Hello all - Before I get to the questions, I figured I ought to introduce myself.
My name is Jennifer Bagosy (Renee is my middle name & I use "Jennifer Renee" on Facebook to keep my work life and personal life separate). I'm one of the founders of the Order of Gallifrey, together with my husband and several of our friends. We started as a group of friends trying to get one of each of the Doctors together for a convention, and ended up founding a very large costuming club along the way! My primary role in the club over the last 2-3 years has been to help organize events in Southern California (aka Bad Wolf Sector) and to contribute as much as possible to costuming & discussion within the Order as a whole. I'm currently the Bronze Usher for Bad Wolf Sector, and I've been running events and convention tables in that capacity.
Those of us who started the Order wanted to make this a unique club - one in which everyone was welcome to participate, and inclusiveness was to be the cornerstone of our philosophy. We wanted to be a haven for all who had an interest in Whovian costuming - whether you were brand-new or veteran, whether your costume (if you had one yet) was acquired from thrift store parts or 100% screen accurate. We discovered as we grew that the Whovian community is warm, positive, and fun, and we couldn't have been happier to watch this grow into something that crossed state and even national boundaries.
With that - on to the questions!
** 4. Do you see any particular goals for the group to work towards in the next year? If so, what? **
I would have a few goals and priorities for the Order.
First, to grow our efforts to teach and to share our skills and knowledge with others. It's become clear in the last year, with Order members participating in panels at conventions across the country, that we have a lot of knowledge, talent, and information to share, not only with each other, but with the costuming and fan communities at large. A couple months ago, at a first-year Whovian convention, more than 10 of us in SoCal got together to put on 9 (!!) panels for the weekend, on subjects including Whovian costuming for beginners (& intermediate costumers); cosplay, body image and anti-bullying, prop building; and the history associated with events in Doctor Who episodes. This is something that officers have discussed before, but I would work to make a more public push to get members of the Order involved in activities like:
- Increasing panel participation at conventions, work with local sector leadership to share advice and help with logistics if needed.
- We have an Order of Gallifrey YouTube channel - we used it to post up a fun "12 Doctors of Christmas" video a couple years back. I'd like to solicit member contributions of recorded tutorials for costuming and prop-building related work, to be added to that channel and shared on our public Facebook page.
- Encouraging and working with Sectors as needed on hosting in-person workshops (or even our own full-day or weekend events) on sewing, propbuilding, etc.
Second, to work on growing our smaller Sectors. Some areas, like Southern California, have a massive geek culture and conventions nearly every weekend now. It's easy to draw in members here. But I'm aware that in other locations, it hasn't been that easy. There are fewer times and places where fans gather, making it harder to get the word out. I'd want to work with the Gold Usher on helping leaders of smaller sectors to find conventions and other events in their area where the Order might be able to have a table or do a panel, and then to try to find people to join. Although traveling out of state isn't possible for everyone, we could put out requests for people to attend an event in a Sector that's still building itself up. Maybe, for example, a SoCal group could take a road trip north to the Pacific Northwest, etc. I realize my ability to "make" this happen may be limited (after all, I myself haven't been able to travel the last couple years, although I expect that to change very soon), but I can certainly try my utmost. Third, to continue work on our Templates (formerly called Standards). This actually goes along with the first bit, because it's another way in which we as a group can share what we know about Whovian costumes. We started creating these from the club's beginning, to breakdown the pieces of as many costumes as we could (Doctors, companions, villains, and more!), so that our members would have a resource when trying to get their costumes together.
The trick is that there are hundreds upon hundreds of costumes, and the larger we get as a group, the harder it's been to convince members that yes, we'd love any and all contributions from anyone (no matter how new) toward this effort. I know, for example, that there were quite a few people who had been approached to help write a Template regarding costumes they knew well, and declined due to apprehension at taking on the task. One of my goals would be to try to get more people active in this process of helping to write Templates, through public posts a couple times a month requesting assistance with specific characters that haven't been covered yet. And to convince people that's it's actually quite easy to help - if you've made or sourced a costume, even giving a list of its major pieces and some screenshots would be helpful.
