Adding updates as they come and I get time…
I know there are a lot of questions about what happened at the third meeting of Council on Tuesday. I can’t answer all of those questions and I don’t think it is my place to try. But I do serve a constituency, I’m hearing a lot, and I’m receiving a lot of questions and emails. I can tell you what I know and what is being done (so far).
Here are the events as I saw them:
Update: Before all this went down, there were several reports of aggression towards WOC on the floor of exhibits especially over ARCs. I avoid the book exhibits like the plague because of the crowds, so I didn’t witness this. But those stories have a lot of specifics. I’ve been yelled at over there when I accidentally entered an autograph line. Nope. Not going back.
Council on Sunday and Monday: There was a lot of chattering about mistakes with Robert’s Rules because a) IT IS CONFUSING, b) ALA has a lot of staff in new roles and a new President, and c) people in general need to learn patience. A chapter councilor asked a question that wasn’t quite appropriate in the moment and was dealt with a bit harshly by the person who will later resign (harshly IN MY OPINION). This situation was implied to be related to what happened at forum.
Council forum III: Held on Monday at 4pm. This is when the incident happened. I was not there because I had a separate meeting that I needed to attend. Council forum is supposed to be a place to discuss Council issues free of RONR. In my year and a half on council, I’ve also honestly felt that forum has become a slight free-for-all without skilled facilitators at every one. I just haven’t seen them to be a good use of my time and I am not the only one.
Update: The notes from Forum III do not indicate that the incident happened. It just outlines what was discussed. Councilors received these the next day after we had started the agenda (Tuesday).
Monday evening: All councilors received an email from a councilor saying that he was resigning effective immediately. I suddenly received texts from friends asking me what happened because April tweeted about an incident. I read through the tweets to the best of my ability, but I was still confused about the order of events or if the email was even related.
Council III on Tuesday morning: ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo was obviously upset and delivered a short speech that something had happened and a code of conduct violation was reported. ALA Councilor At-Large Tyler Dzuba suggested that we divide into small groups and discuss issues of racialized aggression and white privilege at conference. This was interpreted as small group discussions about the specifics of the incident. The arguments came from different sides:
- Will we just be perpetuating rumors? That wasn’t really the point.
- Will people of color feel comfortable with a small group if they are the only POC in the group? Fair point.
- Is this an issue of professionalism? Not the point. It was felt as racialized aggression therefore that needed to be addressed.
- Is the issue more complex? Again, not really the point.
- Should we wait until the Code of Conduct investigation is over? Again, not really the point.
The discussion of this went back and forth and was confusing to follow at times because of procedural confusion. Ultimately I voted (I thought) to do the small groups and later to continue the larger group discussion. But I can’t be sure because of the previously mentioned issues with the way RONR was being used. To be honest I looked over at April to see how she was voting because I wanted to know what she wished in that moment but things were moving quickly.
Instead of having discussion, ALA council continued on with its agenda. Was that the best move? I honestly don’t know. Without proper facilitation, I don’t know that small groups would have worked and I didn’t want those groups to treat the POC in them as token. I believe we should have suspended the rules and allowed for a more open conversation of the body, but I again don’t know if that would have worked. Tyler led a sub-group discussion at the end and some suggestions came out of that. You can read those on his listserv post. We are currently having a broader discussion on the listserv. I think we can learn from this experience, but we have to be willing to educate ourselves and to exhibit patience and humility at our failings. This thread is a great point for learning more and maybe all councilors should be required to do some training or group readings/discussion. Ultimately, I believe the fault is with a council that as a body tends to be hostile to outside voices that don’t follow archaic rules, but hey, I just started here.
Yesterday April posted her blog post that described in more detail the situation. That is the only first hand experience that I have heard. ALA needs to respond to her experience and fast. (Update: This is the response from the ALA Executive Board, the governing sub-body of Council). She shouldn’t have been treated that way. And to be honest, April has been one of the few consistently open and friendly people on Council to newbies like myself. That body is cliquish and even at times hostile to newcomers. Ultimately, I believe her. And even if the situation is nuanced, she felt threatened. No one attending a conference should feel threatened ever. End of story.
Update: Open letter asking for ALA to take a few specific actions
Update: President Loida Garcia-Febo’s most recent message: Last Tuesday during our Board meeting I asked Paul Groller from conference services to share information about the reports on violation of code of conduct received. He is going to do this by next week. ALA will continue this practice. We are going to have an online space this February for Councilors to speak about these incidents, share resources. That is a general description and I will have more including date/time in the next days. For annual conference, we will have sessions for all members, and we will have a session at Council I. There will be more information about this– and other efforts I have been working on with my Diversity Advisory Team related to EDI which is part of my efforts for this year, very soon.