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hpr3316 :: FSF and RMS on election of Richard Stallman

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Richard Stallman have released statements on the matter

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Tags: FSF, RMS.
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This show is a counter point to the show hpr3311 :: Bradley M. Kuhn’s article from 2019 on Richard M. Stallman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia In September 2019, Richard Stallman resigned as president of the FSF and left his “visiting scientist” role at MIT after making controversial comments about Marvin Minsky’s alleged role in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal. Stallman remained head of the GNU Project nevertheless and, in 2021, he returned to the FSF board of directors.

Since the show was submitted both the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and Richard Stallman have released statements on the matter.

I am submitting those statements here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license. The statements contains many links which are available in the shownotes for this show.

Statement of FSF board on election of Richard Stallman

Published on Apr 12, 2021 10:25 AM by Free Software Foundation

The voting members of the Free Software Foundation, which include the board of directors, voted to appoint Richard Stallman to a board seat after several months of thorough discussion and thoughtful deliberation.

We decided to bring RMS back because we missed his wisdom. His historical, legal and technical acumen on free software is unrivaled. He has a deep sensitivity to the ways that technologies can contribute to both the enhancement and the diminution of basic human rights. His global network of connections is invaluable. He remains the most articulate philosopher and an unquestionably dedicated advocate of freedom in computing.

RMS acknowledges that he has made mistakes. He has sincere regrets, especially at how anger toward him personally has negatively impacted the reputation and mission of FSF. While his personal style remains troubling for some, a majority of the board feel his behavior has moderated and believe that his thinking strengthens the work of the FSF in pursuit of its mission.

We take full responsibility for how badly we handled the news of his election to a board seat. We had planned a flow of information that was not executed in a timely manner or delivered in the proper sequence.

FSF staff should have been informed and consulted first. The announcement by RMS at LibrePlanet was a complete surprise to staff, all those who worked so hard to organize a great event, to LibrePlanet speakers and to the exhibitors. We had hoped for a more inclusive and thoughtful process and we apologize that this did not occur.

In his position on the board, RMS has the same responsibilities as other members. He is an unpaid volunteer and subject to the organization’s policies, including prohibitions against conflicts of interest and sexual harassment and those outlining whistleblower processes and fiduciary duties. The responsibilities of the board are described at https://www.fsf.org/about/the-role-of-the-fsfs-board-of-directors.

We believe his views will be critical to the FSF as we advance the mission and confront the challenges that software freedom faces.

In recent weeks, the board has committed to a series of changes related to organizational governance, including plans to adopt a transparent, formal process for identifying appropriate candidates to become new board members, future changes to the organization’s bylaws, and the addition of a staff representative to the board of directors.

Selected by FSF’s unionized staff, senior systems administrator Ian Kelling was elected to a newly created staff seat on the board of directors as a voting member on March 28.

The FSF board will continue to pursue additional ideas and actions designed to improve transparency and accountability.

There is still considerable work to be done. We recognize the need to attract a new generation of activists for software freedom and to grow the movement. We will report our discussions and activities to the community as we move forward.

As we work on these issues, let’s not forget the purpose of our movement, or the great work of our staff and all the good people of the free software community who are dedicated to users’ freedom.


RMS addresses the free software community

Published on Apr 12, 2021 10:24 AM by Richard Stallman

Ever since my teenage years, I felt as if there were a filmy curtain separating me from other people my age. I understood the words of their conversations, but I could not grasp why they said what they did. Much later I realized that I didn’t understand the subtle cues that other people were responding to.

Later in life, I discovered that some people had negative reactions to my behavior, which I did not even know about. Tending to be direct and honest with my thoughts, I sometimes made others uncomfortable or even offended them – especially women. This was not a choice: I didn’t understand the problem enough to know which choices there were.

Sometimes I lost my temper because I didn’t have the social skills to avoid it. Some people could cope with this; others were hurt. I apologize to each of them. Please direct your criticism at me, not at the Free Software Foundation.

Occasionally I learned something about relationships and social skills, so over the years I’ve found ways to get better at these situations. When people help me understand an aspect of what went wrong, and that shows me a way of treating people better, I teach myself to recognize when I should act that way. I keep making this effort, and over time, I improve.

Some have described me as being “tone-deaf,” and that is fair. With my difficulty in understanding social cues, that tends to happen. For instance, I defended Professor Minsky on an M.I.T. mailing list after someone leaped to the conclusion that he was just guilty as Jeffrey Epstein. To my surprise, some thought my message defended Epstein. As I had stated previously, Epstein is a serial rapist, and rapists should be punished. I wish for his victims and those harmed by him to receive justice.

False accusations – real or imaginary, against me or against others – especially anger me. I knew Minsky only distantly, but seeing him unjustly accused made me spring to his defense. I would have done it for anyone. Police brutality makes me angry, but when the cops lie about their victims afterwards, that false accusation is the ultimate outrage for me. I condemn racism and sexism, including their systemic forms, so when people say I don’t, that hurts too.

It was right for me to talk about the injustice to Minsky, but it was tone-deaf that I didn’t acknowledge as context the injustice that Epstein did to women or the pain that caused.

I’ve learned something from this about how to be kind to people who have been hurt. In the future, that will help me be kind to people in other situations, which is what I hope to do.


The role of the FSF’s board of directors

Published on Mar 22, 2021 10:55 PM by Free Software Foundation

The FSF board believes it is its responsibility – to free software community members, donors, movement organizations, and the general public – to be a model of good governance.

