Creating community governance for THATCamp

by Amanda French Categories: Administrative, Collaboration, Crowdsourcing

As the period of Mellon Foundation funding for THATCamp nears its March 31st, 2014 end date, it becomes time to set up a community-driven means of managing the overall THATCamp project. I won’t bother you too much yet with my thoughts about what it has meant to me to be the THATCamp Coordinator over the last four years, but I will just say here that it’s been a pleasure and a privilege.

The task of turning THATCamp over to the community is in one sense utterly simple: it’s already a radically decentralized project, and there are plenty of THATCamps I have literally nothing to do with. In another sense, though, it’s hard — maybe the hardest task I’ve yet faced as THATCamp Coordinator. This is something I want very much to do right. I’ve therefore spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to do it, helped by an initial consultation session last October at THATCamp Leadership. I also read Jono Bacon’s The Art of Community, which gives practical advice from the perspective of the Ubuntu development community, and even got a bit of help from @jonobacon himself.

The result of all that study is the below document, a 3-page draft THATCamp Council Charter that describes a system of elections and governance. And now here comes the begging: please comment on the charter by March 10, 2014. You can use the regular blog comment box here titled “Leave a reply” to let us know if the system herein described looks good to you. (Don’t forget to scroll.) I’m particularly interested in how to ensure a diverse Council: I had thought about instituting quotas of some kind dealing with race, gender, country, rank, and so on, but frankly the math got too complex too quickly because of all the variables that could attach to any of the seven members: I wouldn’t want a Council with six white male American tenured professors and one black female Belgian grad student. We might want slightly more specific guidelines than those I’ve outlined here, though. My ears are open.

  1. I should have mentioned, too, that I consulted the THATCamp founders in writing the above document — many thanks to Jeremy Boggs, Dave Lester, Tom Scheinfeldt, and Dan Cohen (and Patrick Murray-John) for making this “draft” much less drafty than it was originally …

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    Two thoughts:

    I’m not sure about the “polite” part of eligibility expectations for council members — it’s quite a slippery description, and is too easily misused to dismiss others. I’m good with thinking that sometimes needed conversations aren’t what one person or another might call “polite”

    And, the first time around seems like it warrants another special section. Who nominates for the first election, for example? Broadly, the Elections section looks good, but assumes a Council that doesn’t exist for the first election?

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    I suggest …

    a) Under “Structure of the Council”, changing:

    The Council will elect a Chair from among its members at its first meeting.


    The Council will elect a Chair from among its members at its first meeting of the year.

    b) In that same section, changing:

    Dr. Tom Scheinfeldt, Dr. Amanda French, and Dr. Patrick Murray-John will automatically serve on the first Council.


    Dr. Tom Scheinfeldt, Dr. Amanda French, and Dr. Patrick Murray-John will be appointed to one-year terms on the first Council.

    c) In “Meetings of the Council”, changing:

    When the Council meets, it should post an agenda on the open web beforehand. The THATCamp community should easily be able to comment on the agenda, and the Council should add community-suggested items to the meeting agenda.


    When the Council meets, an agenda must be posted on the open web beforehand. (See *Responsibilities of the Council Chair* below.) The THATCamp community should easily be able to comment on the agenda, and the Council should add community-suggested items to the meeting agenda.

    d) In “Eligibility for the Council”, changing:

    Anyone who has helped organize a THATCamp will be eligible for the Council.


    Anyone who has helped organize a THATCamp will be eligible to serve on the Council.

    d) “Elections of the Council”, changing:

    Before the annual election, the Council must nominate a slate of at least 10 potential Council members.


    Before the annual election, the Council must nominate a slate of at least 10 potential Council members. The Council will strive for diversity by geography, rank, field, ethnicity, and gender in its nominees.

    Then remove the third bullet point (“The Council should strive for diversity by geography, rank, field, ethnicity, and gender.”) from the previous section. It’s out of place there.

  4. Perhaps “collegial” is better than “polite” – though even that’s contested.

    I agree that there should be a separate section describing how the initial election will be administered.

    Might also want to include a bullet under responsibilities about “Developing and maintaining governance documents to support the THATCamp community.”

    This is an exciting transition.

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      I’ve used “collegial,” Spencer — it’s already a very THATCamp word. (It’s in the ground rules!) As for governance documents, I had imagined that coming under the head of “processes and policies,” but perhaps that needs more clarification. I’ve put in “processes, policies, and governance documents” — the last two seem to overlap a bit to me, but maybe not, come to think of it. Other suggestions?

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    This sounds great! I am concerned about the level of continuity possible with one-year terms. It might be helpful to think about two-year terms, with half the council rotating off each year, or some other solution to ensure an easy transition each year.

    Right now, the one-year structure with an unlimited number of terms makes it unclear whether the Council would be constantly rotating or more of a fixed body with occasional turnover. Who decides if a member continues for the next year?

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      I agree with Anastasia about considering two-year terms. The logistical maintenance of the council might be unwieldy with such a short term. And I agree that two-year terms would lend a better sense of continuity.

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        The staggered terms is a great idea — Sean Takats had already suggested that, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work for the first council. But I’ll work on it in that section: I wonder if we should mandate that me, Patrick, and Tom should only serve one year, and everyone else will serve two years. Then next year there’ll be an election for the 3 spots vacated by me, Tom, and Patrick, and whoever’s elected then will serve a 2-year term.

  6. On the whole, this document looks really good. Thanks Amanda et al.

    As several commenters have pointed out there needs to be a way to bootstrap the first council. In addition to Amanda, Tom, and Patrick being on the council automatically, how about something like this. Eligibility for the first council should be the same as for later councils, i.e., having organized a THATCamp. Anyone who is nominated or self-nominated to the first council by contacting can stand for election. The top 4 candidates who receive the most votes will be elected.

