Following a former Associated Students of Madison Student Council representative’s Nov. 2 resignation, sophomore Jacob Gardner has been selected by a small five-person committee to fill the seat through the rest of the academic year.
The Nominations Board has spent the past month weeding through applications and in-person interviews in an attempt to achieve a full Council.
Nominations Board Chair Vanessa Studer said the group, which she described as “the HR department of ASM,” has been tasked with filling many more open Council seats during the 2016 fall semester than in previous years.
This is in addition to their regular work of hiring students for other groups, including The Open Seat food pantry, Student Activity Center Governing Board and the Grant Allocation Committee, among others.
The group has nominated people for four seats on Council so far this year, and still must select their recommendations for four other empty seats, which Studer said was an unusual amount.
“This is a lot more than typically is filled,” Studer said. “We usually don't have this many vacancies on Council."
The process of filling a vacant Council seat starts when the Nominations Board publicizes the open position, usually done through campus-wide emails or newsletters. Studer said the board has recently tried to reach typically underrepresented communities on campus to ensure they have the opportunity to have their voices heard in student government.
The board—which consists of Studer, Katrina Morrison, Stephen Chang, Tom Feustel and ASM Chair Carmen Goséy, all of whom sit on Council—then reviews the applications, which the chair presents anonymously to other board members.
The candidates for Council are judged on specific criteria: an open mind, ability to voice their opinion, a new perspective and a thorough understanding of how ASM functions.
A few candidates are then invited to the ASM office for a short in-person interview with board members. Only five candidates were brought in for interviews for the most recent empty Council seat, though Studer said many more applications were received.
Following the conclusion of all the interviews, the entire Nominations Board meets to discuss the candidates. Once a selection is made, the board announces the selection to Council, which then has to approve the board’s nomination.
The entire process is supposed to take roughly three weeks, according to Studer, though it varies by which college or school the seat belongs to. A seat for a student in the College of Letters & Science usually goes the quickest, while a seat for a graduate student often takes much more time. The empty seat was for a Letters & Science student, and took exactly a month to fill.
The council has also had difficulty confirming the board’s chosen nominations, largely stemming from attendance issues among representatives. In order to be approved, the board’s nominations need to have two-thirds of votes from all Council representatives.
There have been Council meetings where even if every representative present voted to approve a nomination, there would still not be enough votes needed to confirm a candidate.
This has been a frustration not only for the people the board has nominated to fill empty Council seats, but also for those in the regular positions outside of Council the board is tasked with filling.
“For the positions we've hired outside of Council seats, it can be a little bit frustrating,” Chang said. “You're holding back a potential appointment from someone we don't necessarily, as Council members, know their timeline for needing that person."
Morrison said each person on the Council is invaluable, adding that the board moves as quickly as possible to fill each empty seat.
“If we don't have someone filling that seat, then it is a voice we're missing at the table. It's a crucial and important voice,” Morrison said. “We definitely work tirelessly to try to get applicants and move through these application processes in a timely manner."