Fourth, encouraging members to seek Endorsements. I have some goals and plans with respect to continuing and evolving these.
A bit of background, and pardon me if this gets a bit long, but I wanted to explain it to those of you who were unfamiliar: we started up Endorsements some months after the club first formed. We did so because wanted to know who we had in terms of costumed members, since we were first and foremost a costuming club. That way, if we ever got to the point where we'd have outside events requesting the presence of specific characters, we'd know who had those costumes.
Endorsements were not meant to require screen-accurate costumes. Rather, they were meant to answer the question - does this person have a costume that looks like the character they're trying to portray? It's also been stated as having a "fan accurate" costume - would a fellow Whovian know what you are getting at? Do you have the costume pieces that would make you recognizable as this Doctor/companion/villain?
And we're very open with respect to the types of costumes and characters we'll Endorse - we decided through a lot of discussion followed by a vote that we wanted to include so-called "derivative" costumes - TARDIS dresses and suits; characters reimagined in other genres such as steampunk and medieval; "crossover" costumes (Doctor Who if done by Disney for example); and "genderbent" costumes (female versions of male characters and vice versa). These are such an important part of Whovian costuming culture, and we've done our best to embrace it!
I would work to encourage more members to seek Endorsement. I believe the practice adds value to the club because we then know who we have with which costume, and it helps our members to get credited on our website for their costumes. I would continue to make it optional, however, as it has been in the past.
I would continue our practice of putting these to a vote of the membership, on these forums (with a link to the endorsement polls posted on the Facebook group to drive traffic). I am opposed to the idea of having dedicated "costume judges" because it is inevitable that the people with the most in-depth knowledge of certain costume(s) will be chosen, and they will (even if subconsciously) view others' costumes with a more critical eye than the average Whovian fan and costumer. The practice of having judges, in every single club I'm aware of that does it, has led to stricter and stricter standards over time. It's inevitable. So, in my opinion, the only way to ensure we maintain our inclusiveness is to allow the members to decide, collectively, whether a costume is endorsable or not.
I realize, though, that you need to give incentives to encourage more people to participate. I liked the idea that we pursued in the Ushers group of having a pin for Endorsed members. We didn't put it out because we realized we'd need more Endorsed members to make the minimum required for pin production! So I may try to use the prospect of the pin run as a small incentive to get people to put their names and photos out there for Endorsement.
Those are some of my goals - I'm sure I'll become aware of more as we go!
1. If you are not elected to this office, will you continue to participate as a member of this club?
Absolutely, 100%. Right now, the Order is the only costume club I'm active in (I've gone inactive in the other clubs I'm a member of, as I realized I was pulling myself in too many directions.) If I'm not elected to this office, or any office, I'll continue to do what I've always done - contribute by helping with events and joining panels as I can, and just generally being a part of the activities of the Order.
2. As I have learned to my chagrin, this job is always tinged with drama, no matter how much one may strive to avoid it. What would you do to avoid drama and politics so that you can do your job.
I learned this lesson when I had another officer position in another club. Specifically, I was the Commanding Officer for Sunrider Base in the Rebel Legion from Fall 2014-Fall 2015, during a year when Celebration was in Anaheim and our Base was responsible for coordinating our large booth at Celebration for the entire, international club. There were twists, turns, and disappointments, which inevitably led to finger-pointing and drama. Based on that stress-charged experience, I know full well it can be lonely at the "top" - people who used to confide in you (generalized "you") with good ideas and positive thoughts about the club stop doing so because they do not want to "bother" you, whereas issues and conflict will come to your door (or your inbox) and will take up an inordinate amount of the time you spend on club business. I know that can be demoralizing at times. Fortunately, the Order is a great group and the politics I've seen have paled in comparison with what I've seen elsewhere, and I'd like to keep it that way.
But, having been through that elsewhere and come out the other side, I learned a few things, and I believe these will help me to keep from being dragged under by drama or politics:
- I will keep going out in costume and enjoying events, as often as possible. I know it can be tough, if there is a controversy or difficult situation related to a leadership position, to get motivated to put on a costume and go out to a con, or fair, or library event. But it's absolutely critical, because that not only makes me happy, it gives me needed perspective and reminds me why it's worth it.
