How long do you have to wait to join?

We develop policy here at the commune is a somewhat curious way.  Every community has an internal communication culture.  Almost all place based intentional communities use a verbal culture, where they meet face to face, talk about what is important and make a decision about it.  Twin Oaks was founded by writers.  We have a written internal communication culture which has some advantages (like you dont have to go to lots of meetings) and some disadvantages (like we – not email – invented the flame war).

The policy we are debating in this written format right now is about how long someone should be a provisional member here.  The current policy, which we have used for 44 years, is that after 6 months you do your full member poll and then you get the equivalent of tenure.  You work your 42 hours a week and we cover basically all the costs of living: education, entertainment, food, shelter, clothing, medical, transportation services and more.

Because of an unfortunate stalking incident we had here some months back we are considering lengthening our provisional membership period to a year.  The reasoning is straight forward.   If we had waited for a year to approve Jack (not his real name) as a member, his stalking behavior would have been obvious and we would have never granted him tenure and saved ourselves this difficult process around trying to reject him.

As is often the case with straight forward reasoning, it is faulty.  he problem with Jack is not that we did not wait long enough to evaluate his membership, the problem is we had and still have broken policies around stalking.  We are so concerned in our efforts to protect the rights of someone who might be expelled from the community, that we ignore that this process dragging can run over survivors rights.  Generally speaking, it is good to protect members who might be expelled from the groups desire for them to just be gone.  In the case of stalkers, our caution can cost us wonderful members who are not willing to wait around for the slow wheels of our eclectic justice system to turn.

What is the problem with waiting a bit longer to accept people as full members?  The main downside, from my perspective is that hard working, well liked, excellent communards can create incredible fantasies about how they are not going to be accepted and this makes this proposed additional 6 months of provisional membership a somewhat nightmarish prospect.  If i had not seen this happen repeatedly, if i had not seen these otherwise reasonable provisional members be unconvinced by the fact that i have only experienced 2 people being rejected in the poll for full membership here my 13 years (and both of them it was quite clear before their poll what was going to happen) i might be more relaxed about this.

But i am likely to loose this fight.  Most other income sharing communities have a full year provisional membership period, including our sister commune down the road at Acorn.  But Acorn does clearnesses and speaks face to face every week and is only 30 people (tho growing).

Afraid as we seem to be to take on the policy crafting needed for the tricky and rare issue of stalking, instead we are penalizing every new member by pretending we will be more selective after a year than we have been after 6 months.

[Update an 2017:  The policy did not change.  Provisional membership is still only 6 months at Twin Oaks.]


About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “How long do you have to wait to join?”

  1. Sara Tansey says :

    part of me almost appreciates the self awareness that makes it hard to kick someone out–the recognition that the community could easily imitate a witch hunt. but it seems to go to an extreme even when someone clearly needs to go, you are bound by your own conflict avoidant processes. it seems that actually, you need a policy about easily ejectable behaviors: stalking, domestic violence, sexual violence, etc. any such behavior would initiate a short review process and then a vote to expel or keep with a social contract and a more face to face communication style throughout the period of the social contract.

  2. paxus says :

    It is tricky, witch hunt is exactly what we are afraid of. But if you have a quick process, you get people when they are upset and it is easier get someone voted out. While if you have a longer process, tempers cool, people are more forgiving, the offending person may well be sufficiently repentant for many people.

    Domestic and sexual violence are not so tricky, they are usually sufficiently explosive that the perpetrator cant stay around while we are in deliberations. The problem is with obsessions like stalking, where for many it may seem (for mild cases) the perp does not need to be relocated, but the survivor may well find this unacceptable.

  3. Shaya says :

    Oh, gosh. Hope everyone involved is ok, and gets the support they need. Being human can be difficult sometimes.

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