Good governance starts with the board of directors, which oversees the organization and is ultimately responsible for its success. The board’s role (and legal obligation) is to oversee the management of the organization and ensure that the organization fulfills its mission.

The board enables good management by overseeing the President and executive director, who in turn manages staff. The board’s oversight role includes decision-making, monitoring and leadership.

In its decision-making capacity, the board:

  • determines the mission and purposes of the FSF;

  • drives the FSF’s long-term strategy and goals;

  • formulates and regularly reviews significant corporate policies;

  • selects and evaluates the President, executive director and other officers, including determining compensation based on relevant data for the paid positions; and

  • creates and maintains effective succession plans for the FSF’s leadership positions.

In its monitoring capacity, the board:

  • evaluates how well the FSF is fulfilling its mission, values, goals, and vision, including evaluating relevant risks;

  • monitors the FSF’s financial performance and use of assets, including approving the annual budget;

  • conducts regular reviews of the FSF’s internal controls and financial reporting;

  • oversees compliance with legal obligations and organizational policies, such as those against conflicts of interest; and

  • discusses its own performance as the leading governing body.

In its leadership capacity, the board:

  • maintains the legal and ethical integrity of the organization;

  • enhances and protects the FSF’s public image;

  • advises and provides guidance to the President, executive director, and other officers, drawing on relevant board member expertise;

  • participates in fundraising to develop resources for a robust and strong organization;

  • recruits and orients new board members; and

  • works with the President and executive director to help communicate the FSF’s direction and activities to the public.

FSF board members are not compensated for their board service, and are not permitted to receive any personal financial benefit from FSF funds or other assets. Board members may be reimbursed for reasonable and appropriate expenses incurred in connection with their board service.

For further information, see the FSF’s bylaws.


Preliminary board statement on FSF governance

Published on Mar 25, 2021 12:00 AM by Free Software Foundation

On Wednesday, the FSF board of directors committed to a series of changes related to organizational governance and the appointment of members to its board of directors:

  • We will adopt a transparent, formal process for identifying candidates and appointing new board members who are wise, capable, and committed to the FSF’s mission. We will establish ways for our supporters to contribute to the discussion.

  • We will require all existing board members to go through this process as soon as possible, in stages, to decide which of them remain on the board.

  • We will add a staff representative to the board of directors. The FSF staff will elect that person.

  • The directors will consult with legal counsel about changes to the organization’s by-laws to implement these changes. We have set ourselves a deadline of thirty days for making these changes.

The board will meet again Thursday, March 25, to consider further decisions.


Update on work to improve governance at the FSF

Published on Mar 25, 2021 11:52 PM by Free Software Foundation

Summary of actions from the board and voting member meetings of Thursday, March 25, 2021:

The voting members unanimously agreed to elect a union staff member, selected by the FSF union staff, to be a full voting member and director. The first such representative will be elected as soon as the staff chooses one. The FSF will adopt by-law changes to implement this as a requirement going forward.

The board of directors is soliciting proposals from qualified consultants to assist in creating a transparent, formal process for identifying candidates and appointing board members who are wise, capable, and committed to the FSF’s mission. The FSF intends to rewrite the by-laws in a way that binds the organization to transparency in its choice of directors. This process will establish ways for FSF associate members and supporters to meaningfully contribute to the discussion. The board is looking for proposals to be received by Friday, April 2, 2021. Please email info@fsf.org with the subject “Director Transparency Engagement” for details.

FSF president Geoffrey Knauth announced, “I commit myself to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership assuring continuity of the FSF’s mission and compliance with fiduciary requirements.”

The board of directors will continue this work at its next meeting, scheduled for Sunday, March 28.

Read yesterday’s preliminary board statement.


Welcoming Ian Kelling to staff seat on FSF’s board of directors

by Free Software Foundation Published on Mar 28, 2021 09:21 PM

by Geoffrey Knauth, FSF president

As the next step to implement the plan outlined in the board’s announcements last Wednesday and Friday to improve governance at the FSF, at today’s meeting we officially elected the staff’s selection for their newly created seats on the board of directors and voting members.

Union staff selected senior systems administrator Ian Kelling to be the first in this role. At the end of today’s board meeting, we officially welcomed Ian to both bodies. The board and voting members look forward to having the participation of the staff via this designated seat in our future deliberations. This is an important step in the FSF’s effort to recognize and support new leadership, to connect that leadership to the community, to improve transparency and accountability, and to build trust. There is still considerable work to be done, and that work will continue.

I have always known that the FSF has good and hard-working staff, but with the success of LibrePlanet 2021, and in talking with staff during the controversy that unfolded immediately afterward, I have no doubt it is essential to involve staff much more in decision-making and strategy discussions. The advice they have offered in the last week alone has been invaluable. I sincerely believe this step in improving FSF governance will lead to better outcomes going forward. In all my interactions with Ian so far, he has demonstrated abundant wisdom and intelligence.

Kat Walsh announced her resignation from the board of directors last week and it became effective at the end of our board meeting on Sunday, March 28, 2021. Kat has been a great help in discussing difficult issues over the years. We appreciate the expert knowledge and service she gave us and offer Kat our best wishes and sincere thanks.

The FSF board will meet again on Monday, March 29, 2021.


Note: This show was submitted anonymously by Ken.


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