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A question WisCon needs to be asking itself.
polar bear 2
Is "Member Advocate" merely a title for someone who runs committees at the behest of committees in order to deal with the disposition of reports and generate new reports... or is it, as the title suggests, a person whose number one job is to be an advocate for WisCon members, the representative and voice and liaison between members who have a safety issue and the powers that be?

Because while I have heard many positive things about the person holding the title, I have not gotten the impression that she has embodied the role of Member Advocate in a way that lives up to the ideal conjured by the words.

She saw no need to keep in touch with the people who produced the complaints during the process of handling them, which feels really jarring given that the position was created in part to end the troubling silence that resulted from lost/mishandled/ignored reports.

She apparently picked and chose which members' concerns would be represented in the write-up that the sub-committee worked with, leading to conspicuous absences and the appearance at least of weighing some members' comfort and safety over others.

And when the uproar and confusion greeted the poorly-worded initial statement, she did nothing to address that.

Now, I'm not writing this because I think the Member Advocate is a terrible person and I'm not even calling this her failure, because I don't know who defined the role exactly, or how it was defined to her. It might be that she did exactly what she was asked to. It almost certainly is the case that she did the job she thought was before her, to the best of her ability.

That's why this is phrased as "a question WisCon needs to be asking itself".

What is the Member Advocate actually there for? Are they really just another committee head? Should it be their job to simply reduce conflicting opinions to a consensus and then write a statement?

Or is their job to be an advocate for the members involved?

I think it should be the latter. There has been some criticism of the sub-committee's attempt to mimic a judiciary approach. This is especially troubling if--as I understand--the Member Advocate serves as the chair of the harassment sub-committees that she convenes. Because that's her in the position of the one moderating the discussion, the one acting as "judge" (to the extend that anyone on a committee of equals is)... as a chair, it might seem natural to serve the interest of perceived impartiality.

And there is nothing wrong with impartiality. There should be impartiality.

But if your title is Advocate, you are not and should not be impartial, because it is your job to represent a party.

An advocate is not neutral.

An advocate is one who has taken someone's side.

One of the most trenchant criticisms of not just the product of the committee but the process that created it was that it did not center the victims of Mr. Frenkel's behavior. This should be astonishing, given that the proceedings were called and ran by the advocate of these people.

I realize that the proceedings are confidential, but as the members of the sub-committee are no doubt also participating in the conversation about how to change or save or revamp the process they participated in, I would ask them to ask themselves:

Was the Member's Advocate conspicuously on the side of Elise, Lauren, and the other people affected by James Frenkel?

Assuming the harassment sub-committee system is not scrapped entirely and a completely different model put in place instead, making sure that this happens--that there is an advocate in the room who is completely centered on the concern of the complainant--would go a long way towards addressing the shortfalls of the current system.

This entry automatically cross-posted from http://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/584942.html. Comment hither or thither. Void where yon.


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