Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 1)

1) Being an OTW Board member is a time-consuming job. What do you think should be an average day in the life on an OTW Board member? How much time do you think you can dedicate to OTW Board work each day? Describe a handful of standard activities you believe you should do on a daily basis.

I do have a pretty demanding day job, but I think it’s expected for a Board member to be good at prioritizing and assessing what needs to get done, as well as what can wait or be properly delegated. I’m prepared to spend a couple of hours each evening on Board work, as well as more time on the weekends as needed. As for the specific activities, clearly answering emails – even if just to let someone know that it’s been received and will be discussed and when – is a daily chore I expect to spend time on. Other important, but possibly not always daily, tasks would be attending meetings and reviewing documents (such as minutes and proposals from committees).

2) What does the org’s expectation of Board members’ respect for confidentiality mean to you? Where would you draw the line when talking about internal org matters with friends and acquaintances via IM, email, locked DW/Twitter/etc, anon memes, or in person?

As a lawyer, I’m familiar with confidentiality to a greater extent than is probably strictly necessary for the org. Any personal matters or matters discussed in confidentiality shouldn’t be gossiped about with others, ever, whether on the internet or elsewhere.

3) Since 2011, there have been no contested elections for OTW Board. The fact that an OTW Board position has at this point essentially become a “you want it, you got it” position undermines OTW’s legitimacy externally, and more importantly, Board’s legitimacy internally.

a) In light of this statistic, and the known fact of high director turnover, do you feel that the recent decision to expand OTW Board to 9 members is a good decision? If so, why?
I really can’t speak as to the reasons why the Board decided to expand to 9 members, because I wasn’t even involved with the org when that decision was made. I can only speculate that the expansion was done because the Board has too much work to be covered by the number of people that it has. From that perspective alone, it makes sense, but until we have 9 members and have increased retention by dealing with the issues that are causing Director burnout, it isn’t a solution, but more of a goal.

I hope that in the near future we can have a contested election again, and I do think that the structure makes some logical sense – or would if the Board were in any way attractive to join. Until major changes are made to address problems and make Board Director more of a desirable position, I don’t think we’d have contested elections right now even if the size of the Board had never been expanded.

b) How do you address concerns about the fact that Board is currently the ruling body of the OTW and is supposed to represent the Board as an entirety, considering the lack of a democratic voting process? Do you think this undermines your position?
I’m not convinced that a failure of democracy automatically undermines the Board as a “ruling body” (in quotes because I’m not convinced that the Board does or should rule anything). It is unfortunate that the people on the Board weren’t, by and large, chosen by the general population, but I do believe that the people who choose to step up to join the Board likely do it because they want to help the org and do some good. Democracy is no guarantee that competent people will run, nor that competent people who do run will be elected. And just because someone was not elected doesn’t mean that they’re bad for the job. I think when it comes down to it, this is the Board we have, and we have to do our best and work together and try to address the issues that have brought us to this place so that we can have a better situation in the future.

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