    One further suggestion: in the elections section, it’s not clear how many votes each person in the THATCamp community gets. Do they get one vote, or do they get as many votes as there are positions to be filled? I suggest that later option.

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    Lincoln — good point on the number of votes question. I lean toward what you suggest — as many votes as there are positions to fill. But, that also raises another twist: if there are three positions, could someone then cast all three votes for a single person? That ends up being both a philosophical an technical question, depending on the voting system.

    Also makes me wonder what to do in the case of ties. That could get sticky — what happens if there are 3 open positions, person A has 50 votes, and persons B, C, D, E, F, G all have 40?

  8. Good point about the number of people you can vote for, Patrick. I’d much prefer if someone could only cast one vote per candidate. That would be more like choosing a wise and virtuous panel than like ramrodding one person on to the council.

    As for ties, a run-off vote would be cumbersome. Could the existing council act to settle any ties? Or would that be too much like the presidential elections of 1876 and 2000?

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      I was just thinking about run-offs and a role of the existing council. Since it seems possible, at least, that run-offs could go on forever, there should probably be a mechanism for the existing council to step in, say, after 2 run-offs, if they do run-offs at all.

      I lean toward having at least one run-off, though, as it would give the community a chance to redistribute their votes among the remaining candidates.

      “Remaining candidates” could go two different ways, though. One way is that it’s only the people, with greatest number of votes and also in a tie. The other way is everyone with the top N number of votes, where N is the number of open positions.
      So, say there are 3 open positions. A has 10 votes, B has 8 votes, C and D both have 5 votes, and E has 2 votes (total of 30 votes cast). In the first way, the runoff would only be between C and D. In the second way, the runoff would be between A, B, C, and D — 10, 8, and 5 being the three highest vote totals for the three open positions.

      First way gets to faster decisions, second way encourages more redistribution of votes from the whole community?

      Is there a political theorist in the house?

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        Yep, one vote per person. I think a runoff will be pretty simple: I’ve set up a test voting system here with the Yop Polls plugin, because as we digital humanists know, technical affordances have philosophical underpinnings, so it’s important to choose a tool that matches one’s principles. I say we try this out and see how it works.

  9. This looks great to me, and it’s exciting to see THATCamps move in this direction! My only suggestion would be a very small rewording toward greater inclusivity:
    Under the Eligibility section, could we finesse “THATCamp Council members should be enthusiastic, experienced, and respected members of the THATCamp community”? In particular, I’m not clear on what “respected” and “experienced” mean (and they might mean different, less-inclusive things to some people). Those words, without further clarification, might dissuade participants who are students, independent scholars, or otherwise outside the traditional academic hierarchy from running for the Council. I take “experienced” to mean “familiar with THATCamps”, but you’d already need to be that to fulfill another Council requirement (having organized a THATCamp). I’m not certain what “respected” means, outside of “not notorious for hating or disrupting THATCamps”. Were there particular kinds of experiences meant to be targeted with these descriptors?
    THATCamps have been so awesome at cutting across professional hierarchies; it would be great if the eligibility section of this could be equally inviting (and it already is even without this change, of course).

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      It’s funny, Amanda: that came from Jono Bacon’s book *The Art of Community,* and when I asked him on Twitter about gender and ethnic diversity, he replied that he thought it was more important to get good Council members. Which sounds good in theory, but after reflection I came to the conclusion that I’ve read one too many persuasive arguments that “merit” is an excuse for all kinds of discrimination to agree fully.

      So, in short, I’m going to take that line out altogether, and I’m glad you brought it up. Dave Lester suggested a very concrete thing where if you stop attending meetings you get thrown off the council, and that along with the “collegial” line should suffice.

      And in re diversity, the poll plugin I’ve installed lets me specify how many options each voter can pick, so I’ve told it to limit choices to 4. I like that method, because it means people have in essence *one* vote for *which* four people they want to be on the first Council this year along with me, Patrick, and Tom. That means that voters won’t be voting for individuals, but for an entire slate of 4 people to be on the Council. I’ll put in some language somewhere reminding people to think about both diversity and merit when they pick those 4 people.

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      Although I’m not sure the document is yet as inviting as it could be. Open to suggestions on that. I honestly don’t think it’ll be a huge drag to be on the Council: I think a lot of it will be answering newbie questions on the forums with maybe an occasional debate. Plus dreaming up and implementing cool new THATCamp-related projects.

      • Awesome! I feel like this official document is already pretty inviting, but maybe the call for council members could repeat some of what you said (looking for people who can answer newbie questions, have cool THATCamp-related ideas) to welcome people who are confident they can do those specific things, but might not think of themselves as “experienced” or “council member material”. (Again, this document is already fantastic—have just had inclusive language on the mind since hearing how effective Speaking in Code’s “You are welcome here” blurb was.)

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    Echoing many comments, I too think this looks great and will serve THATCamp well in the long run. Kudos to Amanda for all her work past, present, and future on this.

    I do, however, have a couple of questions/clarifications/suggestions regarding the meetings of the council.

    1.) Since the THATCamp community will have the right to observe and comment upon the council’s meeting agenda in advance of its meeting, I’d like the charter to spell out how far in advance the meeting time and agenda should be posted. A month? Two weeks? Forty-eight hours?

    2.) Is the required open council meeting mentioned in bullet point number two in addition to the two meetings required of the council spelled out in bullet point number one? If not, I suggest changing “The Council will hold at least one online meeting or conference call each year that is open to the whole THATCamp community” to “At least one of the Council’s annual meetings must be either online or via conference call and be open to the whole THATCamp community.”

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      You guys are too good at close reading — I left that deliberately vague because I wasn’t sure what to decide about the number of meetings. 🙂 Tell you what, let’s say that the required open council meeting is in addition to the other two meetings, for a total of three annual meeting per year (minimum), one of which should be open.

