Grad Young Trustee selection a "gentlewoman's agreement"
The Graduate and Professional Student Council has heavy influence over the election of the graduate Young Trustee.
The three finalists—Shannon O’Connor, Amol Yadav and William Hunt—were selected from approximately 30 applicants by a committee consisting of seven members, six of which, including the chair, serve on GPSC. All three of the finalists have extensive experience with GPSC.
O’Connor—a fifth-year Ph.D./MD candidate in biomedical engineering—is the current GPSC vice president. Yadav—a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering—is currently the president of GPSC. Hunt—a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in English—is a current GPSC English representative and served as the chair of the Young Trustee Selection Committee three years ago before serving consecutive terms as the vice president and then president of GPSC.
During the Feb. 18 election, only members of the GPSC General Assembly will be permitted to vote. Hunt compared closed voting to the Electoral College.
“It’s not perfect but what electoral system is?” Hunt said, noting that he saw no need to change the current election system.
O’Connor noted that limiting voters to elected representatives makes for a more informed election.
Having elected representatives voting lessens the chance of a large school dominating the position, Hunt added.
“Even if your school is very small…your school has a vote,” he said.
Yadav, however, said he was in favor of more open elections.
“Personally, I think the Young Trustee should be selected like the undergrad Young Trustee is selected,” he said.
The undergraduate Young Trustee is selected through an election that is open to the entire undergraduate student body.
The current two graduate student Young Trustees—Dr. Malik Burnett, Trinity ‘07, Medicine and Fuqua ‘12, and Katherine Duch, Sanford '13—previously served on GPSC.
Hunt said that this is the first year that all three candidates are this heavily involved in GPSC, noting that usually one candidate is deeply involved and the other two are not as invested.
Most people interested in the Young Trustee position would involve themselves in student council, O’Connor said.
“If you plug into the community at Duke University…I do think you’re somehow involved in GPSC,” she said.
The candidates applied in September, and were then narrowed down to approximately 10 who received interviews with the Young Trustee Selection Committee. The three finalists were selected from this pool.
Hunt said that YTSC members who have relationships with candidates at the interview stage can disclose those relationships to the board, though there is no formal requirement for this.
“It’s along the lines of a gentleman’s or gentlewoman’s agreement,” Hunt said.
The chair of the Young Trustee Selection Committee—Stephanie Reist, a MPP-Ph.D. candidate in Latin American studies—is a GPSC representative. Other members of the YTSC who are also on GPSC should disclose their relationship to candidates, Reist said, but no further actions are required.
She noted that last year, when she was a member of the committee, one member recused themselves from voting on one candidate—calling the action “a personal decision.”
In Hunt’s experience, he said such a committee member would recuse himself from discussion, but not from voting.
“It’s ultimately up to the chair to kind of create the process,” Hunt said.
When Reist required additional contact information for one of the candidates, she went to Yadav, in his role as president, for help. Seeing no conflict of interest, Yadav provided the information that she requested.
“Being the GPSC president, I was enabling the process as well as being part of it,” Yadav said.