- When problems arise, I will handle them straight-on. If an event or a conflict occurs that I find difficult, I will try take a bit of time to think before reacting (if it's something that doesn't require instant action), but I won't put it off too long. I will strive to handle as fairly and equitably as possible.
3. Assume that a Tribunal has been held and a person has been accused of <insert violation of the Charter/Code of Conduct/Anti-Harassment Clause Here>. Assume that while you feel the person was culpable, the Tribunal feels that the individual was in fact not culpable. Assume that the Castellan advises that he/she agrees with this finding. What do you do?
Again for a bit of background, in the past we've used a “Tribunal” system for disciplinary action, 3 people who volunteer from the membership to be part of a "jury" without knowing what or who is involved ahead of time. The people chosen can't have any connection to the incident. The way it was designed to work, is that the Castellan, (who's basically the equivalent of a Captain of the Guard in other clubs) conducted an investigation by speaking to parties involved, witnesses, etc. then a decision is made on whether the person did it & what the consequences should be.
In recent discussion between the officers, we've talked about writing up some rules regarding how and to whom someone could appeal, but that's not happened yet. I favor adding in a right of appeal. Someone who believes their case was wrongly decided should be able to appeal to the officers of the club, and have the decision reversed on a majority vote of the officers. The reason being that the officers are responsible for ensuring everyone is treated fairly, and also should be doing their utmost to avoid any kind of real-world liability for the actions of club members. So, that's something I would want to add.
If a conflict or behavioral issue gets to the point of requiring a hearing, it's already, by definition, not an easy situation. For me, being a lawyer in real life is both a blessing and a curse. I review and argue evidence and law all day long, so in a club setting, it's important for me to remember to take a step back from my usual "advocate" role.
In your hypothetical situation, if we do have a right of appeal to officers in place, and I believed (after reviewing the evidence) that the person was culpable of the bad conduct, then I would vote accordingly if there was an appeal. If I was outvoted (or if the parties decided not to appeal at all) I would have to accept it.
I don't believe I can or should have the ability to suspend or expel someone from the Order on my own. Nor do I think I should have the ability to dismiss the complaint of someone who was harmed (or who directly observed a member harming members of the public, for example) just on my own. No one person should have that ability, IMHO, in a club this big. That's why having some kind of due process is necessary, so that both sides get a fair hearing.
a) What if the aggrieved party is insisting that the accused person is culpable?
Again, this is why I support having a right of appeal to officers. That way the person bringing the complaint gets another chance to be heard. So, in this situation I would probably encourage the aggrieved or complaining party to appeal. But again, if an appeal happened, and the other officers outvoted me, I would accept the decision.
b) What if the aggrieved party could only be proven right by violating the wishes of the aggrieved party?
This is a tough question and it would very much depend on the facts, for me. If the person bringing the complaint has shared with me confidential information that he/she/they insist must be kept secret, even though I know that information would tip the tribunal or Castellan to his/her/their side? For me to reveal a confidence against someone’s wishes, it would have to be something very, very serious – for example, if it was about someone at risk of imminent harm, I’d tell anyone who was in a position to help me to stop that from happening. Likewise, if it was information that would avoid embroiling the Order in a real-world lawsuit if it was not shared, I would first try to persuade the person to allow me to share, but I might have to do it anyway, to protect the club as a whole. But that would be the exception rather than the rule. Short of those kinds of extreme circumstances, I would be very hard pressed to think of a situation where I’d violate an aggrieved person’s confidence and trust in the context of a disciplinary hearing.
c) What if the situation is reversed? The Tribunal finds the individual culpable, but you strongly disagree.
My answer would be the same – if there was an appeal to officers including me, I would say my piece and vote then. But if I was in the minority there, I would have to accept the collective decision.
4. I strongly believe that the Officers should be communicating regarding all matters not directly related to logistics and/or too sensitive for some members on public boards. Do you agree? Why or why not?
