The Open Questions the IA Institute Needs to Answer

“Actually Karen” has become shorthand for the condescending, passive aggressive response the IAI leadership gave concerned IA and community leaders in the wake of Lynn Boyden’s open letter.

Lynn Boyden posted her open letter to the IA community on January 21. In the days following, that community roiled in response.

The IA Conference took a firm stance, reaffirming their demands to ban a known serial harasser of women. They’ve been honest, forthright, and out in front of the crisis, clearly showing their support for victims of conference harassment.

At the same time we’ve seen behavior out of IAI president Marianne Sweeny that angered so many it’s led to a recall petition drive. The IAI took a decision to investigate and review the ban while never informing Lynn. They also showed great bias towards the harasser, suggesting they were communicating with him and his lawyer even while not communicating with Lynn. Marianne, using the @iainstitute Twitter account, was condescending, tone-deaf, and passive aggressive towards those raising concerns… and most of all, to Lynn, someone Marianne had personally blocked on Twitter.

In the face of the online rage this bungling exacerbated, Marianne made an executive decision to not only reverse the hold on the ban, but also to essentially tell the harasser’s lawyers to communicate directly with the IAC about it (thus attempting to wash the IAI’s hands of any responsibility). They also showed a willingness to share the unredacted complaint with the harasser’s lawyer, though they ultimately did not. All this while communicating with Lynn exactly once, via tweet.

I think at this point Marianne, and the IAI board, considers this matter closed. As a member of the IAI, though, I do not. I have a lot of open questions I feel that Marianne, and the entire board, have never answered. An organization built on bringing order to chaos and “making sense of any mess” needs to address why they created chaos in the community. An organization that insists on clarity needs to explain why there was so little clarity. Most of all, an organization that prides itself on empathy needs to explain their woeful lack of empathy for victims of harassment.

All of these questions are addressed to the IA Institute leadership. Consider these the start of the discussion about what “additional remedy” (per their tweet) is needed to bring real closure, protect victims, and make the IAI and the IA community stronger.

Here are those questions:

  1. When did the IAI apologize to Lynn for failing to communicate their decision re: opening an investigation into the conclusions?
  2. Other than a single tweet that referenced her handle, why has the Institute not communicated directly with Lynn?
  3. Who speaks for IAI? Who is the person acting as the single voice of the IAI Twitter account?
  4. What are the consequences of the President using the IAI twitter account to directly talk with a single individual in the community?
  5. One of the board members referenced a need for empathy during the crisis (and perhaps implying critics lacked that empathy). How does the board define empathy? What does the board think empathy for victims of harassment looks like?
  6. Is a tweet on a board member’s personal account to be considered the same as a statement from the IAI organization?
  7. Does the IAI have a social media strategy in place? If not, when will one be created and executed against?
  8. Which officer(s) are directly responsible for all outbound communications? Will they bear responsibility for misuse of those communications channels?
  9. What mistakes has the board identified that they made, individually and collectively, in handling the code of conduct violation Lynn filed? What corrective actions will they take as a result?
  10. Does the board understand how serious the concerns of the IAI membership and senior community leaders are? What steps are they taking to demonstrate they are taking the problem seriously?
  11. Who does the IAI identify as founders? How were they consulted?
  12. Were senior community leaders consulted individually? If not, why not?
  13. Who is ultimately responsible for code of conduct violations? If it’s the WIAD and IAC, will the IAI stand behind them as their sponsoring organization?
  14. If the IAI has concerns with the IA Foundation and IA Summit codes of conduct as they were written, what experts in the field of conference safety are they in contact with and receiving feedback from? If not, when can we expect to see this engagement?
  15. The IAI merged development and treasurer roles together with the most recent by-law change. A few people in the community have wondered if this were irregular for an NPO governing structure. Could the IAI point us to example NPOs with this structure?
  16. In the by-law changes, did they remove term limits for officers and/or board members? (Update: The new by-laws remove a provision in section 6.3 limiting directors to two consecutive terms in office.) If so, why? If so, when was this to be communicated to the membership?
  17. Did the board communicate the by-law change proposal to its members before the vote, and how? If they didn’t, should they be required to in the future?
  18. The statement from the IAI touts successes with cost-cutting. What is the current financial situation of the IAI?
  19. The board has seen two high-profile resignations since December. Why is this happening? How will the board address the concerns of members that see these resignations as a poor reflection on the IA community?
  20. The perception of many in the IA community is that the IAI centered on protecting the career of the serial harasser rather than on the women he has harassed and fondled over the years. Whom does the IAI center their work on? How will the IAI address community leaders demanding we shift our focus towards “people of color, queer people, women, disabled people, neurologically diverse people?
  21. Board elections are this month, in February. Are nominations open? When is the election? When will this info be made available to us?
  22. During the next election, will the two open seats on the board be filled by a plebiscite? If not, what is the board’s process for filling those vacancies, and how will they determine whom to appoint to fill these vacancies? Will the board consider letting the community vote to fill these vacancies in lieu of the by-laws vaguely stating the board can choose whom to appoint?
  23. What is the purpose of the IAI?
  24. Is the IAI still essential to the IA community?

I look forward to the IAI Board answering these questions in the near future.