[hackerspaces] Inclusivity, alienation and a lame duck

Mark Rosenblitt-Janssen dreamingforward at gmail.com
Fri Feb 20 00:31:58 CET 2015

The best thing you can do in such a situation, is get the "eye of the
tiger".   Get so good at something, something that is respected there,
and then YOU can become the dictator.

Cheers!  ;^)


On Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 2:15 PM, Morgan Gangwere
<morgan.gangwere at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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
> "inclusivity."
> 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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