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Working through the concerns of our community

March 31st, 2017

Drupal Association This is a joint statement from project lead Dries Buytaert and Megan Sanicki, Drupal Association Executive Director.

Over the last week, the Drupal community has been in a debate over the various decisions made by us in relation to long-time Drupal developer Larry Garfield. As with any such decisions, and especially due to the circumstances of this one, there has been controversy, misinformation and rumors, as well as healthy conversation and debate. Many people feel hurt, worried, and confused. The fact that this matter became very public and divisive greatly saddens all of us involved, especially as we can see the pain it has caused many.

First off, we want to apologize for not responding sooner. We had to take a pause to process the community’s reaction.  We also wanted to take the time to talk to community members to make sure all of the concerns were heard and understood. This was further complicated by the fact that we don't have a playbook for how to respond in unusual situations like this. We also want to acknowledge that our communication has not been as clear as it should be on this matter, and we are sorry for the added confusion.

We want to thank all of the community members who stepped in to help. Many spent days helping other community members by listening, hosting discussions to foster healthy, respectful conversations, and more. You have helped many people and your caring acts reminded us once again why we love to serve the community and why it is so special.

Over the last week, we talked to many people and read hundreds of posts in various channels. These are some of the things that we heard:

  • People are afraid that they will be asked to leave the community because of their beliefs or sexual lifestyles.

  • There are concerns about Drupal leadership playing "thought police" on what are and are not acceptable viewpoints to hold.

  • People want to hear more about the timeline, information gathered, and how decisions were made.

  • People don't understand why there weren’t any ramifications for those who participated in gathering information about Larry's private life.

  • People believe Dries has too much authority.

  • People believe that a decision this complex should not be made by a single individual.

And we heard much more.

We know this has been difficult for all involved. There is no quick solution to the current situation; it will take time to heal, but we want to make a start today by providing better insight into our decision-making process, answering questions with the FAQ found below, and by placing a call for improvements in our governance, conflict-resolution processes, and communication.  

Addressing community questions and concerns

One of the main concerns that has been voiced is that a long-standing member of the Drupal community was removed, based solely on his beliefs being outside the "norm". We feel this is not representative of the situation.

We want to strongly emphasize that Drupal is an open-minded and inclusive community, and we welcome people of all backgrounds. Our community’s diversity is something to cherish and celebrate as well as protect.  We apologize for any anxiety we caused you and reiterate that our decision was not based on anyone’s sexual practices.

Dries and Megan based their decisions on information from a variety of sources, including the Community Working Group and Larry himself. This information included:

(a) reports, both formal and informal
(b) some of Larry's online interactions, both on and off Drupal.org
(c) information provided by Larry during subsequent discussions to get clarity
(d) information from one or more members-only sites.
It should be strongly noted that we do not condone the manner in which this last source of information was gathered by members of our community.  

Insights from this collection of information caused us to take action, particularly given Larry's prominent leadership role in the community, which leads to a much greater impact of his words and actions.

We heard that many would like to better understand the timeline, information gathered, and how decisions were made. While the news of last week was a complete surprise to most, it is important to note that this has been a careful, and deliberate process that has been going on since October 2016. Following the Drupal community's governance, the Community Working Group attempted to provide conflict resolution. When it became clear that some of the issues raised went beyond the scope of their charter, they determined that it was appropriate for the matter to be escalated to Dries, as project lead. This was consistent with their existing policy and process.

Dries discussed the information from the Community Working Group with Megan and some board members. Dries, as project lead, made the decision about Larry’s role in the project during this discussion.  

Some have asked why Larry was removed from the community and not just from his leadership roles. The answer is that Larry had indicated on several occasions that he was drawing down his involvement in the Drupal project, and that context helped inform Dries’ decision.

Dries, with the support of the Community Working Group, had the first of what was intended to be a number of conversations to resolve any remaining concerns.

Megan was informed about Dries’ decision, and also reviewed the information provided by the Community Working Group. Based on that information, Megan made the operational decision to remove Larry’s DrupalCon session and concluded his track chair role.

Larry appealed Megan’s decision to the board, which only has oversight of the Drupal Association. They reviewed the Community Working Group information and Larry’s personal statements, met in a special Executive Session attended by all board members, and upheld Megan’s decision. Dries recused himself from this vote, so the board could make its decision independently.

After the appeal process, Larry chose to publish his own account of what happened, effectively ending the process in the middle of what we expected to be a series of constructive discussions. This resulted in several loose ends.

