[hackerspaces] Inclusivity, alienation and a lame duck

Morgan Gangwere morgan.gangwere at gmail.com
Thu Feb 19 21:15:20 CET 2015

My hackerspace has 3 problems that are feeding into each other:

(This is somewhat scattered -- read all the parts or you'll lose context).

1. The board (you'll see a recurring theme soon) has declared that we must
be "Inclusive" -- and so a task force (lead by a board member, who is also
wife of the president of the board) reached out to people who had at one
point expressed an interest in joining but had not yet. This came down to

Don't get me wrong, I'm far from being the typical cis-het-white-male, and
I'd love to see more non cis-white-het-male folk in our space. The
following note is *my view* of this and I'm trying very hard to *not* point
at any one person.

The inclusivity policy was enforced by the president of the board, before
it was actually presented to the membership for discussion, over what came
down to a mis-communication between himself and the person who had just
simply vented (who is also on the board; We'll get to her later)

The board held a straightforward, but very heated conversation with the
membership. El Pres makes everything about him (and how it's not his
doing), the one who wrote it made it (somehow) all about sex, and one who
originally vented and started this insanity rumbling made it all about how
she doesn't like men.

We hammered it out, with the members that care enough to show up (about 20,
out of a population of 80ish) being mostly upset at the process: a member
of the space, who has done quite a bit of the space, was alienated on a
policy he had no idea existed, over a misunderstanding that would have been
solved with someone asking some basic troubleshooting questions.

2. We've moved into our second space. Over the last about 2 years, we've
had a hell of a ride, with an indiegogo to kick off the party. One of the
perks of getting us moving money was to be able to name a room. One of the
rooms, the electronics lab, was named after an MLP fan-video-gone-viral.
There was some argument over if this was appropriate and overall, the whole
process was fairly unorganized and frustrating for those involved. Some
were confused as to how long the name lasted, etc.

The individual that named the electronics lab that did it to make people
think, confront their discomfort, etc. It's been a bone of contention among
some of the membership.

Over the week, the board has used the name as a means to beat on members.
The actions of several board members (notably, the ones already mentioned;
there are 6 on our board, plus president, who is the longest standing board
member with 1 year terms). Several of our members are older guys. Yes, the
name is a bit annoying, but they have their own qualms, and the board has
used this as a means to (subversively) ostracize and alienate those members.

For those quietly attacked, it feels like discrimination. For pretty much
everyone else? *nobody gives a damn*.

3. The president of the board is useless, has no leadership skills, and has
become in some ways a lame duck; He is a non-voting member of the board
according to his bylaws, but can still enforce power as president to make
things happen. I cannot attest to this, but it seems like many are speaking
behind his back, actively trying to usurp his power. At the moment, there's
no way for the membership to remove a president from their position. The
fact his spouse serves on the board raises concerns for some of us.

Our previous president moved on due to his promotion in the military. He
was trained to lead and manage. Since leaving, our space has become prone
to infighting and argument over semantics with the board.

I've considered calling for a vote of no confidence by the membership, but
there's a problem: A majority of the membership doesn't even really show up
nor care at this point. Yet that silent majority keeps the doors open. Our
bylaws state that votes need a quorum of the membership (defined as 70%)
and *three times in a row* we've had to come to a board-decision to lower
it down to 50% in order to pass the board vote.

There are members, people who are in the space and who are much more suited
to be president, and who have come up in the past as being on the ballot.

A note on processes: The space meets once a month, meeting to discuss
things within the space and give progress reports on projects, bring up any
input from the membership, etc. The board meets once a quarter, and that's
when any actions that the board enacts happens. Recently, the board has
been meeting more regularly than the membership meetings and having
conversations. These are not often announced. The board is in some ways a
set of BDFLs (several members of the board have been there since the
inception of the space) and there is rarely any major discussion that
happens at the membership meetings, which are run on timers and a "Let's
just get this over with" mentality.
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