The Nominations Commission, despite its relative anonymity among students, remains one of the most powerful branches of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). The body controls appointments to student committees, trustee committees, and directing boards all over campus, which all have immense influence over university policy.
“You don’t realize the importance of it. [The Nominations Commission] is a huge thing, but no one really knows what it is,” said the new commission’s chair, Stephanie Garrett ’12.
The seven members of the commission, known as NomCom, are responsible for interviewing and nominating students for positions on campus that can impact Stanford students directly. These positions include the Board of Trustees and student positions on University committees like the Board of Judicial Affairs and the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid.
During the past two weeks, the ASSU Executive Council appointed a new chair and deputy chair due to extreme changes within its undergraduate and graduate staff over the past several months.
NomCom typically works the most hours and nominates candidates for the majority of the positions that need to be filled during spring quarter so that committees can get to work in the following fall.
According to Garrett, NomCom had a difficult time following the traditional timeline. “It wasn’t one person’s fault, it wasn’t two people’s fault, it was just things not fitting as well as they should have…the situation was unfortunate,” said Garrett. “We really needed to start interviewing right away…and no one said anything about initiating it, like emailing the applicants or setting up interview times.”
Communication and organization were the major challenges facing NomCom as they failed to fill many nomination spots by the end of spring quarter 2010. These challenges grew when the chair, Dennis Mak, left for China.
Because NomCom had such a difficult time appointing students to committees, members of the commission eventually went to the ASSU executives, President Angelina Cardona ‘11 and Vice President Kelsei Wharton ’12, about this issue.
“They came to us with concerns over the summer about that progress,” said Cardona, “After talking with them about that progress their chair emailed all of us to let us know that he was stepping down because he wasn’t returning to campus this fall.”
In addition to losing their chair, NomCom also lost its deputy chair, Makeda Robinson, due to her time commitments. However, Robinson is still a regular commission member.
“She’s glad to be a part of this and will help as much as she can, but she also realizes that she didn’t have enough time to fulfill her position,” said Garrett, “She’s in the school of medicine, she’s busy, and she’s doing great things.”
With two of the most important roles in NomCom vacant, the executives used their authority and judgment to fill the two missing spots.
“The constitution says that Kelsei and I have the power within the executive committee to appoint a new chair and deputy chair,” said Cardona. The ASSU Executive committee appointed Stephanie Garrett as the new chair and Hilary Stone (who also serves as news editor for the Review) as deputy chair of the Nominations Commission.
The executives chose Garret for chair because they thought she had worked the hardest in the spring when the bulk of the work was supposed to be done.
“Basically we looked at who had been stepping up in spring quarter and summer quarter and we thought that Stephanie would be the best person for leadership for their committee,” said Cardona, “It was also a recommendation by NomCom internally.”
Jonathan Bakke ‘06, a PhD candidate and last year’s NomCom chair, said, “It’s seemed like they’ve picked up and kept going like troopers.”
Bakke felt that his experience as chair of the committee was a positive and successful one where he filled 80 to 90 percent of the nominations required in spring quarter. He then only had to worry about a minority of the leftover nominations in the fall quarter of the next year.
In contrast, Garrett and the rest of NomCom have to fill many graduate student committee spots as well some undergraduate positions this fall quarter.
Garrett’s goals for the year include filling all of the committee nominations, making the application process more efficient, and raising awareness about NomCom. She hopes this will increase applicants to the student committees all over campus.
“It’s something more than just saying the words, sending out emails, putting up flyers,” said Garrett, “It’s more about entering the collective knowledge of Stanford students.”
But even beyond that, Garrett hopes NomCom recovers from its “frustrating” situation this past year and “take a negative and make it into a huge positive.”