  11. Thanks for all the work done by Amanda and others to put this together.

    I’ll echo the calls for two-year staggered terms (though I’m okay with people staying on for multiple terms if re-elected) and each member of the voting public only being able to vote for each candidate once.

    Run-offs are cumbersome, but they are better than a selection from ties by the council that would be open to critique. Another possibility is Condorcet voting which allows people to rank order their votes so that if their first choice is not competitive, that there second (and third) choices can be identified as well.

    I also want to follow up on this section:
    “If any Council member misses two scheduled Council meetings in a row, that member will lose his or her place on the Council.”

    I don’t have a problem with this, but I’d like to find a way to ensure that people in other time zones don’t get left out. [“Well, I would have made the meeting, but it was at 4 AM for me….”] Maybe the plan is that this can be addressed by having some kind of asynchronous participation or it’s understood that meetings will be scheduled when everyone can be there, but I’d like to hear if others think this is a problem.

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      Got it. I’ve added this language: “The Chair must make every effort to schedule meetings at times and with technologies that enable all members of the Council to be present.” And I split out the part of that bullet point that was about voting mechanisms: new bullet reads “The Chair will have the power to choose and implement voting mechanisms after discussing them with the Council.”

      I was literally writing a sentence that said that if there’s any disagreement about voting mechanisms the Council would have to vote on the voting mechanism, but I came to my senses. Hilarious high point of the day.

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        Wait…is this nonsensical? It seems like voting mechanism for meetings is straightforward. Council members at the meeting raise their hands, no?

        The technology and mechanisms for the voting to elect the entire council is tricky, but if Council meetings define a quorum, that’s not an issue.

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          Well, if it were a conference call, it would have to be voice vote, but the way around the nonsensical hilarity would certainly be to specify that there should be a voice vote. Although I think I myself may be mixing up internal Council votes and elections. Let me look at it again …

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      There doesn’t seem to be a WordPress plugin that will do Condorcet voting. 🙂 Maybe we should have written funds into the grant to build one!

      I kid, but it is actually a problem, though not much of one. If we want to limit voting to “the THATCamp community,” the most obvious thing to do is to tie it to “people who have an account on” Anyone can register for an account on, so it’s a fairly mild requirement, but it’s one I’d like to keep. The YOP Polls plugin I’ve installed doesn’t do ranked votes. But see comment above on the “partial bloc voting” method I’ve proposed:

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    [sorry if this ends up duplicate — an earlier reply seems lost in the intertubes somewhere]

    I was thinking about the tie situation. Maybe a middle ground is to have maximum two rounds of runoffs, and if ties are still there the outgoing council decides?

    Another twist I’m thinking of is that, since multiple seats would be open for each election, would the runoffs be among all the highest votes, or just the people who are in a tie. I’m imagining a situation like this:

    3 spots open, and the top votes come out like this:
    Person A: 10 votes
    Person B: 8 votes
    Person C: 5 votes
    Person D: 5 votes
    Person E: 2 votes

    E is right out, but would the runoff be between A, B, C, and D (the top 3 vote totals for the 3 open positions), or just C and D?

    The first option allows greater chance for people to redistribute their votes around, while the second option seems more likely to quickly resolve the tie.

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      First off, great job Amanda and everyone.
      Commenting on the runoff scenarios, I agree with Lincoln. No sense making A and B run again when they clearly “won” on the first round. Runoffs only for the ties.

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    This is definitely in good shape.

    Voting: There are definitely ways to vote once per candidate while choosing more than one. And run-offs: should only be between the candidates who have tied.

    Nominations: “Council must nominate a slate of at least 10 potential Council members.”
    Would it be possible to accept nominations from the community or self-nominations?

    Terms: I’d also suggest having alternating terms so that not everyone is always running. Perhaps terms could be 2 years long. The first Council might need half of the members to agree to a 1-year term and others for a 2-year term, to create the alternating cycles.

    RRCHNM representative: It might be good to address this in the Charter. Would that person also serve a term of the same time period as others, and then be chosen by an election at RRCHNM concurrent to the general Council election?

    Is there anything that the Council will not do? For example, do you want to state that a Council member cannot be present at every THATCamp.

    Council duties: should each Council member be required to participate in at least one THATCamp during their term?

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      I think your first 3 points are addressed in the recent round of revisions, Sheila: see the new section on the first election and the revised section on elections, which get rid of nominations and just allow anyone who’s eligible to run. I’m not sure how to work the RRCHNM representative, which, drat, I’m realizing I haven’t addressed. Nice catch. Given that the Council has to have someone from RRCHNM on it, it doesn’t make sense to make that person run for election, though if there are 2 or more people from RRCHNM who want to run, they’d have to battle it out.

      I think, then, that there should be one reserved slot on the Council for a RRCHNM person who won’t need to run for popular election. If there’s more than one person at RRCHNM who wants to do it, they should be chosen by a separate election that’s open to the community, I’d say.

      Not sure what you have in mind with “do you want to state that a Council member cannot be present at every THATCamp” — can you clarify? And I can’t think of other things that need to be specified as outside the Council’s domain: I was going to say we could put in something about how the Council won’t interfere with individual THATCamps, but that wouldn’t be true in the case of a THATCamp that was inviting a bunch of speakers or being otherwise unTHATCampy.

      Hmm. I’m not immediately in favor of requiring every Council member to go to a THATCamp during their term, mainly because this is unpaid service and I don’t want to burden people, but on the other hand, it’s hardly an arduous requirement to find one in two years you could go to cheaply, and it’s true that that’d keep you at least the bare minimum in the loop. Don’t know. It’s growing on me. I think you’ll see it in the next draft. 🙂

  14. On our campus, we have two rounds of voting for positions on faculty committees: In the first round, the ballot includes all persons eligible for the position. In the second, the ballot includes x number of top vote-getters (there _must_ be a better word). This is somehow meant to create fairness. I am not an expert on voting processes; the method came to us from a mathematician who studies voting. If it’s useful, that’s great. If not, toss it out.

