[hackerspaces] Question regarding member dispute

Sam Ley sam.ley at gmail.com
Tue Jan 5 02:01:52 CET 2016

On Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 5:21 PM, Mark Rosenblitt-Janssen <
dreamingforward at gmail.com> wrote:

> It's simple, either they behave as the community asks, or they forfeit
> their membership.  You have to bite the bullet and be willing to do
> it.

This is dead on.

We had a similar set of disputes with one member who wasn't breaking any of
the big on-paper rules, but was very prone to conflict with other members,
bad about working things out, always contacting the board with complaints
instead of speaking with people directly, playing "mommy said/daddy said"
with multiple board members when they didn't get answers the liked, prone
to angry outbursts instead of discussion, etc. They managed to drive out
one member, then another, over the course of a 6 month period.

We direct mediated a TON of conflicts over this time (including with other
members who are trained mediators), but new issues kept popping up. When
the third member (a very long-time and respected member) contacted us and
said they were leaving due to this person, we knew we finally had to take

It was tough, but we do have a term in our lease/membership agreement where
we can kick someone out immediately for breaking any of the rules, or with
30-days notice for no reason at all (we have a bit of a delay since the
members keep large pieces of property and tools at our shop - if it was a
more traditional hackerspace model we would have both time frames be
"immediately"). We met with the member, gave them notice, and that was
that. It was hard to do, and the member said every toxic thing we thought
they would about us (I'll call my lawyer, its because of so-and-so isn't
it?, its because of my gender, its because you don't respect REAL
creatives, etc.).

But they left, and things have been MUCH better. We cleared the way for
some great new members, old members are happier, and I realized that
letting things go that long was the worst decision. We were uncomfortable
kicking someone out (it was our first one), but after doing it I realize we
should have done it much sooner. You aren't calling someone a bad person by
kicking them out, you aren't taking their livelihood or anything major. You
are just telling them not to show up anymore. Your members trust you to
make the space a good one, and sometimes you have to be the bad guy for a

The other local space here gave us some good insight when we discussed the
situation with them - they have had to make the same decision a few times,
and gave the same advice I'm giving now - if you've tried a few times to
get someone to play nice, and they won't - ask them to leave. Just that
simple, and once it is done you'll wish you did it sooner.

Sam Ley
Phoenix Asylum, Boulder, CO
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