Most of this post is repurposed from a Metafilter Front Page Post made by the author of this GF post.
The Organization for Transformative Works, a fan-run organization that hosts significant fandom-culture projects including Archive of Our Own, one of the biggest fanfiction archives around, fandom history wiki FanLore, and peer-reviewed academic/aca-fan journal Transformative Works and Cultures, just had their 2015 Board elections, the first since 2011 – and, like its predecessor, was very contentious before, during, and after the election.
OTW had faced years of complaints about poor management, particularly with finances. This motivated 6 active OTW volunteers who’d never served on the board before – Matty Bowers, Aline Carrão, Atiya Hakeem, Katarina Harju, Alex Tisher, and Daniel Lamson – to run on a campaign of reform, better management, and greater transparency.
The other two nominees, Andrea Horbinski and Nikisha Sanders, were incumbent Board members – until Sanders was suddenly declared ineligible because of her resignation from staff roles at OTW. Sanders refutes the allegations, saying that she did notresign from all roles but was instead dismissed by the Board. Lemson withdrew his nomination soon after (while he was a friend of Sanders, it is unclear how much of his withdrawal was motivated by recent events), and the remaining nominees, minus Horbinski,condemned the Board’s actions, citing a significant conflict of interest.
Hakeem and Bowers won the top two spots in the election, and thus were elected into the two available seats on the Board. In an unexpected public meeting, and with no advance notice, the Board near-unanimously voted to appoint Horbinski to the previously-unavailable third chair of the Board. One member abstained, one was not present, and Horbinski voted on her appointment without declaring conflict of interest. There was significant outcry about this decision, with the OTW Elections committee pointing out that Horbinski had come in dead last in the elections and that this move was breaking precedent, and a vote of no confidence was called.
Very recently, the entire current board has resigned, with only Hakeem and Bowers remaining. They have pledged to maintain operations and publish a budget (one of the membership’s most significant demands) as soon as possible.
While Archive of Our Own has stated that operations will not be affected by current events at its parent organization, fans are understandably worried about the state of their fanwork and are calling on their fellow fans to back up their work. Daily Dot reporter Aja Romano, who had previously served on a committee at OTW, remarks that their caution about instability is not entirely unfounded, drawing parallels with the shutdown of the Ada Initiative soon after the departure of their Executive Director. (Interestingly, Horbinski was also on the Board of Directors for the Ada Initiative).
Fanfic writer M draws a comparison to arts non-profits: [content warning: potential ableist language]
I’ve always glossed it as “arts people are crazy”, or various more specific subclassifications (theatre people are crazy, musicians are crazy, opera people are crazy . . . ), with the full understanding that I am classing myself as an arts person. The really funny thing about arts people is that we can be totally sane in other areas of our lives, but then get crazy again when we move into the arts area. You can literally see people whose day jobs are administration for a major company and who are good at that, who suddenly do spectacularly unbelievably badly behaved things when they get into their arts life. I tend to consider this as coming from the fact that creative spaces make you vulnerable, which can throw you off your normal expectations about how the world works, what interactions are fair or not fair, and even what appropriate interpersonal behaviour is: the experience of singing with someone or acting with someone can be so viscerally intimate that you forget these are coworkers, not roommates, and professional behaviour standards apply. […] And the OTW is an arts org. It’s run for, and by, creatives and those who want to immerse themselves in the fruits of creativity. […]
Which is to say, while the OTW board fuckery is totally unacceptable and needs to be dealt with, nothing as yet is in any way out of my expectations for how fucking batshit, echo-chambery, cliquey, vindictive, flouncy, juvenile and simply ridiculous people running an arts org can get, particularly if they started out or are reinforced by being a clique external to that organisation as well. All their behaviour appears to have totally lost track of reality, but that’s totally within my expectation. (Which is why frankly my take on the whole board flouncing is that it’s a gift. Yes, it’ll make everything chaos and uproar for a while, but no seriously, gift. Do not waste it!)
Meanwhile, Metafilter commenter ErisLordFreedom notes these issues are relatively unsurprising, particularly around the budget:
The budget issue is a longstanding thing, and comes naturally from the growth out of “we have an awesome idea–let’s make an archive and other fun fannish things! Um, give us money for this!” and, as Franzi said at one point, “AO3 is Magic Mike and fandom’s been making it rain money.” At first, there was no budget because there was no plan–there were a bunch of fans who wanted an archive they owned, not subject to LJ’s caving to special interest groups or bogus Hollywood DMCA takedown notices. They had some practice with archive coding, with server software and hardware, and–rare among nonprofits–a legal team.
There was no point in making a budget before they ran into expenses, though; they didn’t want to spend another couple of years running financial plans and learning how nonprofits worked–they had talented people and people willing to throw money at them (with substantial overlap), and so decided to just do it–make an org, start an archive, and so on.
They knew that whatever plan they came up with, wouldn’t scale well, and there’d need to be org-wide adjustments as they grew. They’ve now hit that point. […]
Now they have more money, all their rough initial goals have been met […] and… they have to decide on specific goals with deadlines next. Is hard, switching from, “let us make ALL THE AWESOME!” to “we shall make X features on the archive by Y date.”
I think the lack of transparency comes from a belief that “this is complicated; the random-teenage tumblr fanbase wouldn’t understand, and we don’t want to deal with a bunch of stupid drama accusations every time we spend money on something some fan doesn’t think is necessary.” I think it’s likely there’s a tiny bit of shady dealing with the money–rounding up on expenses and all that, approvals given after the fact, etc.–but not at a level that hurts any of the org’s actual workings.
But it *will* be at that level if it doesn’t change, because they’ve gotten big enough to need an actual administrative infrastructure, instead of “we’ll record the chat meetings and someone will make notes.” And that shift is a big change, and not fun (and even less fun to explain to the public), and I understand why they were dragging their feet–and even why they wanted to keep the people they know and trust involved with the process.
Further links to discussion can be found in this round-up post, and this unofficial blog has served as a useful resource on the elections.