So, I am going to talk about a thing that happened. I am going to offer a lot of disclaimers and be vague about some things not to protect myself. But because this is one example of a bigger thing that RWA needs to work on and that chapters need to work on.
Earlier this year there was a chapter meeting with a guest speaker. I did not attend. Several of my friends in the chapter did.
I heard about it very quickly.
The speaker had been disorganized and rambly. That happens not infrequently with writers asked to speak alone for long periods. Not everyone is the best judge of how many hours they can fill. It was a single speaker scheduled for the whole day. Some people left after lunch which happens a lot, people have busy schedules.
In the afternoon session was where things got problematic. The speaker made a comment about how political correctness made humor hard and then followed it up with another statement that began, "I'm not a racist, but...".
I know that in the room people were uncomfortable. I know that some people were there for there very first meeting. And several talked amongst themselves after the meeting. Some of the newbies reached out to the membership chair and were encouraged to reach out to the board and some discussion occurred on the chapter loop after.
The ultimate decision of the board was to add a disclaimer that speakers so not represent the views of the chapter and to set up a specific complaint email so it's easy for folks to see where to complain.
Several things were clear to me as a result of this:
I totally believe that what this speaker said was a problem.
Not everyone in the room or on the chapter's board did.
The response of the board was insufficient at best.
We lost members as a result and we deserved to.
I also think we as a group can and should be better and I decided, for the time being, to remain a member to push for change.
Volunteer run organizations all have resource issues and that does mean not everyone is equipped or ready to handle problems. That doesn't excuse bad responses, and the fact that I think everyone involved meant well doesn't change the fact that no one should pay our chapter money so they can go to meeting that causes harm.
A lot of the work we need to do will need to happen behind the scenes and I'm well aware that it will take time and I also have thought about where my personal line is that I will walk with my money rather than stay and push. I do have one. But I also have more positive experiences on the scale and cannot as I said expect anyone to give our chapter the benefit of the doubt when we haven't earned it.