    A copy-edit: Duplicate “the” in final bullet under structure.

    Great work and excellent thoughts from all.

    P.S. Patrick, don’t we use [] around () in US English?…. whatever….

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      Hmm. In a way, I think we’ve already got a two-tier voting system, what with the nomination phase. I think I’ll leave it as is for now, though I admit we might need to think more about the actual nomination process. I didn’t put in anything about *seconding* nominations, for instance. But I’m writing a whole “first election” section, and I might figure out the processes in that nomination phase while I’m writing that. Thanks, Kathryn! (I silently corrected the duplicate “the” — good eye.)

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    Thank you SO MUCH for these comments, y’all — I am incorporating them into the document; discarded text is struck through and new text is in a cheery purple. Sorry it has taken me so long to join the conversation. More in a bit as I rework the draft …

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    I have also fixed a couple of bugs in the theme, one of which was causing “Reply” comments not to show up. Note to self: be careful with that CSS display:none; thing …

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    There might need to be some clarification about the bullets about posting agenda one week in advance, and members being able to call a vote at any time, and chair being responsible for making every effort to get all members present.

    If someone calls for a vote on an issue, that seems to imply a call for a meeting at which to vote. In that case, the chair has to post the agenda a week in advance, so calling for the vote really means calling for a meeting, and the absolute soonest time a vote could happen is one week after that person calls for the meeting.

    Unless, that is, Council members can vote on things without there being a meeting. I’m wildly not in favor of that, but if that’s what we’re looking at it needs to be spelled out, with clear rules what the difference is, circumstances where non-meeting votes are or are not appropriate, notification times and mechanisms for non-meeting voting, and probably more. (Did I mention I’m not in favor of that option?)

    (This also hits of the voting mechanism for the Council comment above

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    I’m still processing and incorporating your comments, y’all — keep em coming. And try out the test election widget over there on the left at the top of the sidebar. So far we’re looking at a heck of a runoff election:

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    A few other things:

    * Forgot who mentioned this, but does the Council nominate replacements, or can nominations come from anyone in the THATCamp community? I prefer coming from anyone, as the 7 members could easily miss emerging THATCamp leadership, given how many THATCamps are going on. In that case, would it be the responsibility of the chair, or of the outgoing Council as a whole, to do things like confirm eligibility and that they accept the nomination?

    * I’m hesitant about a Council member being automatically removed if they miss 2 consecutive scheduled meetings. Say meeting 1 takes place, and member A cannot attend. Then, would the chair have a special responsibility to make sure the next meeting is scheduled at a time that member A can attend, even at the expense of greater meeting attendance? Shenanigans potential for a Chair to boot someone off by scheduling two meetings when one person can’t attend. Not collegial, and such a chair should certainly be booted subsequently, but still, the mechanisms seem to allow for that. Speaking of which, whatever the removal mechanism(s) might be…..

    * What to do with midterm vacant seats (either by booting or by retirement, whatever)? I’d say mostly like regular elections, but seat must be filled within 1 month of the seat becoming vacant. If it’s the chair who leaves/gets booted, same thing, but upon election within 1 week the Council meets to choose its new chair

    * Is there something about how soon after election the Council has its first meeting? I’d say 1 week, as it’s the shortest notice for a meeting, though that could make scheduling an issue as, really everyone should be at the first meeting. Outgoing chair would schedule that.

    * Hopefully last thing — if the Chair casts a tie-breaking vote, does the Chair usually vote? that is, does the chair only vote in the event of a tie, or does the chair vote on everything, but their vote counts double when there is a tie?

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      Patrick asks:

      if the Chair casts a tie-breaking vote, does the Chair usually vote? that is, does the chair only vote in the event of a tie, or does the chair vote on everything, but their vote counts double when there is a tie?

      In Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair does not vote twice. The chair, as a member of the group, has a right to vote, but if s/he chooses not to vote, then s/he can break the tie. It might be helpful to consult Robert’s Rules on various questions in formulating this document, and you might even add a clause saying something like “For all matters not addressed herein, follow the most recently published edition of Robert’s Rules of Order”.

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        Yeah, I’ve been thinking about Robert’s Rules, too, and that it might offer ideas and guidance. It does, after all, think through many of the same and similar logistical issues. But I’m not sure it should be the fallback position. As a fallback, it would introduce a lot of complexity that I don’t think we’ll need or want — “Question of Privilege!” “Chair recognizes Tom. What is your question of privilege?” “My internet connection sucks!” is the kind of thing that RR would handle, but defaulting to RR to handle that seems more heavy-weight than we need or want.

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          I think we need to recognize that this document is just something we fall back to in cases of dispute. In general, the Council will just go about its business without any reference to actual parliamentary procedure, instead acting on consensus, but it gives a framework for any rare situation where consensus breaks down. If the framework incorporates Robert’s rules, it will handle more situations.

          But, yes, we then become hypocritical for claiming to use it and yet rarely bothering to do so.

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            That’s a level of hypocriticality (that’s a word now) that I can get behind, actually! I’ve never been on a committee or board or whatever that asserted following RR, but didn’t. And I think that’s healthy, in general.

            I worry that if that’s built in, though, that the Council _must_ abide by it. Much agreed that a framework for when consensus breaks down is a wise move. For THATCamp, though, I don’t think RR is the right framework. I’d prefer something without so many layers and subtleties.