I agree. I think we need a balance between the need for officers to coordinate so that “one hand knows what the other is doing,” but to make sure that once that discussion turns to matters that affect the membership as a whole, controversial officer decisions, rules changes, etc., that discussion should immediately be moved over to the public Facebook group so that all the members can weigh in.
While there may be some sensitive issues that shouldn’t be aired in public – like disciplinary matters, requests for advice on dealing with difficult event organizers – the majority of issues should be open to discussion by the whole membership.
1) Above all else I feel any cosplay group needs to be a safe place for all the members in it and the safety and well-being of said members is my top concern. If elected, would you be open to re-investigating rulings from prior administrations if you or another member felt that the ruling could potentially compromise the safety of the members of OoG? Additionally, how would you ensure that the comfort and safety of our membership is your top priority?
I completely agree that the Order must be a safe place for all.
I absolutely want to do my utmost to ensure that if someone makes a complaint that a member has violated our Code of Conduct, that complaint is taken seriously. If anyone hasn't seen our Code of Conduct, it's here: orderofgallifrey.com/?page_id=122 I wrote the first draft of it (before the group as a whole had the chance to weigh in and then vote), so I'm very familiar with its requirements. If the complaint is not something that can be resolved through a verbal reprimand by the Castellan (or the Chancellor or myself – and I’m more than willing to do this), the matter must be fully investigated. I will do my best to make sure that investigation is thorough, respectful, and fair.
I also am in favor of adding to our Code of Conduct an additional anti-harassment policy. I understand a version is being drafted, mainly by our current Castellan, and will be proposed for discussion to the membership very soon. Ground rules are important to ensuring the members' safety and security, while also ensuring fairness. That is why, as I've mentioned above, I support keeping the Tribunal (aka jury) system, but I also support a right of appeal to the officers. I believe we need to spell out, clearly and concisely, what is/is not acceptable behavior, what the potential consequences are, and who will be responsible for making the decisions.
If requested by any complaining party, I am willing to act as their advocate, if those person(s) are unable or unwilling to advocate for themselves. That's something I'm quite good at and a responsibility I'm prepared to take on. Also I’ve said, I also support disclosure to the membership of any findings of culpability.
So that – plus my earlier comments – will summarize how I envision working to keep the Order safe for all. I am also not shy (at least, not anymore) about telling someone directly if I believe their behavior is not in keeping with the letter, and the spirit, of the Order’s rules. So I will not hide from difficult situations – which disciplinary matters always are – but I will do my part to ensure the best interests of the Order are served.
That having been said, I do not support reopening cases from prior administrations to find someone culpable who was originally exonerated, or to impose harsher punishments than were originally imposed and served. There are only two such trials that I am aware of, and both were over a year ago. In one instance, a person was suspended and returned to the club nine months ago. If, indeed, there was an imminent threat to the Order’s safety, we would know it by now. If anyone previously cleared (or suspended and returned) is accused of violating the Code of Conduct again, I would absolutely encourage a complaint to be filed, which I would approach as I’ve discussed at length.
The reason I’m in favor of clearly written policies and procedures for disciplinary action, is because I want to make sure we are acting based on facts rather than fears of what might happen. Otherwise, there is a huge potential for abuse. Which I’ve seen first-hand in other clubs.
For example - I do not want to see people banned for being “annoying” or “talking too much.” (I’ve seen it happen elsewhere.) I do not want to see someone banned, for example, because they are excitable and slammed a table when excited (especially when there is evidence the person may have autistic spectrum disorder). That is an example of conduct that might “make people uncomfortable,” but in that hypothetical, assuming that person hadn’t done anything worse, I would lean toward protecting the accused in that instance.
On the flip side, if a person were using racial epithets, or body shaming someone (whether a member of the Order or a member of the public), that clearly violates our Code of Conduct and creates an unsafe space, and I would support disciplinary action for that person.
Again, I’d emphasize balance and decisions based upon facts.
2) I personally believe that the role of President in any organization is one that comes with more scrutiny and perlustration than other offices. How would you as Lady Commander handle criticisms or members disagreeing with your position or asking for clarification on specific Order issues?
