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Geshuri steps down from the Board

Arnnon Geshuri

One of the two new members of the WMF's Board of Trustees has resigned. Arnnon Geshuri's appointment 22 days ago sparked controversy in the Wikimedia community. His selection and departure come amid growing concerns about not only the composition of the Board, but the direction of the Foundation itself.

In a message on Wednesday, January 27 to the Wikimedia-l mailing list, board members Patricio Lorente and Alice Wiegand wrote:

The surprise announcement came just a day after Geshuri had made his first public statement on his new role, with the Board expressing its intention to stand by Geshuri's appointment. But by that time, concerns about Geshuri's background and selection process, as well as worries regarding the links to Google and other Silicon Valley technology corporations on the Board, were growing in the Wikimedia community and were becoming news items in the mainstream press. A non-binding vote of no confidence in Geshuri has been reported in Ars Technica, BBC News and Le Monde, among others, which is likely to have been a factor in Geshuri's resignation (see this week's "In the media").

Only yesterday, Wiegand posted on Wikimedia-l that the Board would be standing by their choice. She wrote that while the Board was "listening to your worries" and "discussing the concerns" raised by the community, she concluded: "we want to be clear that the Board approved Arnnon unanimously and still believes he is a valuable member of the team." Geshuri had commented publicly for the first time on the same list about an hour before Wiegand's message:

While some praised Geshuri for speaking out at all, his paean to Wikipedia's community and culture did little to sway those who wanted him to address the issue of his participation in the High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation more directly. Among epithets used by community members to describe his message were "a public-relations exercise" and "unctuous". Votes on Meta in favor of Geshuri's removal grew to 291 before the RFC was closed following the announcement of Geshuri's departure. The supports included six current employees of the Wikimedia Foundation, as well as a number of former WMF employees, including former senior designer Brandon Harris (Jorm) and Frank Schulenburg, currently executive director of the Wiki Education Foundation. Many of the support votes cited the comments of former Board of Trustee chairs Florence Devouard (Anthere) and Kat Walsh (Mindspillage), who had raised concerns about Geshuri's appointment in previous weeks. Another former trustee (and the Signpost founder), Michael Snow, raised his own concerns following Geshuri's message, making him the third former chair of the Board of Trustees to speak out regarding Geshuri's appointment. He wrote, in part:

Discussion of the vetting and selection process is likely to continue following Geshuri's departure. On his talk page two days before Geshuri's resignation, Jimmy Wales conceded that he needed to shoulder some of the blame ("I feel remorse"). He wrote:

Beyond a discussion by Wales and other members of Board regarding their Google searches for Geshuri's name, nothing has been said publicly about how Geshuri was vetted or how the candidates were found, weighed, and selected. Also unknown is the involvement of the staff of the Wikimedia Foundation, whose VP of Human Resources, Boryana Dineva, worked as Head of HR Systems, HR Operations & Data Analytics under Geshuri at Tesla Motors from 2013 to 2015.

Also of concern to many is the fear that the selection of Geshuri, whose actions as director of human resources at Google were troubling to the community, may be symptomatic of a desire to instill a similar corporate culture in human resources at the Foundation itself. Adam Wight, a fundraising tech lead at the WMF, wrote:

Earlier this month the Signpost covered employee discontent at the Wikimedia Foundation. Wight's message echoes similar complaints that other WMF staffers have made to the Signpost about a perceived cultural shift at the Foundation. One of them described it as "a culture of risk-management and fear", while another noted that they were "terrified" of speaking out in public for fear of retaliation. They are just two of several staffers who have privately expressed similar concerns to the Signpost. At least one speculated that the way recent employee departures from the WMF have been handled may be related to these changes.

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  • What about making the following suggestion to all the San Francisco big ones: "Maybe, you should phone all these discontent employees, and see if they are recruitable". A recent poll in the Wikimedia circles described this practice as highly commendable. Uncomfortably, this would left open the question of what to do if some of them have never been phoned ? Pldx1 (talk) 09:05, 28 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]
"Blame the employees": Brilliant move! Strange the Board nor Google thought of this escape — or didn't they? -DePiep (talk) 15:45, 29 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • I appreciate this decision. - Hopefully this event triggers the reshaping of WMF as a membership organisation [1]. --MBq (talk) 10:42, 28 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • re: The Board has indicated that you were appointed for your expertise in human resources. - For me it indicates that WMF lost its major purpose and started evolving according to Parkinson's Law. Forget Wikipedia. To manage WMF staff is vital and HR skills are vital. I am wondering, if WMF non-software staff takes a half-year hiatus, will Wikipedia collapse? Staszek Lem (talk) 01:03, 29 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]
  • "I googled his name, I saw that he had been at google" We've read before about Jimbo and his "googling" for people and what that leads to. Clearly, the next non-binding petition at Meta ought to be asking for Jimbo to leave, too. Chris Troutman (talk) 13:26, 29 January 2016 (UTC)[reply]


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