September Manager's Report
After seven years at KBOO radio, I recently had the privilege to live at a Buddhist monastery for nine months. One of the great joys of my return was finding that the board and staff had spent the intervening time making our radio station a more safe and humane place to work or perform board service.
For all the wonders that our organization brings, KBOO hasn’t always been an easy place to work or volunteer. While our community is exciting, creative and diverse, the station has traditionally operated on a model of adversity: it’s “us against them,” me against you. That’s may not be surprising in a grassroots organization where many of us are drawn here in the first place because we’ve seen injustice in the world, but it can create a harsh environment where real people have suffered. Yet there is another model: One of collegiality, teamwork and respect. One in which it’s not OK to attack others.
I’d like to share a story: Jan Schaeffer, who was a board member, and I used to go head to head when we disagreed (I’ve done some work on my own communications style since then!).
One day, Jan came up to me in the hall and just yelled and cussed at me. I didn’t even know why, but I kept quiet. Later on, Jan came back and apologized. She asked if we could “agree to disagree” when we had different points of view. We both practiced that and developed a caring and productive relationship. Since then, Jan has passed away, and I’m glad that we did the right thing.
On the other side of the coin, we’ve had far too many situations that were not resolved so easily. When a board member had lunch with a brand new employee and sent them back to work crying, perfectly reasonable and nice people would say (correctly) that our bylaws and policies did not allow for action against a board member, and the behavior continued. When volunteers with tenure have acted out, we have seen them pack the Personnel Committee or intimidate the group with a large entourage and video cameras to get their way. Real people have suffered. Not just the staff and volunteers who were attacked, but the people who acted inappropriately—who were enabled.
Board members including President Orion Gray, Cherie Blackfeather, Zale Chadwick, Judy Fiestal and Peter Tobey have taken a leadership role over the last year along with staff—particularly Wiley G. Barnett, Ani Haines and Chris Merrick—in order to create an environment where people can work together productively and happily even when they disagree.
What I’ve observed since I returned six months ago is that when we get along, we disagree less, and we can take a collaborative approach to changing the world. It is my belief that when we work for peace from a place of anger, we will fail, but when we touch the world with peace, we will see change around us.
The bylaws changes were created in open meetings, with outside assistance, endorsed by a majority of the board, and supported by staff. They will allow us to create a kinder environment at KBOO:
Amendment #1, Personnel Committee: The Personnel Committee has been hijacked countless times. This is our chance to get it out of the appeals business. There will be room for changing specific policies around conflict resolution (currently “the grievance process”) once the bylaw is changed.
Amendment #2, Removal of a board member: Giving the board the ability to remove one of it’s own for acting meanly and destructively is crucial if we want to change our internal politics from a culture of bullies to a culture of kindness and mutual respect.
Amendment #3, Term limits: Term limits are a great idea for any nonprofit. It’s the rare individual who is productive past five or six years of board service. More often, people get angry and burned out and want things to be “the way they used to be.”
There are all sorts of legalistic arguments that I could go into here. Some people will argue, for example, that the membership can already remove a board member. Unfortunately, it costs $3,000 to produce a mailing to initiate that process, and what could you put in print that wouldn’t invite a libel lawsuit? The fact is that it’s never happened in 38 years, and it won’t ever happen. The reality is that the legalities have been steered and vetted by leading nonprofit attorneys and consultants, and my concern is to put a human face on our issues.
When change comes, there will always be fear. That shouldn’t stop us from making our station a better place. There are and have been arguments over any and every point that is made in support of change (whether it be these bylaws changes or any other improvement). When people get to talk one on one and find out that there’s not a vast conspiracy but concerned and caring individuals, most people want to see KBOO become a better place.
I believe in open debate, and I have asked the opposition group to send their views: click here. For the full text of the amendments, please click on Download Voter Guide Here. Thank you for supporting our beautiful community that makes the most important radio in Oregon and Washington.