As an attorney, I'm accustomed to criticism and debate. In real life, basically every day, I'm required to conduct reasoned, civilized debates with opposing counsel, and sometimes to accept the critiques and adverse rulings of harsh judges. So if I'm given the responsibility of being President, I will understand that my job involves encouraging as much discussion as possible. I would like to see disagreements regarding policies, or requests for clarification, or anything of the sort, open for public discussion. I understand that some people may agree and others may disagree, sometimes vehemently so. I will advocate for a position if I believe that would best serve the club, but I am also willing to listen and to hear out others' perspectives.
Ultimately, and overall, I want to make sure the "big decisions" - i.e. regarding policies, the charter, and other important issues - are vetted and discussed by all members in our public group, and then voted on. We started as a direct democracy, and that’s how I’d like to see us continue. 3) While the Order of Gallifrey has 805 members only 26 people voted for Lord Commander in the 2015 Elections. That means you could effectively win the Presidency with as few as 9 votes or 1.06% of the member base. Why do you think that is and what would you do to increase the activity of our membership base? Additionally, does the group warrant so many elected officials when they end up out numbering the general active membership?
First off, I personally do not equate voting membership with active membership. In any club, the number of members who participate in the "fun" activities is always going to be greater than the number who participate in the "less fun" governance matters. The much larger numbers of people who come out for cons, social, and charity events with the Order are still active members, even if they never vote, and they still need officers to work for them to arrange and staff events, look for opportunities to participate in conventions, etc. I don't necessarily think we have "too many" officers for the Order as a whole, because, especially in these volatile times, people suffer unanticipated hardships and setbacks in their personal lives that may impact their time and ability to work on club business. Having a group of officers means, ideally, that when one person is "out" for a couple months, another can step in and assist. That is how I'd like to see it work, in any event. At the Sector level, I would talk to each Sector leader to see if they think it makes sense to continue to have, for example, 3 officers in a 5-person Sector.
When I was in leadership in the Rebel Legion, it was a common lament that forum use and participation was down in every club, due to the prominence and ease of Facebook, and the relative clunkiness of forums. I investigated alternative possibilities for polling last time around, including Survey Monkey, but that was flawed because one person could vote multiple times from different machines. I have heard that Google might offer a service that could present an easier or more user friendly alternative to forums (for discussion and possibly polls), and I would investigate that possibility.
I do completely agree that we need to work toward greater participation in the Q&As and in voting. I think the posts from various individuals on the Order group trying to get more people over here to participate is a good start.
Regardless of whether we can find an alternative to these forums, I would also try to increase participation by requesting members' e-mails to form part of a mailing list. I would work with the other officers, especially the Gold Usher, to put out monthly e-mail newsletters that will keep people in the loop on what's been happening in the Order's various sectors, and also to try to encourage participation not only in annual elections, but also in writing our Templates, helping with costuming and prop-building tutorials, etc. I realize that two or even three people can't do all the work on a monthly newsletter either, so I'd actively solicit contributions from the membership through our Facebook group. The more ways there are to participate, the more invested people will feel in our club and the more likely to get involved.
4) Whichever of you is elected Lady President will have quite a bit of work to do to continue the progress that we are making as a group and to continue achieving our potential. That work will require a lot of time and effort. I know that both of you have very difficult schedules. How will you prioritize and distribute your time to best focus on the demands of the position?
I have always been active in the Order since the beginning, and even with the demands of this past year, I've been very active in my position as Bronze Usher, coordinating tables at conventions for the Order (at WonderCon in March, and Long Beach Comic Con in September), participating in panels, and organizing local events. I've been able to do this despite my work schedule, because the Order is now the only costuming club in which I'm an active member. I have been inactive in the Star Wars clubs in which I'm a member, since late last fall, when I decided to make the Order my primary focus for my "extra-curricular" activities.
