Guys, the OTW is holding its yearly election and it is SO IMPORTANT
that you vote this year! This is the first contested election in four years, and it’s vital that we get some good, new people into office. Here are the candidates
, and a list of questions that they were given the opportunity to answer.
Here is everything from this year’s election cycle
, including the chat transcripts and voting instructions
, with some simpler instructions here
. There is a tumblr about the elections, otwelections-unofficial
, which has reblogged some statements by the candidates and Nikisha Sanders that I found valuable and have reblogged at my own tumblr
. You have to be a current member of the OTW (meaning you have to have donated at least $10.00 in the last year under your real name) to vote in the election. Even if you can’t vote, signal boosting the info will help spread the word.
There are two seats open for voting to be filled with this election. After the election there will be five Board members serving the Org. There will be at least one new person voted onto the Board this year, but two would be better because it would give them more voting power against the existing Board. That would give us a better chance for change, which is desperately needed. Andrea Horbinski is a current Board member who is campaigning for reelection. Here’s why I feel we shouldn’t reelect Andrea, and instead vote in new people:1.
There is currently a complete lack of transparency with everything the Board does, including what happens during board meetings, why they make the policy changes they do, and what they spend their time on. Supposedly they spend at least 40 hours a week on board work, but nobody knows exactly what they are doing because they aren’t publishing that info, and (based on the five new candidate’s statements) they aren’t available to anyone in the rest of the Org for help or questions (see point 2). As far as I can tell from Andrea’s statements, they have no interest in changing their level of transparency because in order to “safeguard” the Org the Board shouldn’t be taking about “anything relating to personnel decisions, the details of the finances, information that may leave the organization in a vulnerable position should it become public knowledge, and anything that the public doesn't have a compelling need to know” – which is apparently everything. That is a serious problem. While I don’t think the board should publicize private “Human Resources” type discussion (they shouldn’t really be having many of these discussions in the first place, see below), bank account type information, or the specifics of our internet safety details (whatever they do to keep our websites safe from hackers and other malicious types), almost everything else is need-to-know by its members, who pay for the Org to exist in the first place.
Even if they choose to keep some stuff confidential from the voting public, the rest of the OTW volunteers and staffers (or at bare minimum the committee chairs) need to know what they are doing and why. Accountability is very important for anyone in a position of power, much less the people leading the entire Org.2.
It sounds as if the Board alternately isn’t doing the job they were elected to do or are overstepping the scope of their job. As Andrea is a current Board member who presumably is complicit in the following points (since I have no evidence to indicate otherwise I have to assume she agrees with the actions of the Board) I believe it’s best to vote her out and vote in new people who hopefully will do better. a.
Office Hours (a preset time where one or more Board members would be available to chat with anyone) are no longer being offered, and regular Board meetings are apparently frequently canceled due to not enough members showing up, or there being “nothing to discuss.” b.
It was a recurrent statement in the Q&A’s that the Board doesn’t answer emails or committee proposals in a timely manner, if at all. Some said there was often no indication at all the Board had even gotten their reports or proposals. This sounds like a complete failure to do the job, and is completely unacceptable. c.
It was also a recurrent statement that the Board blocks, sidelines, or attempts to change committee proposals (preventing them from doing their jobs or doing them in a timely manner), and frequently interferes with how the committee chairs go about doing their jobs. Several of the candidates said that the Board shouldn’t have any say in how the Chairs run their committee so long as the committee is functioning well and doing its job. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say the Board should have no involvement, but interference should not be the way things are routinely done. Interference includes the Board approving all staff changes to each committee (you can see all the committees here, and there are a lot, though some are more active than others http://transformativeworks.org/about/committee-descriptions
), and handling or raising “complaints against staffers” during the Board meetings – both are things we know the Board does. All of the new candidates said that due to their position of authority over everyone in the Org, Board should never handle complaints against a staff member and several candidates further stated that that if an outside party is needed to mediate it should be Volunteers & Recruiting (which handles volunteer “applications” and training) and that the committee chairs should handle routine staff changes, with Board oversite only when a chair asks for help or when a chair appears to be failing at their job. While I have no direct knowledge of the Board doing any of these things, if all the new candidates are saying the same thing I think we should listen to them.3.
There are significant and serious financial issues – there is no yearly budget, there is generally not a yearly accounting of how the OTW’s money is spent (and the one that exists is old and extremely vague), they spend money on in-person retreats ($18,000 last year) but have not produced any results from those retreats (nor do the retreats include a significant number of committee chairs to ensure general Org representation), and there are reports of the bills not being paid on time and the volunteers work being disrupted because of lack of necessary tools (multiple times over the last 2-3 years). Serious changes are needed, and all the new candidates advocate for this. I have no idea what Andrea’s viewpoint is on this since the Board doesn’t publish meeting info which would show us how she votes, and in the answer she did give she didn’t give any indication as to her personal opinion. (Though I will say her answers indicate the Board seems to have plans to become more financially responsible.)4.
