To ARSC members:
I have only recently caught up on the documents discussion here, and am pleased that it has been overwhelmingly civil. That is not always the case on the Internet, and speaks well of the ARSC community. It began as a commentary on Kurt Nauck's open letter to members, and while I have no comment on the contents of that letter I fully support the decision of Rebecca, the Board and Newsletter Editor Yuri Shimoda to publish it. Everyone deserves to be heard. Perhaps, as some have suggested, a response could have been solicited to appear in the same issue, but I'm sure the next issue will remedy that. Please remember that all those mentioned are volunteers, doing the best they can.
The considered input of some folks who have given a great deal of service to the association, including former presidents Mike Biel and Sam Brylawski, and ARSC co-founder Paul Jackson, is especially welcome. I have been honored to serve as president twice (most recently 2011-2015) and as program chair twice (four conferences, as opposed to Mike's five!), as well as in other positions of responsibility.
My concern now is the forthcoming Code of Conduct and "Responding to Incidents" documents on which all members will eventually be asked to vote. Three recent presidents of ARSC (including me) and a recent Program Chair have jointly communicated our concerns with the current versions of these documents, to the Diversity Committee co-chairs, the Board, and the Executive Committee (committee chairs). You should know about them too.
Our concerns are in three main areas. (1) There is no real definition of what constitutes offensive behavior, or especially "potentially triggering language." This is determined by a four-person team, but only *after* someone complains, and in the heat of the moment. Complaints can be lodged in regard to any ARSC activity, a conference (online or in person), a scholarly presentation, statements on social media sites, or even on this listserv. Severe sanctions can be imposed. One can imagine the chilling effect this could have. (2) There is no right of appeal. (3) In most cases the authority of the President and the Board, as conferred in the Bylaws, is preempted by this four-person team. This can include removing members, and even chairs, from committees. In our opinion this is far too much concentration of power and seriously undermines ARSC's governance structure.
Some of this is the result of poor wording. For example, the team makes recommendations, but the President *will* (not may) carry out those recommendations. The Code is "not intended to constrain scholarly... discourse," but presenters are subject to sanctions.
A final matter of concern is that the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee itself is unrepresentative of the ARSC membership, specifically of the half (approximately) of our members who are private collectors. At least three private collectors (including me) have offered to join the committee, to at least partially redress this imbalance. All have considerable ARSC experience, but all have been denied admission by the co-chairs.
The only reason stated was that the committee is "very large." To the best of my knowledge there is no formal or informal rule regarding the size of ARSC committees, and larger committees can easily form sub-groups to work on specific projects, although they too should be representative. In this case the co-chairs chose five of 15 members to work with them on the drafts, none of them principally known as collectors. The "Inclusion" committee is far from inclusive.
I certainly hope that the Committee will take these issues into account in the final documents which, apparently, will be secretly finalized behind the scenes, and then presented to the Board and membership for an up-or-down vote.
These documents grew out of altruistic motives, motives which I support, but the manner in which they are being developed is troubling to say the least. The original anti-harassment policy was enacted during my presidency. Surely it can be improved. But in our desire to address one problem we should not create even greater ones. I especially hope that all members will read these documents carefully, and think about consequences, when it comes time to vote on them.
Sincerely,Tim BrooksFormer president (twice), program chair (twice), Copyright, Awards, Publicity, Nominations Chair, Directory Editor, and numerous other positions.