Also, as many of you know, I do have a demanding job and a long drive to and from work, but my hours have thankfully evened out since their peak this summer. There was a reorganization at the firm since then, so that I'm now on a regular "case team" as opposed to being a part of the "crisis team" that dove into other partners' cases to help out when things got crazy. Being on a regular case team means that I and my sane, organized boss, now have a lot more control over our schedules. That means that nighttime and weekend work is now the exception rather than the rule. Also, no one looks over my shoulder here as long as I get my work done when it’s due, so I am able to handle Order business if needed during business hours, unless I’m actually at a hearing or deposition, which happens about once every couple weeks. Even then, I compulsively check Facebook messenger if I’m needed. So I will have time to devote to Order business and to be an effective President.
And one fun one for the road…
5) If you could only do one of your cosplays for the rest of your life – which would it be and why?
The War Doctor – although it is a close call between my Femme War Doctor costume and my Moment costume, as I loved everything about the Day of the Doctor and I simply adore Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf in all her incarnations, my War Doctor costume has a skirt and is far more comfortable! Also, I love John Hurt!
Since both candidates are from California, what will you do to engage members in the rest of the organization?
I realize that in the past, my role in building this club has centered around local events and activities within SoCal. In accepting a nomination for the Order's President, I recognize that my focus will now need to shift and to become broader.
I would, in the first few days, reach out to each Sector's officers individually (or in a small group FB chat with, for example, a sector's Commander/VC/Bronze Usher and our club Chancellor) and get to know (1) how many people are in each Sector's FB group, (2) how many and which events they've participated in in the last year, (3) how many people attend those events. From there, I'd like to discuss, what events are in the area where they'd like to have an Order presence and figure out how I can support that. Although I may not be in the same location, I would be happy to help with logistics and support to the extent I can do that remotely. I'd like to determine what their needs and goals are, and figure out how I could help them meet those goals.
Also, we have a presence on social media (we have an Instagram and Twitter account, and a public Facebook page) but I'd like to see it increased, again, to engage more people and show the public what's going on in each Sector, each city, etc. I would support creating a new position for a Social Media Officer for the Order, someone whose sole focus would be to make sure our activities in all locations are shared to each platform, so our presence at events becomes more widely known.
I would also want to boost the level of engagement of everyone on our Facebook group, regardless of whether they fall within a Sector or whether they are the only member in their state/region/country. I'd do that by actively soliciting, regularly, on the group, people to help come up with content such as lists of costume pieces, photo references, and full costumed photos for our Templates; video tutorials for making costume pieces, prop making, etc., which will hopefully engage all our members, not only those who are able to attend cons or other events in person.
I'm also very much open to other ideas from anyone on how to increase participation among all the members, and will do whatever I can to implement those.
Some of our sectors are active, but they do not actively communicate or participate with many of the rest of our sectors. One of the solutions to this has been to ask them to promote events that they are doing on our main page, and this has made some inroads, but there is still some work to go.
What would you to do address sectors that are active, but non-communicative?
I would reach out to the leaders of each Sector, as a group, as I mentioned in response to the earlier question, and have a small group chat open in FB messenger for each Sector, including their officers and the Chancellor. That way we can have an open line of communication where the goal would be to discuss upcoming events in each area, what help they need in promoting them, etc. Second... While the demand for local chapters has been high, some Sectors remain relatively small. Under what circumstances do you feel Sectors should be defined as "Sectors" and under what circumstances do you feel they should be defined as "Outposts"? In keeping with that, the Charter says that if an officer is not elected to fill a position, the Lady President has the authority to appoint a local leader until such time as an election can be held. How would you make such a decision?
I think the people in each location are best suited to address how they'd like to be organized. If for example, two smaller Sectors that are geographically close would like to merge, I would be fine with that. If we have 2-3 people in a Sector and they really only need 1 officer (not 3) and thus would be defined as an Outpost, I would likewise be OK with that. I would want to make sure that whatever decision is made, that the majority of active members in the affected areas are on board with that decision. I wouldn't start re-drawing maps unless it is what the members in those areas would like to see.
As far as Sectors without officers, I would reach out to the members who have been active there to see if any of them would like to run the Sector. If there are more than one members who wish to lead, and enough other members to put up a poll, I would do that rather than make the decision myself. If there are only one or two members in the area, period, I would appoint the one who had been the most active in the group.
