Greg Schiefer, SETAC North America Executive Director; Sabine Barrett, SETAC North America Communications Manager; and Tom Augspurger, SETAC North America Immediate Past President

The SETAC North America Board of Directors and two ad hoc committees have dedicated considerable, prolonged effort to listening to student voices in SETAC and enhancing ways that those voices are heard. It gained momentum in 2014, when the North America Student Advisory Council (NASAC) approached the SETAC North America board to reassess the role of students in SETAC North America governance.

The last Globe article on this topic gave a brief history and background about the efforts, which culminated in the board voting on three motions in support of our students and in recognition of their talents, ideas and contributions:

  1. All North America students have full voting privileges in SETAC North America
  2. NASAC representative to the SETAC North America board has full board voting privileges
  3. The SETAC North America general election will be used to select NASAC’s representative to the board

Since then, the board together with its subcommittees and NASAC chairs have researched the necessary steps to move forward on implementation. Here’s our latest update:

Implementing Voting Privileges for all SETAC North America Students

After the board’s stated intention that that all students in North America should have full voting privileges, the board turned to the governing documents. Based on the SETAC and SETAC North America constitutions, students are already allowed to vote. More particularly, article III, paragraph 6 states that “Students may be Members or Associate Members depending on their level of experience” and article III, paragraph 1 “Members, Emeritus Members and Associate Members constitute the voting membership of the Society.” Therefore, no further action is required, and all SETAC North America students will be invited to vote in the next general election in September.

Research brought to light that it is currently standard practice in all other Geographic Units (GUs), including SETAC Africa, SETAC Asia-Pacific, SETAC Europe and SETAC Latin America, for students and recent graduates to vote. Therefore, the local interpretation in SETAC North America provides further harmonization across all GUs.

There is language in the Society’s constitutions and bylaws that is incomplete or confusing when it comes to membership types versus discounts, which led to the inconsistency of voting privileges of recent graduates and students in the first place. For example, the SETAC North America constitution in article III. Membership states, “Members, Emeritus Members and Student Members residing within the SETAC North America Geographical Unit (GU) may hold office and participate on committees specific to that GU (e.g., Board of Directors).” Theoretically, this leaves out recent graduates, which are listed in the same paragraph as a potential audience.

We don’t think this is intentional, and recent graduates have always voted in SETAC North America elections. The SETAC North America board’s executive committee has approached the Global Membership Committee as the appropriate entity1 to address the language in the SETAC constitution and bylaws to prevent future misunderstandings.

Giving Student Representatives a Voice in the Future Direction of the Society

Currently, the NASAC chair is the only student representative on the SETAC North America Board of Directors. They serve in an ex officio position and are not allowed to vote. It is a one-year term in the chairmanship. Every year, without exception, the NASAC chair has been an exemplary board member. Year in and year out, they have been a poised, articulate, reliable and thoughtful contributor to the board’s activities.

In an effort to more fully integrate student representation, the board approved the motions to allow the NASAC chair to vote, to increase the representation to two student representatives by adding a non-voting vice chair, and to extend the overall representation of the student representative from a one-year to a two-year term. The first year would be a learning opportunity for the vice chair, followed by a year of service with full voting privileges as the NASAC chair with the same rights as a board member. Now that students can vote in general elections, the board and NASAC would also like to invite the entire SETAC North America membership to elect the NASAC vice chair during the general election in September.

However, the SETAC North America Board of Directors cannot unilaterally implement these measures; that is for the membership to decide. Therefore, the board invites all SETAC North America members to vote on this issue. The vote will be distributed electronically, by email, early September, at the same time as the ballot for the board elections. Additionally, all SETAC North America members will be notified in late July about the proposed constitutional amendments to allow all members enough time to review the proposed changes and provide feedback. If you have opted out of SETAC email notifications, please contact the office at setac@setac.org, and we can send you the link directly.

Author’s contact information: tom_augspurger@fws.gov, schiefer@setac.org and sabine.barrett@setac.org