The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation announced on Saturday a plan to restructure the board. Board membership will expand from eight to ten, with three elected positions, two positions to be selected by Wikimedia chapters, one "Community Founder" position (presumably to be occupied indefinitely by Jimmy Wales at the discretion of the rest of the board), and four board positions reserved for appointed members with "special expertise".
The board expanded from seven to eight earlier this month when it appointed Stuart West as Treasurer. According to the press release issued last week, "West brings over 15 years of financial experience, including senior executive roles at publicly-traded companies including Yahoo! Inc., TiVo Inc., and in investment banking at J.P. Morgan & Co. He also worked with the United States Mission to the United Nations. Stuart's educational background includes a B.A. in History from Yale University, where he focused on 20th century diplomacy, and the Executive Program for Growing Companies at the Stanford Business School. He is a dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom." West will hold one of the "special expertise" seats in the restructured board. Jan-Bart de Vreede, an appointed board member since December 2006, will hold another "special expertise" seat. The final two appointed seats are unfilled at the present.
Of the current board, only two—Kat Walsh and Frieda Brioschi—hold elected positions, while the third member elected in 2007—Erik Möller—resigned in December 2007 to become Deputy Director of the Foundation. Chair Florence Nibart-Devouard currently holds an appointed position, but was elected twice previously, in 2004 and 2005, and her seat will be up for election in 2008. The two members appointed in February 2008, Michael Snow and Domas Mituzas, hold seats that will ultimately be selected by the chapters. No process for chapter selections has been specified, but the restructuring announcement states that "the two chapters-selected seats are not intended to represent the interests of the chapters vis-a-vis the Foundation. The chapters are being asked to pick trustees who they feel will represent the interests of the Wikimedia Foundation, and help it fulfill its mission as well as it possibly can."
The restructuring announcement has caused some controversy in the community. Because only three of ten board members will be elected—and the board also recently rejected a proposal to create a Volunteer Council—a number of Wikimedians feel that community input in the foundation is being diminished. In response to complaints on the Foundation-l mailing list, Jimmy Wales insisted that the restructuring "absolutely is not a removal of power from the editing community". Wales characterized the new board structure as strongly community-oriented, with the three elected members, the two chapter-selected members and himself all representing the interests of the community.
Durova initiated a petition requesting "a full explanation for recent board decisions" and a reconsideration of the board's "top-down approach". As she explained in a post to the mailing list after 63 people had signed, the intended message "is that the board is not necessarily wrong in its decision to restructure, but it did a poor job of communicating".