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Maher stepping down

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By Bri and Smallbones

Katherine Maher steps down as ED, CEO

Maher in 2020

The Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director (ED) and Chief Executive Officer Katherine Maher announced February 4 that she would be leaving the WMF on April 15. She has been with the WMF seven years, first as chief communications officer, then as interim ED in March 2016, and as ED in June 2016.

She became ED at a very difficult time for the movement, reported on in The Signpost as The WMF's age of discontent. Many in the community and WMF staff were outraged by a search engine project known as the knowledge engine. Doc James was voted off the Board of Trustees by the Board itself. Maher's predecessor, Lila Tretikov, resigned under pressure. A new trustee resigned within weeks of his appointment. Following Maher's appointment the community, staff, and Board experienced a period of peace and cooperation for about three years.

Maher's announcement was surprising since just the day before she announced the approval of the Universal Code of Conduct by the Board of Trustees. Together with the 2030 strategy recommendations, the UCC may be the chief achievement of her term as ED. Both still require implementation or enforcement, which may be just as difficult to achieve as the agreement on the policy and goals.

The WMF described the major improvements reached during Maher's term as:

Maher was an unapologetic advocate for a diverse community. She told The Signpost in a 2019 interview:

Diversity is baked into our vision statement: the sum of all knowledge, every single human being. And feminism is a foundational part of diversity: if we’re talking about every single human being, we need to be talking about every single human being, including women and non-binary people. So, not only is this part of my values, it’s absolutely part of the Foundation’s mission.

Relations among the community, WMF staff, and the Board of Trustees became contentious at times. A consultant's report published in 2020, meant to better organize WMF governance, recommended that communications between the Board and the ED should be strengthened and that the ED's office should be better staffed to handle the many challenges.

In a note to Wikipedians on diff, Maher said "I’m going to take a break, and a research fellowship, as a place to think about what’s next." Axios stated that she'll be moving to the United States east coast.

General Counsel Amanda Keton, Chief of Talent and Culture Robyn Arville, and Chief Financial Officer Jaime Villagomez will act as the executive transition team. The Transition Committee leading the search for Maher's replacement includes four trustees: Dariusz Jemielniak, Tanya Capuano, Raju Narisetti, and Board Chair María Sefidari. Viewcrest Advisors will assist the committee's global search.

See this formal announcement.

The Signpost wishes Katherine all the best. – S

Request for desysop discussion

TonyBallioni opened a discussion at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Desysop Policy (2021) on February 20 to streamline a process to remove administrators, driven more directly by the community. It has 126-80 support as of February 27.

Current procedures to remove an administrator on the English Wikipedia (desysop) are outlined at WP:Administrators § Review and removal of adminship and do not include a direct path for the editors in the community to remove an administrator. Not counting procedural and reversible desysop due to inactivity, or desysops initiated by WMF which are counted in single digits, desysop virtually always happens through the admin's own request or by Arbcom action. Currently 146 of 512 currently-active admins, listed at Category:Wikipedia administrators open to recall, have voluntarily specified their own ad-hoc criteria and procedures for desysop that they have pledged to follow. Thus over 70% of active admins are only removable by themselves or by Arbcom.

A new process has been a recurring topic on the English Wikipedia, with discussions going back to 2004 listed at Wikipedia:Requests for de-adminship. A 2009 discussion to formalize the process, Wikipedia:WikiProject Administrator/Admin Recall, resulted in a 2010 RfC which failed: 167 for, 190 against; and a 2019 RfC failed to result in a procedure [that] gathered enough support to be favored by a clear consensus.

Conditions outlined by the current RfC in order to initiate a desysop request include (condensed for The Signpost):

The desysop will be performed by a bureaucrat if there is 60% support for removal at the end of a 7-day voting period. The word "vote" is not used in the initial RfC statement and it is being debated whether the proposed process will use a straight-up vote or a discussion to determine the outcome. – B

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