After Larry’s second blog post, on Tuesday, March 28th, he reached out privately to Dries to discuss how to resolve matters and find the best way forward.

We remain committed to working on closure for this situation with care and respect for everyone involved.  Dries and the Community Working Group hope to have a private discussion with Larry in the coming weeks.

Many have also expressed anger over how the information about Larry came to light, and whether there will be consequences for those who participated in gathering information about his private life. The Community Working Group is currently handling this situation through their standard process.

What needs to change

We are fortunate that we do have governance in place. We have never encountered a situation like this before, where a decision this complex had to be escalated and made. This extraordinary situation highlighted areas that we need to improve. From our own observations and what we heard from the community, we identified some specific areas of improvement (but by no means all):

  • Diversity, equality, and inclusivity issues are complex and require new perspectives and approaches, especially as we assess and improve our Code of Conduct.

  • It is not healthy or wise to escalate difficult decisions about code of conduct or community membership solely to the project lead.

  • We need to clearly define our values so that everyone knows and agrees to the context in which the community works together.

  • We need to figure out how to balance transparency with the need to maintain a safe space and provide confidentiality for individuals in order to resolve conflicts in a way that causes minimal disruption to our community.

There is a lot to address. We will launch several initiatives to find solutions to the problems above.  We want to collaborate with the community, the Drupal Association, and outside experts on these efforts. It is important that we take these steps. We value our special community and we want to make sure that it has the right structure and sound governance to remain healthy and vibrant.

We want to begin healing to start right away and that starts with us talking more with the community. We will host online meetings and a meeting at DrupalCon Baltimore on these topics where we can have a healthy dialogue. This will provide community members the opportunity to talk directly with the Community Working Group, Megan, and Dries to propose solutions to some of the governance challenges that brought us here.

Finally, we want to acknowledge this has been a very difficult and unprecedented situation. We realize not everyone will agree with our decisions, but we hope all can understand the care we took in deliberating and the intention behind our actions. We appreciate the community’s patience on this matter, and we look forward to taking these steps in collaboration with you.

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FAQ

When did the conflict resolution process start?

  • October of 2016.

Who is responsible for what decision?

  • Dries, as project lead, made the decision about Larry’s role in the project after the Community Working Group escalated to him when they felt they could not resolve the issues surrounding this matter.

  • Executive Director of the Drupal Association Megan Sanicki made the decision to to remove Larry’s speaking and track chairmanship at DrupalCon.

  • Larry appealed the DrupalCon decision, which then went to the Drupal Association board who reviewed material provided by the Community Working Group along with Larry’s statements. They upheld Megan’s decision.  Dries recused himself from this vote.

What was the process followed for each decision?

  • The Community Working Group, which is part of Drupal’s governance structure, provided conflict resolution. When it became clear that some of the issues raised went beyond the scope of their charter, they determined that it was appropriate for the matter to be escalated to Dries. This is consistent with their existing policy and process.

  • Dries discussed the information from the Community Working Group with Megan, and some board members. Dries also met with Larry. Larry had indicated on several occasions that he was drawing down his involvement in the Drupal project. That context informed Dries' decision. It is also important to note that Dries intended to have more discussions with Larry to determine what the decision looked like, but those conversations ended when Larry chose to post publicly.

  • Megan was informed about Dries’ decision and also reviewed the information provided by the Community Working Group. Based on Dries’ decision and information learned from the Community Working Group materials, Megan made the operational decision to remove Larry’s DrupalCon session and concluded his track chair role.

  • Larry appealed Megan’s decision to the board, who only have oversight of Drupal Association. They reviewed the Community Working Group information and Larry’s personal statements and upheld Megan’s decision.  Note: Dries recused himself.

What information was used to inform the decisions?

  • (a) reports, both formal and informal, (b) some of Larry's online interactions, both on and off Drupal.org, (c) information provided by Larry during subsequent discussions to get clarity, and (d) information from one or more members-only sites. It should be strongly noted that we do not condone the manner in which this last source of information was gathered by members of our community.   

Did Dries overrule the Community Working Group?

  • No, he did not. The process is designed so that the Community Working Group can escalate issues to Dries if they cannot be resolved. This process was followed.

Is the Drupal project “against” people who practice BDSM or other non-mainstream sexual practices?

  • Absolutely not. We are an open-minded and inclusive community.

Will there be repercussions for the conduct of the community member who exposed information from members-only sites? [Edit: we have removed this community member's name while the CWG issue is being addressed]

  • The Community Working Group is handling this situation through their standard process.