what the next Board can do for MCAA. Our community is large, diverse, global, engaged, highly skilled, and quite frankly like no other network on earth. There is much we can accomplish, and I hope to work with whomever leads MCAA, as well as with all of our members, towards better perspectives for researchers, a stronger network of MCSA alumni, and a stronger role for science and knowledge in society.

Thank you everyone, and PLEASE VOTE!