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SIPB: Remember We're Working Together

Monday's SIPB meeting was very emotional. I wasn't there; this was partially on purpose. A friend of mine of 13 years was the subject of a serious complaint. I would have had nothing to add to the discussion other than sympathy for all involved: I realize this is emotionally rough for my friend, I appreciate people's concern that perhaps this was not the right way to handle the issue, but I also appreciate the viewpoint of those making the complaint. I would not have been given an opportunity to vote; that's good as I don't know how I would have voted had I been able.

The details don't matter. In my opinion what matters is working with all the people involved, respecting their viewpoint and trying to find the best solution that is possible. I've heard a lot of comments of the form "SIPB never learns," or "Ah, now we see that institutional memory is short," or "How could the they be that stupid?" Many of these comments have been from people who have not been involved recently and don't know what is going on. They are missing months of context, and making quick judgments about people holding opposing viewpoints without understanding what tradeoffs they have considered or where they are coming from.

I've mostly only heard from the people who think the complaint was inappropriate. However I think that's just because of who I've been talking to. I suspect the frustration and lack of time spent understanding the other side goes both ways.

I witnessed some of the discussions the people who were in favor of the complaint had. You may disagree with them, but they did put a lot of thought into their position and they did consider many of the arguments brought up by people who disagreed with them. I also realize that those who believe this was the wrong course of action have a long history of thinking about these issues, have felt the pain of doing things wrong, and have first hand experience with the pain this sort of discussion causes.

Please, folks. Let's stop calling each other stupid and stop assuming people are unable to learn. Let's either let the issue drop or better yet work together and remember that we all need to respect and understand each other.


About the only data I have from the last N months on this subject comes from reading the unedited version of the minutes of this week's minutes, which certainly makes me kind of uninformed.

I'm not sure if taking time is really sufficient to understand the other side. I think the two sides probably have very different world views, and the people making the complaint may well be phrasing their complaint in ways that would get the message across to themselves if they were to problem, but that may not really be making any sense to the person they are complaining about. The disagreement about whether the scope of the proposed changes was ever-growing certainly demonstrates that there is a failure at effective communication about what the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it. Someone who has some understanding of both sides acting as a mediator might help. Then again, maybe the SIPB chair was supposed to be that mediator; I don't even know offhand who the SIPB chair is right now to know how well they would handle that.

And while I hope that good communication could fix the problems, I feel like I don't know enough to judge whether it really could.
I think you are sufficiently out of the loop that you misidentified what sides I was talking about. I actually see the meta problem as far more important than the real problem in this instance. Some people believe that the complaint was inappropriate; others do not. You gave evidence that the person about whom the complaint was filed didn't understand why people were all that upset. That's completely off in another direction.

I do think that the advice I gave is applicable to that problem as well. However I think the active membership has been working with the person involved over the last few months and trying to work together is not the problem there. Like you, I'm not sure that communication can fix that issue. But that issue is about one person; the meta problem is about the entire organization.

I fully realize that one individual is important. I fully realize that one of the meta issues is how do you treat each individual and whether adequate respect for the individuals who make up the organization is present.
I've had a lot of opportunities to notice that twentysomethings often have a view of how the world "should" work, and they tend to be fairly inflexible in applying their viewpoint. Some of the perspective that comes with age is recognizing the importance of the human side, and when and how much to make allowances for how the world "does" work, as opposed to how it "should".

Given that SIPB is (and for ovious reasons needs to be) run by the twentysomethings who are current students, the clash between the idealized world and the actual world is an understandably recurring theme.

September 2019

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