ACS rejects Clarke again

15 April 2020

The Australia Computer Society has again ruled that Dr Roger Clarke is ineligible for election to its senior management team. He attempted to stand for ACS President in March but his candidature was also rejected then.

Dr Clarke was the instigator of the successful court action against ACS in late 2019, which invalidated a vote on its changed constitution. The judge’s ruling which struck down the vote was damning of the shoddy way the ballot was conducted.

Had the vote been successful, ACS would have changed structure from a professional society to that of a Company Limited by Guarantee, which meant it would no longer have had a President. So confident was ACS management that the vote would go through that no election for President was held last year, which meant that after the vote was an old it was without a titular leader for the first time in its half-century history.

A new vote for President was held in March, with high profile data science guru Dr Ian Oppermann elected unopposed after Dr Clarke’s nomination was rejected by ACS management on what many regarded as spurious grounds. ACS has very rigid rules on who can stand for office, restricting candidates to those that have recently been office bearers at a senior level. Dr Clarke’s previous experience was deemed irrelevant on a technicality.

Dr Clarke has been a vocal critic of ACS’s management and its strategy. When the court case exposed the inadequacies in the organisation’s corporate governance, his criticisms resonated with many others, leading to calls for the management committee to resign.

Dr Oppermann’s elevation to the presidency meant his previous position of Vice President Academic and Technical became vacant. Again Dr Clarke stood, and again his nomination was rejected, this time by the Board that the successful candidate is to chair. Also rejected was Dr Rod Dilnutt, a supporter of Dr Clarke’s and a stalwart of the Victorian branch of ACS.

Eligible candidates are Dr Michael Blumenstein, Head of the School of Software in the Faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Technology Sydney; security specialist Dr David Cook from Edith Cowan University in Perth; and Karl Reed, a retired computer science academic and long time champion of the Australian software industry. All have been prominent figure in ACS for many years  – Reed was a board director for 16 years.

Dr Clarke has written to ACS President Oppermann seeking clarification as to why he was disendorsed by the ACS Technical Advisory Board, pointing out that this seemed at odds with Dr Oppermann’s stated intention as President of reconciling Dr Clarke’s group with the management of the society. He has received no reply.

Reed is also unhappy with the process of nomination. He too needed endorsement by the Technical Advisory Board, which was granted, but still needs special dispensation to be granted by the ACS Congress from the ‘time recently served on the Management Committee’ requirement before he can appear on the ballot as a candidate.

“The nomination process is absurd and far too restrictive,” Reed told iTWire. “We all have excellent track records but we can be disendorsed through arcane rules before we even get to a vote. The process needs to be a lot more open.”

Karl Reed wants to strengthen the role of branch level Special Interest Groups, raise the profile of software engineering as a discipline and improve the quality of online systems being used by the general public.

“The coronavirus crisis has really shown up some deficiencies in that area,” he said. “I think the ACS can play an important role in improving the quality and usability of the web based systems and especially online learning.”

The results of the vote are expected later this week. iTWire contacted ACS for comment and clarification but received no response before our deadline.