Hi all Sorry, very long mail ahead... (As privacy is pretty sensitive on this matter, please contact the board directly (email@example.com) if you have further questions or need clarification, instead of discussing it in public.)
As you probably all know by now, the openSUSE Board recently revoked an individual's membership as well as his access to the openSUSE infrastructure.
As Community participants are admitted to membership, they agree to abide by the Guiding Principles of the openSUSE Project. One of the responsibilities of the elected members of the Board is to be the guardian of those principles; fostering a positive and pleasant environment for all members of the Community.
From time to time the board is obligated to take actions to uphold those principles on behalf of the membership. In doing so, the board acts in a manner to mindfully protect the privacy of all effected parties, including both the offender and those affected by the offensive actions. The privacy of those who were personally affected must also be taken into consideration.
After receiving a series of complaints from numerous members of the Community regarding violations of the Guiding Principles by that person over a prolonged period, the board began working to uphold its obligation to the membership by attempting to resolve the conflicts through discussions and mediation with all involved parties and ultimately issuing a warning of possible expulsion.
In December, complaints were renewed and the Board felt that despite repeated warnings and discussions, the Board could no longer abide by actions that violated the principles which our Community is built upon.
Now, there have been a few points that have been (rightfully) raised by a few people (I'm paraphrasing here ;)): 1) Who said the board has the right to revoke someone's membership ? 2) Isn't it harsh? Wasn't there a better way to deal with it? 3) The timing is very suspicious. 4) It all happened behind closed doors, you should have made it publicly, in a transparent manner (as transparency and openness is also part of the Guiding Principles). 5) Who and/or how to prevent abuse from the board ? 6) Removing the membership would have been enough, why remove the person from the project altogether ?
First of all, the Board never had to deal with a situation like this one before, where many attempts of mediation and dialogue didn't result in the person who violated the Guiding Principles understanding the concerns and going back into behavior that is socially acceptable (because that's, in essence, what the Guiding Principles are about). Hence we, as a Community, didn't have any precedence to look for, nor any mistakes we did in the past to improve the process upon.
1) So, yes, indeed, neither the Guiding Principles nor the Board statuses *explicitly* state that the Board may remove someone's membership upon repeated violation of the Guiding Principles nor how it must be dealt with regarding a public record of action (or not).
But, as stated in the Guiding Principles, one of the primary missions of the board is to mediate and try to resolve conflicts. When people approach board members and ask us to take action, it is the role of the Board to do so and, unfortunately, if all the constructive attempts to resolve the issue through dialogue fail, the Board have to take the final and non-revocable action of removing that person from the project.
We added that point to the members page on the wiki after-the-fact for the purpose of clarification, and if people feel that it is controversial and needs discussion for similar situations in the future, let's have that discussion -- ideally when the new board is in place, after the elections.
2) We, the Board members, hope you trust us as well as the other Community members who have been involved sufficiently to believe us when we say the board would never take such measures without having exercised all the "better ways" to deal with it. The Board always tries to mediate first. And not only once but a lot of times in various forms. If that doesn't help the offender is given a fair warning of the intent to escalate this further and only then, if an offender does not change his behaviour, the Board has to take such extreme measures.
3) The timing, indeed, may seem suspicious. We (Board members) were very aware of that but decided to finalize what we started nevertheless. As said above, the Board had to work on a lot of details like deciding whether a public announcement should be made, draft up an email, let it circulate on the internal board mailing-list to let all the board members have a say, vote, and/or make amendments and so on on the fly.
But you have to understand that the Board work by consensus, pretty much in a democratic way: the Board members aren't the borg, they all have their individual opinions, and especially in a matter as important as this one, the Board members obviously wanted everyone on the team to have a chance to agree or disagree. Of course, the Christmas holidays didn't help accelerate the process either.
So in the end the Board was obviously unable to draft an earlier letter to inform the Election Committee as well as the openSUSE Community at large of his change of status. We regret the timing but the whole matter had lasted all to long already, especially with regards to the people who have been the repeated victims of that person's behaviour over a very long period of time.
4) Matters such as these can only be handled in private, behind closed doors, only involving the people who are directly concerned. As the Board members want to protect the privacy of the person in question, as well as the privacy of the people who have been the victims of his behaviour, it would have been inappropriate to do so publicly. If you don't think so, just imagine that we make all that in public and an employer or potential future employer googling it up. Not nice. We do not want to harm anyone, and do not want public crucifixions either.
Some argued that it could have been done by anonymizing the person's name, as we are doing right now (for the very reasons stated above), but that simply wouldn't have worked over an extensive period of time and with more details than what we're including in this email.
Please note that the Board attempted to avoid making a public statement for those exact same reasons, but evidently it is needed at this point, to our deepest regret to the victims involved (again, for the reasons above).
5) The primary tool to prevent individual Board members to take abusive actions is the inherent democratic way the Board functions.
Yes, the actions and decisions of the Board are often, if not always, very slow, but that is the price to pay for a democratic approach, where decisions are taken by consensus, with every Board member having a chance to vote and voice her opinion.
Attempts of abuse by an individual will be outweighed and prevented by the opinions and votes of the 5 others.
The tool to prevent a majority of the Board or even the whole Board from taking abusive actions are the elections.
The Election Committee is there to do their best to prevent abuse in the election process itself, and they have -- rightfully so -- voiced their concerns on the timing (as explained above), which we have hopefully cleared up in an email thread with the members of the current Election Committee.
The Board is the only elected body of the Community, so for those of you who are openSUSE Members, do exercise your right carefully. You elect the people you trust to do the best for the project and the Community.
6) Unfortunately, only removing the membership status wouldn't have changed anything in this case, as the disruptive and poisonous behaviour was not seen exclusively in situations where membership plays a role. The Board members were (and still are) convinced that we had to remove the person from the project altogether to resolve this issue.
Finally, we all respect and are thankful for what that person did for the project, and deeply regret that it had to come to this, but it was really the only option left.
Thanks for reading so far.
With regards, and in no particular order ;), Rupert Horstkötter, Henne Vogelsang, Pavol Rusnak, Alan Clark, Andreas Jaeger (*), Jos Poortvliet (*), Michael Löffler (*), Pascal Bleser. (**)
(*) who have also been involved in mediation attempts (**) Bryen decided to abstain from taking part in the whole proceedings on the matter, as he was too directly involved