Edit: I realized this is probably a good a spot as any to address the Bad Wolf Sector Commander office. I was nominated for that position and accepted, and later was nominated for President, and after consideration decided to accept. To add a wrinkle, no one else was nominated for Bad Wolf Sector Commander, although Gene is up for Vice. In the past, what happens when someone is running for an Order-wide position and a head of a local Sector, they may do so, but must choose one if elected to both.
(Also, I wanted to note for some of you who are new to this, that the Order has a "Vote Saxon" rule - if only one person is nominated for an office, it's not automatic that they will get it. There is always an option to "Vote Saxon" for members who do not like any of the choices presented. If "Saxon" wins, a new round of nominations and elections must be held, with the original candidate(s) not eligible to participate.)
So, if I am elected as President of the Order and head of Bad Wolf Sector, I would choose the President office. I would then start a new round of nominations and elections for Bad Wolf Commander.
I am having a bit of a hard time formulating this into a question, my apologies. I am a member for less than a year, but I joined enthusiastically and with an intent of active participation. However, the first time I was able to attend an event with the Order presence was LBCC. I was not wearing a Whovian cosplay on either day, but I came up to the table to drop off our fundraising donation and to meet people. The dropping off was fine, the meeting people was not. Could be my own awkwardness, but my several attempts to indicate that I am a member and want to know people/be part of things did not make me feel welcome or wanted. No one there seemed to care who I was. This was my first-ever fan group table experience, so maybe that is how it goes. I offered to help with the table on Sunday, but that was received very vaguely so I did not think it was needed. My Who Con experience, where I was involved with two Order panels, was better yet similarly left me feeling like an outsider. So, Respected Candidates for the office of Lady President, what are you going to do to make sure that new members actually feel included and welcome, in actual reality and not just in words on Facebook or here? I am also going to address this question to local leadership candidates.
Inna - First of all, thank you. Thank you for sharing your concern, I really appreciate you doing so. Second, I am very, sincerely sorry. I was in charge of the table at LBCC and I was present there for much of the con. I was also present and participating in panels at Who Con. I have heard many wonderful things about you and how brilliant you were on your panels. I would love to spend more time with you, if you are willing.
This concern you've raised is critically important and really makes me stop and think. It's true that one of the reasons we founded the Order was to make everyone feel welcome and to avoid just this. Many of the founders had experiences like this with other clubs, and specifically set out to avoid that here. When I used to run convention tables for the 501st and Rebel Legion, I was constantly reminding members to avoid the habit of clustering around the table in closed circles, and to turn around, face the public and talk to them instead of only to each other. And to engage with new members who come to the table, whether in or out of costume.
So, now that you've raised that this has happened in the Order, not once but twice, I take that very seriously. For my part, as a member (regardless of whether I have any office at all) if I'm at a con, I can see that I need to slow down, get my head out of whatever task it is I'm running to do next, and focus on the people around me rather than on my to-do list or schedule. I need to remind myself, each time, that making others feel welcome is more important than whatever badges I need to pick up, Power Points I need to print out, etc. That's just something I need to do, period.
Second, if I'm in charge of the table, I will make sure to emphasize in the event thread or whatever means we're using to communicate among those staffing the table, that we need to make it a priority to stop internal conversations when people approach the table, and to engage with them. That if there are friends at the table who want to chat, that's fine, but they need to get behind the table or to the side, so they don't block the public's access to us. And, critically, that if someone comes up who is a fellow member, that we talk to them and get to know them. All of this is a huge part of our mission and I'd need to make sure it actually happens in practice.
Finally, if I'm President of the Order, I'm not going to be able to be present at every table everywhere. But I can convey this message to Sector leaders, since I've mentioned earlier that I'd want to have ongoing chats to serve as lines of communication with them. I can and would propose and write up some guidelines and tips for running convention tables, that would include the specific ways in which we can be inclusive and welcoming.
Again, thank you for raising this, and I will do my best to fix it.