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            I think that’s a great point, Kevin, and there’s no reason we can’t write it that way into the Charter. I’m thinking now that I could take out a lot of the stuff about voting, and do this kind of hierarchy:

            * rough consensus
            * if rough consensus breaks down, a vote (and yes, the Chair gets to vote)
            * if the vote is tied, the Chair makes the decision

            I guess that the last bullet point amounts to the Chair voting twice, but I don’t have any particular problem with that. I especially like this language, Kevin: “In general, the Council will just go about its business without any reference to actual parliamentary procedure, instead acting on consensus, but it gives a framework for any rare situation where consensus breaks down.”

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      On these points, Patrick:

      * See suggestion that we get rid of nominations below: — I put that in the document, too.

      * There is language now (because of Jeff’s suggestion) that the Chair has to schedule meetings when people can attend, but I can change the language to say that the person who misses meetings *can* be removed, rather than *will* be. Dave’s example was in fact about a group in which if you miss meetings you lose your voting privileges for a period, but that seemed a bit complicated for a group that I don’t think will meet or vote that often.

      * Great point. Will adopt basically exactly as you suggest.

      * I’d rather leave the timing of this meeting up to the Chair (I’m now Chair pro tem, ICYMI), though sure, common sense dictates that the first meeting should be soon after the election. I’m already worried that the document is getting too long and too precise: I’d rather leave most stuff undefined in the beginning and create rules only as necessary. I don’t want to create precise rules that then get ignored for good reason: better not to have the rules at all and trust the people. I trust the people.

      * Yep, the Chair votes — see my comment below:

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    I wonder if we might not want to get rid of the whole notion of nominees and just allow anyone who has organized a THATCamp to run for the Council. That might simplify things enormously. They could just write me (later, the Chair) and say, “I’ll run,” and then run in the election. And if people DO want to nominate other people as opposed to self-nominating, they can do the same thing, and then the Chair would just confirm with the nominated person that they’ll run before putting them on the ballot. And we can leave in the current “Other” write-in slot on the ballot, but emphasize that only eligible people (i.e., THATCamp organizers) can serve on the Council, even if they win a write-in campaign. (And of course they’d have to agree.)

    Of course, we could wind up with a lot of split votes and a lot of ties if we have a large slate of 20 people or so, but we could do a runoff (or two!) if that happens.

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    Yay! Changes look very happy!

    On some of the new stuff:

    In the “First Council” section,the doc currently says that the election of March 2015 will “replace Drs French, Scheinfeldt, and Murray-John”. That sounds like we’d be automatically off the council, which isn’t what I _think_ the intent is. Maybe nothing need be said, since it’s clear that our terms are 1 year?

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    On this bit about the chair:

    If the Chair has rotated off the Council, the Council must appoint a new Chair at its first meeting following the election. The outgoing Chair should coordinate the date and place for this meeting as her/his last act as Chair.

    This makes it sound a little like chair duties continue automatically, unless chair explicitly leaves the Council or the chairhood (“chairhood” is a word now). I imagine that, no matter what, the first thing a new council does is choose their new chair.

    The part about outgoing chair coordinating the first meeting sounds good.

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    Regarding ties (no, this isn’t about a dress code):

    Currently the language is:

    In the event of a tie for the last open seat, a runoff election will be held between the tied candidates.

    I love the partial bloc approach for the election, but the possible scenarios for runoff get weird if they are also partial-bloc. And also if they aren’t. It looks possible, for example, for there to be 1 clear winner for the 4 seats open in the first election, and any number of people tied for 3 remaining seats (or 2 clear winners and any number for the remaining 2), so the “last open seat” isn’t the only possibility? I’d imagine that we’ll have enough voters to make that possibility vanishingly small, but it’s a potential bug.

    In that case, continuing partial bloc voting for runoff might work, but still runs the possibility, albeit slim, of endless inconclusive runoffs — no white smoke for you! So we still need a cutoff to the runoffs.

    And the “last open seat” case doesn’t work in partial bloc, since everyone gets N-1 votes for the N=1 open seat. So this is the easy case — just need to specify that in this case it’s not partial bloc anymore, it majority wins, again with some mechanism for cutting off the runoffs.

    The possible permutations get weird for 4 open seats. A couple examples, assuming only the minimum 7 candidates.

    * 1 clear winner. 6 other people all have the same number of votes
    * 2 top winners. 5 other people with equal votes
    * 2 top winners, 2 “second place” winners with equal votes, 3 others with clear winners for the “remaining” 2 seats

    Again, not likely situations, but possible.

    So, starting with partial bloc, we’re looking at what to do with edge cases, what edge cases we need to explicitly anticipate, and when to say it punts out to the outgoing council to sort out the hanging chads.

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      Sorry to reply to myself, but this is me an hour later, so different.

      This is a little weird, but maybe something along these lines….

      * If the election does not unambiguously show clear winners for the N (3 or 4) open seats, a single runoff election will be held.

      * The runoff election will be single non-transferable vote — each user in THATCamp casts one vote for their choice.

      * The runoff will be held among the top vote-getters for the N open seats. [For 4 open seats, take the top 4 vote totals, and any candidate with vote counts in those top 4 vote totals is in the runoff]

      * If the runoff still leaves ambiguity, outgoing council decides.

      This is weird in that it proposes, for example, that there could be one clear winner in the 1st election, but any number of ties for other spots, but that one clear winner would still be in the runoff. The flip-side is that it takes care of the situation of a tie for clear winner in the 1st election. They’d both be in the runoff. So. Yeah. Possibly weird.