Many of the new candidates mention multiple instances of abusive behavior by the Board towards volunteers at all levels (general volunteers, staffers, and committee chairs) – and most of the new candidates are new to the OTW within 2-3 years so this is an ongoing issue. Some of the new candidates say that people are frequently scared to speak out about things that they think are wrong or that could be improved or changed for fear of being “fired” from the Org or their positions. This is unacceptable. a.
During this election cycle Nikisha Sanders, who was one of the candidates, was removed from her OTW positions by the Board
, despite protest from the elections committee and the other committees she worked on. Andrea, who was a sitting Board member at the time and who benefits from one of her competitors being removed, says, “I can't actually comment specifically on anything related to the matter you're referring to due to directors' legal duty to safeguard the organization. That said, I have in the past and will continue to abstain from votes in which I have a COI, and it is the expectation that other directors will do the same.” That statement was not given in the public announcement about Nikisha’s removal, it was given during one of the chats after a user asked specifically about it. Since likely very few of the AO3 membership will actually read those chat transcripts, this isn’t exactly widely public knowledge. The Board apparently saw no cause for concern that this conflict of interest could be construed as unethical behavior by one of its members. This is concerning to me. There are people (including Andrea’s fellow candidates
and Nikisha herself
) who are gravely concerned about the Board tampering with the elections process, and how far the Board will go with abuses of power. Initially I thought that maybe Nikisha wasn’t doing her job, which would be a reasonable cause for concern, since (as stated above) the Org’s finances are in terrible shape. However, we don’t know because no one outside of the Org was privy to any part of that decision making process. We have no way to know if Nikisha was following instructions as voted on by the majority of the Board members, or making decisions on her own. In this comment
she gave on one of her DW posts on the matter, she basically said her authority was stripped by the Board for no good reason, not due to any fault of her own. She says, “the attitudes of some of the Board have increasingly shifted toward wanting Board to have complete and total control, without facing questions from staff or volunteers, over aspects of the org's management. The general approach I met with was "We have the money, why should you have any say?" along with being told that looking at the big picture for the org was no longer my job.” Based on everything I’ve seen (including the fact that Andrea initially answered VERY FEW of the Q&A questions, though it seems she has since gone back and answered more), I’m inclined to believe it. As I said before, accountability is vital for the Board, and if no one knows why they do what they do or has the power to change their behavior then there is no accountability. This has to change. b.
There is documentation that Andrea has been reprimanded for abusive behavior at least once and had to apologize publically for “losing her temper” with a volunteer. (It is reassuring to hear that her fellow Board members had the integrity to call her on her poor behavior) Generally I believe in giving people second chances and an opportunity to learn and grow, but this taken in light with all the other information means to me that Andrea shouldn’t be serving on our Board.5.
Several of the new candidates express particular interest in supporting the AO3’s growth and development, which is of great interest to me as a user. I love all of the OTW’s projects, but the AO3 is the one I use the vast majority of the time. I am increasingly frustrated with the AO3’s lack of development. The AO3 has been in beta for seven years
and in recent years has made no visible progress towards fulfilling its roadmap
, which itself is a drastic change (a negative change, if you ask me) from the 2010 Roadmap.
The ability to host fanart was supposed to be “coming soon” in 2010
, but hasn’t gone anywhere. From my understanding, the ability to directly host fanvids was one of the fundamental reasons for starting the AO3 (see the Fan Video Roadmap
), and again there is no progress on this. I know from my time in the AO3 that there are plans to change the way fandoms and different Media Types are categorized at a basic coding level (in preparation for hosting multimedia content) through what was being called the Category Change when I was there, but news of that hasn’t been made public and I have no idea where in the process they are. I have no idea what effect Andrea has had on this lack of progress so it may be unfair to blame her for this, but I’d rather have Board members in office that have expressed specific interest in developing the AO3.
There are other issues that were brought up during the chats and Q & A’s, but these are the significant ones to me. Basically, I feel that anyone new would be an improvement, and I got very excited about many of our candidates. Here are the candidates I like, in the order I will be voting for them (and it was hard even to pick this order!):Matty Bowers
– I was very impressed with her statements, and think she will work well with a potentially hostile Board because she has experience taking dysfunctional committees and making them healthy and functional.Aline Carrao
– I am excited about her statements, and again I think she will work well with a potentially hostile Board.Atiya Hakeem
– I am super excited about her experience with the Category Change workgroup and hope that she would foster AO3 growth.Alex Tischer
– She also has mentioned wanting to focus more on AO3 development, which I love.Katarina Harju
– I love her background in bookkeeping, that is so needed right now.
I also want to say that OTW elections happen every year, and I sincerely hope that those from this group that don’t get elected come back next year so I can vote for them then!