ReaderCon Update

Come next May or June we’ll doubtless start seeing blog posts about how really horrible things happened at the 2012 ReaderCon, that the perp was let off, and nothing was done. That’s because the Internet has the attention span of a mayfly and by the time anything does get done it will have been distracted by a new flame war or a cute kitten. However, things are happening, and I’ll try to keep you up to speed with them.

The important thing to note here is that ReaderCon’s management system is what Kevin calls a “membership” organization rather than a “corporate” one. That means that ultimate authority lies with the convention committee as a whole, not with a board of directors as is the case with SFSFC. The ReaderCon “board” that made the contentious decision was elected by, and is responsible to, the committee. As such there’s some suggestion that it didn’t even have the authority to overrule policy.

But, and this is an important but, if your governing body is a large committee then you can’t get it to make a decision until that committee can meet. It is a bit like having your government run by referendum — nothing would be done until the public had a chance to vote.

So the ReaderCon committee needs to get together and decide what to do. This will take time. And in this blog post this year’s con chair explains why she has been slow to respond to the crisis. Other committee members doubtless have similar constraints.

In the meantime, all of the members of the ReaderCon board have either resigned or indicated that they will offer their resignations at the next committee meeting (see Con-News). I hope that they will all make individual public statements apologizing for the problems they have caused, but given that doing things on behalf of the con is what got them into trouble in the first place I don’t think they should be issuing any official apology. That’s for the committee to do.

As and when they can get the committee together (and this will be hard because I suspect that everyone on it will be insisting that the meeting be held at a time when they can attend) then the convention can take official action, and appoint a new board. Then things can move forward.

Governance isn’t easy. Most of the time fandom will be complaining that decisions are made be secretive cliques, and that there should be more democracy. But democracy is slow, and when a crisis blows up people start demanding that there should be an autocrat who can make decisions (the “right” decisions, obviously) very quickly. You can’t have it both ways.

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4 Responses to ReaderCon Update

  1. Farah Mendlesohn says:

    My expectation of a Board with the duty of carrying out policy, is that they do so. If they think it’s wrong, they can make a recommendation to the Committee for it to consider. I don’t expect a Board in this kind of structure to overturn policy without consultation.

    • Cheryl says:

      That’s what I would expect too.

    • Quite. It wasn’t until Readercon’s corporate governance structure was explained that I understood. It’s upside-down from most non-profit conrunning groups with which I’m familiar, but it’s not totally uncommon.

      The analogy with a group like SFSFC (or MCFI, or RCFI, or SCIFI, or many others) would be if the SFSFC Board of Directors (eleven people) had established an Executive Committee of, say, five people (probably the four officers of the corporation plus one other person) and charged them with carrying out the corporation’s tasks between Board meetings. In that case, the Exec is subservient to the Board and couldn’t make new policy or set aside established ones without consulting with the senior body.

      The longer I’m around, the more I learn. For example, I was surprised when I accepted the division head position with Interaction, to learn that this made me a corporate director of UK2005 Ltd. The division managers of ConJosé were not necessarily on the SFSFC Board of Directors (some were, some were not), so I wasn’t expecting to receive UK government notices about my corporate responsibilities. (I’m not complaining; it looks impressive on the professional resume.)

  2. paradoox says:

    The Readercon ConCom met today. That meeting had been widely publicized.

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