      Goals I’m aiming for with this are:
      * Keep the goal of partial block voting that I see — bringing to the surface voices that might otherwise be drowned out
      * Have a fallback mechanism that pushes toward stronger differentiation of choice from THATCampers in the second round
      * Let THATCamp community rethink and redistribute votes after a winnowing when it is needed
      * Limit how long ambiguous situations could drag on

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    Hi all: I’m working on a 3rd draft today and will post by close of business (East Coast). To answer the most important question first, Admiral Ackbar is 3rd, so he has definitely made the runoff slate, or the Council itself, depending on how this new draft shakes out. No love for Han Solo, sadly:

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    Okay! I think I’ve got a viable 3rd draft that addresses especially some thorny procedural issues around elections and around internal votes of the Council, as well as resolving what to do with the RRCHNM representative seat, which is really an appointed position. Take a look.

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    Yay! Many thanks!

    With the RRCHNM representative being appointed by the Center, I’m not sure that any additional elections are needed in case someone else from the Center want to be on the Council. The appointed person would be the official representative of the Center, and then anyone else who happens to be from the Center would be just another candidate.

    For example, I imagine that the appointee would have to be full-time employee. But if one of the grad students wants to stand alongside everyone else, I think that’d be great.

    This assumes that RRCHNM would have to figure out its official representative internally, which makes sense as an appointment. It also assumes that RRCHNM would declare the appointment before the elections, which I also think is appropriate.

    For recording meetings, is the intent for there to be two things at the Chair’s discretion: whether to record, and whether to post the recording? Or, is the idea that any recording is expected to be posted? There’s info about what the Chair will do specified both under Responsibilities of the Chair and under Meetings of the Council. They seem to be pretty much the same, but not quite sure, about the recordings and about the mechanism/place for the meetings.

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      I feel pretty strongly that there should be only one person from the Center on the Council: having two people from the Center on a 7-person Council strikes me as way too many, especially since we’re talking about a 7000+ international community here. (Apart from the first transitional year, of course, though Tom and I aren’t or won’t be Center employees any more.) Granted, there are edge cases, like Jeff McClurken, who is an unpaid “affiliate” of the Center and is therefore on the Center’s Staff page, but the Charter already says that the RRCHNM rep should be an “employee” of the Center, and Jeff isn’t. (Please run, Jeff!) Other edge cases include grad students like Jeri Wieringa, who helped organize THATCamp AAR — Jeri is awesome, and I’d work with her on anything, but on the principle of perspectival diversity, I’d maintain that she should probably be ineligible to run for election. I’d say that she’s a part-time employee (that term was a hard-won one for grad students when I was in grad school). She could of course lobby internally for the RRCHNM rep position when it’s open. And I really hope that we get some current grad students from other places on the Council.

      As for recording meetings, yes, I meant to leave all decisions about recording meetings and posting recordings up to the Chair. Will try to clarify, and maybe to move all the stuff from Meetings of the Council to Responsibilities of the Chair.

      • From reading above, it might make sense to formalize that definition? RRCHNM does tend to have a number of ‘associated by loose ties’ folks who this issue might apply to.

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          You bet. I’m going to put in “full-time or part-time employee of RRCHNM, including graduate research assistants, but not unpaid affiliates or part-time contractors.” Let me know if that doesn’t cover it. Or, of course, if you disagree about the principle of not too many people from CHNM.

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          Though maybe money should be the deciding factor, so that if you get any money at all from RRCHNM, you can only be the rep and not run for election. Which would exclude you, Aram. It’s tough sticking to principle. Definitely open to discussion on this, but I’ll put it in the document that way for now.

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            New sentences: “Full-time, part-time, and contract employees of RRCHNM, including graduate research assistants, are only eligible to serve as the RRCHNM representative and may not run for other Council seats. Unpaid affiliates of the RRCHNM may run for other Council seats.”

          • Yeah, it’s a difficult situation, especially because if we make money the deciding factor than there’s a chance of some weird situations. Especially if we assume that the type of folks most likely to serve on a council are also those most likely to have an interest in working at/with RRCHNM (or whom RRCHNM would be most interested in hiring). That as the rule brings up the question of: what happens if their status changes mid-term? Should they then step down? Is it left to the individual?

            That said, I think that you’re right in thinking money should probably be the deciding factor. I think it’s a-ok to exclude me in this situation, no worries. 🙂

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      I have in fact added this sentence to the Charter: “Only one employee of RRCHNM is eligible to serve on the Council at any one time.” Let the comment wars begin! Feel free to weigh in, Internet.

      • I don’t have any problem with there being more than one person from RRCHNM on the council, provided that the first person is appointed and the second person is elected. The ballot can decide whether it’s a good idea to have a second RRCHNM person or not.

        And I second the idea that it’s not necessary to spell out the process by which RRCHNM appoints their representative; that should be an internal matter.

  27. So a few things occur to me as possibly being of either import or clarity (or not being required in the document at all):

    1. More specific on Patrick’s comments about recording above: Do we care about the format and availability of meeting notes/minutes? Is just audio recording fine? If we don’t include some sort of written summary does that run afoul of accessibility issues? Are there rules about the ‘open/closed’ nature of such meetings? Specifically, if the chair decides not to record a meeting are members still free to publicly distribute their own notes from that meeting? Is there a mechanism to formally go off the record? Should there be one allowed?

    2. In a vote, do we care about anonymity or non-anonymity? If we do, we might want to require one or the other. If we don’t, we may want to note that both are allowed.

    3. Do we care about the voting system? I saw an earlier comment about voice votes and hand votes, would we want a web-based solution for consistency? I notice that “The Chair will have the power to choose and implement voting mechanisms after discussing them with the Council.” has been crossed out as an option, is it just not a concern?

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      Yay, thanks for taking a look, Aram.

