Gimena Calixto 2017 Q&A: Volunteer Positions

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

What are your thoughts on the OTW accepting volunteers who are under the age of 18, even if they might be over the age of legal majority in their country of origin?

First, I’d like to clarify that in accordance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act under United States law, the OTW can only accept volunteer applications from individuals who are 13 years of age or older, as stated in the organization’s Volunteering FAQs. It’s also stated there that specific roles and committees (that may handle more sensitive material or require certain qualifications) may be restricted to individuals 18 years of age or older (like volunteering for the Tag Wrangling or Abuse committees, or as the Bylaws state, being elected as a Director).

That said, my personal opinion is probably unpopular, and I recognize it has more basis in my feelings than anything else. I worry about underaged volunteers being exposed to certain types of content. However, our communication channels are very clear on who can access them— there are certain working spaces (like the Tag Wrangling spaces), for example, minors can’t access. The lines are clearly drawn. Anything beyond that is the responsibility of each individual and doesn’t expose the organization to liability, since the OTW’s policy is that people can and should judge for themselves what is and isn’t appropriate for them.

Assuming Legal okayed it, should non-paying volunteers who’ve been with the OTW for over X months be eligible either for voting in the elections and/or being elected for board?

This idea has been around for quite some time, and it sounds perfectly nice when you hear it, and fair too— since volunteers dedicate their time, skills, and efforts to the OTW, which coupled with the requirement of having served an x amount of time (9 months prior to the month the elections will be held, excluding hiatus, currently) already points towards a great degree of responsibility and commitment.

There are certain realities, however, that one has to stop and consider here. Asides from legal concerns that could arise that I won’t touch upon since the question introduces a scenario where these are resolved, the ‘Why do you require a membership fee to give someone the right to vote in OTW elections?’ and ‘Can I buy a gift membership for someone else?’ questions posed in the OTW FAQs, for example, still expose a concern that I would personally feel could become a point of conflict if/when this was proposed: paid memberships are a way for the organization to ensure that each member is a real, single individual in order to hold fair elections and prevent fraud, which is an unpleasant thing nobody ever wants to contemplate as something that could actually happen, but is always better to have a measure against anyway, just to secure a transparent, reliable electoral process.

So my personal opinion here would be that there are many things we would have to consider if we ever decided to take this step, and that it might not be something achievable right now.