Hello Arnnon,

It is good to hear something directly from you. I am sure your intentions in the position you were appointed to are positive and supportive. Yet while you may be entirely sincere in your desire to help, I find it extremely difficult to see a path forward in which your contribution will bring the benefits that may have been contemplated.

Your statement here carries very much the right tone, but is unfortunately rather lacking in substance. About the events in your career that have been the focus of so much concern, you suggest that there have been misconceptions and mitigating considerations, but say nothing about what those misconceptions or mitigating considerations might be. I fully understand that for both legal and ethical reasons, you may not feel free to elaborate, and I do not ask that you violate any such obligations. However, the inability to provide more information is itself a major handicap for the role you are in. In fact, a requirement of silence becomes doubly destructive because it both provides more fuel for conspiracy theories and denies the Wikimedia Foundation the tools to respond effectively.

I suspect that many of the possible mitigating factors have already been touched on by others - from the limited picture we have of the recruiting practices in question, it is not completely clear what level of responsibility should be assigned to you, whether you could reasonably have done otherwise in your position, or to what extent you should have understood their legal implications. Nor do I believe that one mistake (you do not say it was a mistake, and presumably again you are not in a position to admit that, whether or not you might wish to) should necessarily disqualify anybody from the Board. However, as Asaf so eloquently explained on this list a couple weeks ago - which I hope you saw, if you've been following the conversation as you say - it's nearly impossible to get people to leave things fully in the past without an acknowledgment of the mistake. I understand you want to earn the trust of the community. But if you cannot do what is needed for this trust to develop, then you simply will never be able to earn it from many people. This is another way in which silence becomes disabling. You might manage for people to move on enough that you can function in your role, but the issue will continue to hang over everything you do.

The Board has indicated that you were appointed for your expertise in human resources. I agree that your career includes some impressive experience and you would be a highly qualified candidate in that sense. I can also appreciate why the Board might have felt a need for your kind of expertise. While the Foundation was at a somewhat different point during my tenure, it has faced a variety of challenges in this area, and these types of issues were prominent in my thinking about the organization, both as Chair and afterward. But under the circumstances, I struggle to see how your appointment would lead to a net benefit for the Foundation. Your skills and contacts might bring something that is lacking, but the problematic pieces of your background also reflect directly on the same area. Considerations such as staff morale have fluctuated over time, but I cannot imagine how having someone associated with these practices on the Board would be anything but a negative influence on it. Whether they would acknowledge it to you, the rest of the Board, their managers, or anyone at all really, I think this is an extremely serious problem. It seems like it would take an incredible amount of good work from you to overcome the damage your mere presence on the Board is likely to cause.

I do hope you can translate your passion for this movement into some sort of positive contribution. Assuming you cannot speak directly to your personal history in a way that will satisfy people, I hope you will at least try to explain more clearly what you anticipate bringing to the table. In the context of this particular appointment, however, it is a heavy weight you would need to counterbalance, and there may be other and better ways of approaching this.

--Michael Snow

On 1/26/2016 11:07 AM, Arnnon Geshuri wrote:
It has been almost three weeks since my appointment to the Wikimedia
Foundation Board and I have read the feedback and comments from
representative members of the community.  My first reaction was how amazing
the community is in its vibrant culture – there is direct and honest
dialog, celebration of diverse ideas, debate and counterpoints, and an
overall genuine passion to ensure that the WMF sustains itself for another
fifteen years and beyond.   Witnessing firsthand the commitment and energy
of the community is truly inspirational.  Although I would have preferred
the tone surrounding my appointment to be more positive and supportive, I
deeply understand and respect the criticality of free expression, rallying
around convictions, and open disagreement.

Regarding the concerns that have been raised, I have listened closely.
That said, in my opinion, there are some misconceptions and there are
mitigating considerations.  As a general matter, I will say that,
throughout my career, I have been charged with enforcing company policies
as part of my role as a people manager. I have tried to do so thoughtfully
and consistently.  I have done so realizing company policies and practices
evolve over time as circumstances change.

As part of the current narrative, members of the community generated a
running theme within the online conversations related to trust.  Comments
were expressed questioning their trust in the Wikimedia Foundation Board
and asking if the community could accept me as a new Board Member.  Wanting
to understand the challenges ahead, I have spent the last few weeks
speaking with current and former Board members and reaching out to folks in
the community.  I have more conversations in the coming days and appreciate
those who have been generous with their time.  Given the story line that
has been shaped over the last couple weeks and based on the feedback from
my conversations, I know I have a longer journey than most new Board
members to prove to the community and WMF alumni that they can put their
trust in me.  I joined to make a positive difference and be a part of the
important effort to grow the WMF for the next generation of editors,
contributors, and users.
As the community gets to know me, folks will see the way I work is with
thoughtfulness, transparency, diversity, and a focus on doing what is
right.  I have key experiences in both my professional and non-profit
careers which lend a distinctive perspective to the honorable work of a
Trustee – especially the learnings gained over the last decade.  I
passionately believe in the core values of the WMF and trust that the
community and even the most energetic community members come from a place
of good intent.  And as we all become closer and transition to debating the
issues and not the people, the community will see I consistently speak from
the heart, I am passionately committed to the movement with the best
intent, and I am working hard to earn your trust.

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