Good Afternoon! The LGBTQ+ of FIRST would like to issue the following update as to the current state and the future of our organization.
It is with no surprise that with the current COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently the cancellation of all FIRST Robotics events that our organization is currently stagnant. With no competition outreach, pin distribution, partner team held events, official meetups, or world championship conferences, it has been quite difficult to increase the scope of our organization. However, this is no excuse for the radio silence and missed opportunities like for example, pride month social media events and blog posts done in previous years, an official acknowledgement of the Black Lives Matter protests across the world, and mental health advice to deal with the current pandemic. It is also with poor timing that this time period normally marks the change of management of our organization’s Administrators, of which all but one have retired.
It would be a failure of our duties to hand off the organization we love in its current state to the next round of Admins, so we would like to take this time to make some long overdue changes to our structure, cement some previously relaxed policies, and be more transparent on certain issues. Most of these are minute formalities of previously in place structures, but there are some changes that we would like to be transparent about.
I. Updated Partner Team Tiers
Our current partner team system is centered around material distribution and hosting outreach events. The following is an excerpt from our old Partner Team Guidelines:
The following is what we would like to see become our new Partner Team tier structure:
The most notable changes are the substitution of the silver tier’s “assisting with an event” requirement for the option of either producing materials or hosting a meetup and the specification for gold tier events to original presentations or events. There are a few reasons for these changes:
II. Moderator Role
The LGBTQ+ of FIRST Discord has always been a large part of the organization, but it always has and always will be just one of our many community outreach programs. The Admin team’s responsibilities are the maintenance of the organization and the upkeep of our brand, but the Discord server moderation has always been lumped in with that as well. The organization has always been tied to Discord, so this is understandable, but the Admin role should be about more than just being a Discord mod.
There has also recently been a lot of tension regarding the trustworthiness of Staff and their ability to understand the Discord server population. Because of these reasons, the Admins have created a new Moderator staff role solely devoted to the upkeep of the Discord server. We are thinking a group of 8-10 individuals who are online frequently, are active members of the server, know the community well, and know how to keep things civil.
Moderators will act much like the Admins do in the server, but their jurisdiction ends at server moderation decisions and civil upkeep. Representatives and Ambassadors may also hold the title of Moderator, but Moderators themselves will not have jurisdiction over organization decisions. We’ve noticed server members often fluctuate in frequency of activity (which is not a bad thing!), so the Admins will enforce the activity requirement for Moderators more strictly. Because of this, Moderators may come and go, but because of their status as active members of the community, the idea is that the current Moderators will always be trusted individuals who can resolve server conflicts. Admins will continue to be the main governing body of the LGBTQ+ of FIRST and still have moderating powers.
Because of this new dedicated Mod role, Representatives will no longer be expected to moderate the server, but they should still report misconduct if they see it, just as any other server member should. Ambassadors were never expected to moderate, but the same will go for them; it is up to the Moderators and Admins to make disciplinary response decisions.
If you are interested in applying for the Moderator position, you may do so here.
III. Updated Staff Structure
The role of Administrators will mainly stay the same in that they will still be the main governing body of the LGBTQ+ of FIRST. There will, however, be stricter guidelines on Admin participation and clearer communication with inactive Administrators. Administrators will still be responsible for actively participating in organization projects and contributing to the betterment of the organization.
The role of Representative will also see stricter guidelines on participation, but not change much from its original purpose. An already existing responsibility of Representatives is active engagement in organization projects, however this requirement has not been enforced for some time. We would like to make the Representative role more distinguished from the Ambassador role, so we will be requiring a higher level of participation. These are outlined in the Representative Application as well as the LGBTQ+ of FIRST Handbook.
In addition, Representatives were recently informally asked to help with moderation, but with the addition of the new Moderator role, this is not necessary, and in fact is discouraged. If Representatives would like to see change with regards to server moderation strategies, they are encouraged to apply as Moderator here.
Ambassadors will still be the main representative body of the LGBTQ+ of FIRST at competitions and events. As for Discord moderation, we appreciate the initiative for Ambassadors to moderate. However, because the Moderator and Admin positions are more heavily vetted, we ask that Ambassadors report conflicts in the server to Moderators and Admins directly. They are also encouraged to apply as Moderator, if they would like to contribute this way.
Similarly to our update of the Partner Team Guidelines, we acknowledge that everybody may not agree with these changes and did not sign up for some of these responsibilities, so we will offer similar opportunities to provide feedback and change staff positions, if needed.
IV. Updated Representative Application Cycle
With the increased responsibilities of Representatives and a heavier focus on contributing to organization projects, we would like to provide more of an opportunity for those interested to contribute to the organization to do so. In the past, the Representative application window has coincided with the Admin application window. Starting now, we will be opening up Representative applications year round. If you are interested in applying, you can do so here.
V. Black Lives Matter Protests and Healthy Server Discussion
The following goes for all political discussion in the Discord server, but is most recently applicable to the Black Lives Matter protests and the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others. It is with recent crackdowns on political discussion in our Discord server that we feel the need to rethink the way we handle moderating political discussion.
Political discussion is notoriously difficult to moderate on Discord servers, especially with our small Admin team, but given that we will be welcoming new Moderators to the staff team, it is only right we allow more political discussion in our server. Our plan is to create a politics channel to provide a safe, quarantined environment for people to express their opinions while maintaining the healthy atmosphere of the rest of the server. The politics channel is only open Fridays from 8PM - 1AM and Sundays 12PM - 4PM and has a 60 second slowmode. Admins and Moderators will be responsible for moderating these discussions
The African American community and other minority communities have been silenced in America through systemic racism and oppression and with the mission our organization has and the mission of FIRST, it is not right to suppress discussion of these topics. It is our duty to provide a safe space for people of all backgrounds to gather and part of that includes providing the means to acknowledge the prejudices that these communities face. We would like to take this moment to apologize for any suppression of political discussion. Your voices deserve to be heard and we will stand by you in these difficult times.
VI. LGBTQ+ of FIRST Handbook
The goal of the LGBTQ+ of FIRST Handbook is to outline the guidelines, procedures, and timelines for this organization. It is our hope that this structure will increase efficiency and ensure the passing down of knowledge between Admin teams. It also includes a much needed project timeline and proposed deadlines for certain tasks and milestones. All of the changes to the organization in this email are reflected in the Handbook, but there may be some minute additions in the Handbook we forgot to mention here. Please let us know if this is the case and we can address the issue.
LGBTQ+ of FIRST Handbook
It is our hope that with these changes come improved efficiency, better allocation of resources, and better communication, but we understand if you may not agree with some of these changes. Please feel free to email us at email@example.com with any feedback on these updates. We look forward to the next FIRST season and we hope you all stay safe during these unprecedented times.
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is a student run organization that advocates awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ students, mentors, and volunteers of FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST reaches out to over 1000 members across the FIRST regions and fronts multiple outreach endeavors.