Academy Kills Secret Committees, Opens Board Election to Everyone

AMPAS CEO tells members that the new process is “more democratic and transparent”

Last Updated: April 7, 2016 @ 9:12 AM

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has changed the process by which members can run for a seat on the Board of Governors, eliminating secret nominating committees and allowing any member to run for the board.

According to a letter sent to members late Wednesday night, the board voted on Tuesday night to allow members “to nominate all your candidates directly.” Members have until Saturday, Apr. 30 to submit their names if they wish to run for the board, and each branch will vote in May to choose four candidates from the members who have opted to run.

“This new process is more democratic, more transparent, and one that will significantly expand the pool of possible candidates,” wrote CEO Dawn Hudson in the Wednesday night email.

In the past, each branch voted to elect some of the members of a nominating committee, and the committee then chose four board candidates from that branch. In what the Academy said was an attempt to prevent the nominating committee from being lobbied, the names of members on that committee were not revealed — so the people who voted to elect the nominating committee didn’t even know who won that election.

The system resulted in a fairly small pool of potential governors running for the board year after year, and made it difficult for most members to run. In her letter to the members, Hudson called it “a procedure that many felt was confusing and cumbersome.”

The secrecy of Academy committees had come under fire at an AMPAS meeting back in 2013, with some members urging that the board reconsider the process. One of the members who for years has been critical of the lack of transparency, Public Relations Branch member Bruce Feldman, told TheWrap on Thursday that he will run for the board and will be “very clear on where I stand on the issues.”

Under the new system, the branch membership will vote directly, first to choose four candidates for the board and then to elect the governor.

“As an important first step in making this new system work, we hope that you will seriously consider opting in to be a potential candidate yourself,” wrote Hudson, one of the architects of the Academy’s recent moves to diversify its organization in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. “I cannot stress how critical it is that as many members as possible volunteer their time and talents both for our Academy and for the entire motion picture community.”

The AMPAS Board of Governors consists of three governors from each of the Academy’s 17 branches. Governors serve three-year terms, staggered so that one seat from each branch is up for re-election each year.

Last month, three additional board members were appointed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs to add more diversity to the board makeup.

Here, in part, is Hudson’s email to the members:

Dear Members,

I have some exciting news to share with you about the Academy and the way we elect our Governors. Last night, the Board of Governors voted to allow you — our members — to nominate all of your candidates directly. This new process is more democratic, more transparent, and one that will significantly expand the pool of possible candidates. These changes will strengthen our leadership to ensure that it is both representative of our entire membership and well-equipped to guide our large and complex organization.

Previously, through a procedure that many felt was confusing and cumbersome, the membership elected only one half of a nominating committee that in turn prepared a slate of candidates for the Board. Now, you will choose your candidates directly. As an important first step in making this new system work, we hope that you will seriously consider opting in to be a potential candidate yourself. I cannot stress how critical it is that as many members as possible volunteer their time and talents both for our Academy and for the entire motion picture community.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with our structure, our board is an active, hands-on committee that sets the Academy’s long-term goals and policies, and ensures our financial stability. It also oversees the progress on our many projects including our Academy Museum, awards and events, and our film preservation efforts. The role is demanding: there are seven board meetings annually and various committee meetings throughout the year. But I think if you talk to anyone who has served as Governor, they will also say their service was enormously fulfilling. We are looking for people who are fully engaged with the motion picture community and are current with how their art functions in today’s ever-changing world. Our Governors are active, strong, forward-thinking people who are fully engaged with our film community and with every aspect of what we do …

If you would be willing to consider running, I ask you to follow the link below and add your name to the list of potential candidates. There are no prerequisites. And you don’t have to be nominated to run …

In May, we will distribute the list of members in your branch who have opted in, and ask you to choose four candidates. The top four candidates will make up the slate of those running for Governor of your branch. Final elections begin in June, and results will be announced in late July.

We look forward to hearing from you. By becoming a Governor, you will help shape the future of our Academy and our industry …

All best,
Dawn Hudson
CEO

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