      1. & 2. Ooh, accessibility issues, that’s a good point. I wonder if the best thing to do might be to say that there should be notes posted from every meeting, and then audio or video recordings are up to the discretion of the Chair. I had assumed as a matter of course that someone would report the outcome of the meeting, but I should state it. As for the open/closed nature of meetings, hmm. I’d say we should do it the THATCamp way, and say that meetings are public by default: “PUBLIC on the open web (sessions can be blogged, twittered, photographed, recorded, and posted)” but that the Chair can specify that a meeting be entirely private. And in that case it’s entirely private except for the outcome of any vote, including how individual Council members voted. What do you think? Maybe we should just make all three meetings public … I’ve added this language under Meetings.

      3. When I wrote that I was thinking about the voting system used in elections, not in internal Council votes. The specific WordPress plugin to use for voting (at least initially) is now specified in the Charter, so I took the language about the Chair deciding out. I don’t think we need to specify how Council members vote on community issues — it’ll basically be calling for the Ayes and Nays. If there’s some super-sensitive vote that comes up where Council members want to vote so anonymously that *other* Council members don’t even know how they voted, well, I’d say the Council should hash that out among themselves if it happens.

      Thanks, Aram!

      • Heh, yeah, this sort of pulls on my journalist’s hat. Yeah, I’d say that meetings should be public by default. It may be difficult to do so in-person, but at least leave a line open. If we want to allow closed meetings (or the ability to close a meeting), which in my mind may be a necessary evil, then the rules of ‘closing’ a meeting and how that’s defined should probably be formalized.

        Also, perhaps double-checked in regard to the issue of legal requirements for open records in organizations that receive public funds? I’d say that it is highly unlikely that anyone would FOIA request a THATCamp meeting, but it never hurts to be prepared. Weirder things have happened.

        3. That makes sense to me!

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          Not sure how further to formalize the rules of closing a meeting — current language is “The Chair will have the power to convene a private meeting whose internal debates are not shared with the THATCamp community, but private meetings must still have a public agenda and public notes that report the outcome of any vote taken, though not the votes of individual Council members.” Suggestions?

          I’ll add in a bit about saving records, too, for the inevitable FOIA request. 🙂

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          GEEK ALERT: “Agendas and notes from all meetings, including private meetings, will be retained according to the Commonwealth of Virginia retention schedule for ‘Agendas, Schedules, and Informational Documentation for Meetings’ (series 10035).” Which as of now is 3 years, then “non-confidential destruction,” which I guess means we have to tell people when we shred them.

          • Nifty! That sounds about right. Document retention laws are strange and obscure.

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        Might be missing something, or might be obscured in the threading of comments and replies, but I sense some muddiness in the wording. One of the language additions in the comments seems to add that contract work excludes people, but here it sounds like the opposite. The money exchanging hands criterion sounds good, but then there’s GMU, not RRCHNM is paying, but RRCHNM is employing by any other measure (management, oversight, approving timesheets, etc).

        The edges are getting edgy! There’s also the flip-side I don’t think we’ve considered much, of a person with no prior affiliation with RRCHNM coming onto the council.

        This would also imply that, if during a member’s two year term — and the member is not affiliated with the Center in any way– a job opening comes up at RRCHNM, then if that member successfully applies for the job, that person is automatically removed from the Council. Generally speaking in the world, a new job requiring someone to step off of a board makes sense when there’s a conflict of interest. But I don’t see a conflict of interest in this hypothetical situation. I’d hate to see someone who has been showing good leadership on the Council have to be removed for that being recognized by a successful application to a job at RRCHNM.

        Overall, I agree that in most cases too many people connected to RRCHNM on the Council isn’t what it should strive for — definitely that’s part of the striving for diversity that we’re going for. But, I see too many possibilities where the barring of more than one person, somehow monetarily or otherwise connected to the center, as risking us miss out.

        And I don’t quite buy the idea that two people from the center necessarily reduces perspectival diversity. Runs that risk, yes, but it’s possible that people might think that two people who are both at the center provide different perspectives.

        So, I’d say let anyone stand, and let the voting process sort out whether it’s a good idea or not.

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      Regarding mid-term status change of RRCHNM employees: oy. You’ve reminded me that the Charter needs to deal with that issue in general, like what happens when a member punks out mid-term. Will write myself a note to take it up tomorrow …

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    There’s also the bit about putting in the charter how RRCHNM will choose the RRCHNM appointment, regardless of the question of multiple people connected to the Center on the Council.

    Seems like the THATCamp charter shouldn’t tell the separate RRCHNM how to do it’s thing? Maybe just

    RRCHNM will appoint its representative, through a process that RRCHNM deems fit

    or somesuch thing. That is, if the Director wants to decide, or if Director wants to raise the question at a meeting of some sort, or if it’s a free-for-all, or whatever — I don’t think the THATCamp charter can define any process for the RRCHNM representative appointment. It just has to have an agreement that RRCHNM will find a representative somehow, to their taste.

  29. What will the procedure be for amending this document? The council is tasked with “revising … governance documents”: does that mean they will be able to revise the document by a majority vote?

    • Good point Lincoln. The question would be how difficult should it be? Or do we want to leave the Council room to make changes to what is still just a document and not an operational plan? I would think we might want the community to weigh in at some point as well. Here are a couple of proposals:
      — 5/7 of the board must approve, then 2/3 of the voting THATCamp userbase must approve.
      — 4/7 of the board must approve, then a majority of the voting THATCamp userbase must approve.

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        Interesting process developing here. Any proposed changes would certainly have to be on the posted agenda and would receive feedback from the community before the Council votes. That could play out as a more concise version of what we’re doing here, where some language is proposed and goes through a couple drafts based on feedback before the meeting, with the language to be debated finalized at least a day before the meeting. I’d imagine that smallish changes to whatever language should also be possible during the meeting itself.

        So, this would be 1) community discussion, 2) council finalize language and vote, 3) community ratifies? In that sequence, I think simple majorities from both council and community would be sufficient.

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          The other way around would also be to say that the charter is just like any other document the Council might produce — changes are open for discussion, and the Council just votes on the changes.

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      Hmm. I have to say that I think the existing paragraph in “Structure of the Council” addresses this issue: it reads, “Any THATCamp Council member or community member can propose amendments to the Charter or the dissolution of the THATCamp Council at any time. Such a proposal must be placed on an openly available agenda that is submitted to the THATCamp community for comment. (See Meetings of the Council below.) A majority vote of a quorate Council is required in order to amend the Charter or dissolve the Council.” A quorate Council is elsewhere defined as 5 members, so admittedly that could be 3 votes, so I think I’ll add Jeff’s suggestion and stipulate that 5 votes are necessary to amend the Charter.

      But I’d say that the general process of the community proposing amendments and the Council voting on it is okay — “See Meetings of the Council” is meant to imply that proposed amendments have to be on an open agenda and so on, like any agenda, but I’ve specified that it needs to be at least a week before a meeting. I’m not keen on “ratification by the community,” not because I don’t trust the community, but because I don’t want to wear people out by asking for their opinion too often. Given that there are yearly elections (and that the Council is going to be a good group of trustworthy people), I think that should prevent the worst of any abuse. Here’s the language:

      Any THATCamp Council member or community member can propose amendments to the Charter or the dissolution of the THATCamp Council at any time. Such a proposal must be placed on an openly available agenda that is submitted to the THATCamp community for comment at least one week before a Council meeting. (See Meetings of the Council below.) Five Council member votes are required in order to amend the Charter or dissolve the Council.

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    I do have more changes to make today, and I think I’ll take out the single-person requirement for someone from RRCHNM … more in a bit. Lincoln’s point is a good one, that as long as the second person from RRCHNM is elected, it shouldn’t matter.

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    Summary of most recent changes:

    1) I took out the limit on RRCHNM employees. Both Lincoln and Patrick were convincing.
    2) I added in a provision for mid-term (simple plurality) elections to fill vacant seats.
    3) I changed a bit but not much of the last paragraph in “Structure of the Council” so that the process of amending the Charter itself is a bit more precise.

    Nearing the end …

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    Indeed, hopefully nearing the end! Two more teeny things, and possibly a bigger one

    Under Elections, not sure second point needs more than “Elections will be held in March for the 3 seats becoming open” — rest sounds like explanatory notes.

    Also under Elections, one of the points includes mention of RRCHNM representative leaving and holding a vote for the replacement. Seems like RRCHNM must appoint the replacements? And, maybe use “RRCHNM appointee” instead of “RRCHNM representative”?

    Aaaand the possibly bigger one. Hopefully I just missed it and/or it’s been covered somehow that I’ve forgotten about. Do we have something about the Chair 1) wanting to not be chair anymore, but still be on Council, or 2) leaving Council altogether, or 3) losing the confidence of the council to be Chair? We have material about Chair rotating off regularly, but I’m not sure if that covers these special cases.

    1 and 2 might be easiest. For 1), Chair has to schedule a meeting for deciding new Chair (and any other business that has come up). For 2) that’d just follow the replacement procedure already there (mostly — more below*). These might follow from what’s there for usual elections, and just need a little language in the points about Chair rotating off to make it explicit.

    3 is weird, since in that case it could be that the Council can’t count on the Chair to do things like responsibly call meetings to do business. Very unlikely case, to be sure, but some mechanism seems in order.

    Maybe something like this in a Removal of the Chair section or bullet point: If all members of the Council except the Chair agree, they may call a special meeting for the sole purpose of voting to remove or replace the chair. The Chair shall be removed if 5 votes in favor of removing the Chair are cast

    That still leaves things a bit anarchic, since nothing directs who would chair such a meeting, post the agenda, etc. But I think it wouldn’t be helpful to try to designate a chain of succession. Seems an extreme enough case, though, that some level of anarchy would already have set in, so it would call for extreme measures. Hopefully no conch shells would be involved. (Why yes, yes I have been waiting through this whole discussion for a place to make a “Lord of the Flies” reference.)

    Don’t know if 5 votes sets the bar too high or too low for removal

    * On the regular replacement procedure, the Chair should probably be required to call an open meeting of the Council no more than two weeks after the election for the mid-term vacancy is held, to introduce the new member to the community and the other Council members. If it’s the Chair who is being replaced, at that meeting they can choose their new Chair.

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      Great points — I think I’ve incorporated most of them into the final draft, as follows:

      1) Specified 5 votes in favor to amend the Charter
      2) I kept the explanatory text in the bullet point under Elections; it’s important for other bits of the Charter, especially why there’s partial bloc voting, and it’s the main place it’s stated that the terms are staggered.
      3) I also kept the term “RRCHNM representative,” since even though “appointee” is accurate, the term “representative” makes it more clear that the reason for the position in the first place is to represent RRCHNM, which is a uniquely interested party. The term “appointed” also appears several times, so it’s clear that the rep is appointed.
      4) Great catch, though, on the nonsensicality of mid-term elections for a departing RRCHNM rep. I fixed that in a couple of places where it appeared. If an RRCHNM rep leaves mid-term, RRCHNM will just appoint another one.
      5) On the issue of a Chair resigning the Chair position or the Council, I modified the existing language under Elections that dealt with the Chair rotating off the Council to deal with that. Two weeks struck me as too short a time, so I specified that the meeting has to take place within a month.
      6) To deal with the problem of Darth Vader as Chair, I added this point under Structure of the Council: “If the Chair refuses to convene a meeting in a timely manner, any member of the Council may convene a meeting.” I actually think that the rest of the existing language about agendas and quorate Councils and votes is *probably* good enough to deal with the issue of removing the Chair, but it might be a good idea to put that issue on the agenda for the first meeting. Which will likely happen in April.

      And now: to elect a Council!

RCHN Mellon Mellon