who is a member?

Daniel Pocock daniel at pocock.pro
Fri Feb 2 16:12:10 UTC 2018

Hi all,

There has been some discussion over the years about what "Joining" and
"Membership" means in FSFE.

As fellowship representative, I've received feedback from a number of
people about this topic and it keeps coming up, ever since I was elected
in 2017.  As our organization is all about people, this is a critical
topic and as I've received feedback about it from several people I feel
compelled to raise this for the community to evaluate and to find out
how many more people had this impression:

- after clicking the "Join" buttons on the FSFE web site and filling out
a form with the heading "Join the FSFE" and making a payment to the
association, people felt they had become a "member" of FSFE e.V.

- after filling out the "Join" form, people have received cryptographic
tokens (the Fellowship smartcard) and believed this was evidence of
"membership" of the association FSFE e.V.

- upon receiving invitations to vote in the annual election for
fellowship representatives, people felt the process of voting is
associated with being a "member" of the association and believed that
they had been accepted as "members" of the association

I haven't seen any legal advice on whether these circumstances entitle
people to assert full voting membership status or not.

In discussions at the GA level, I've strongly objected to use of the
word "Join" if the intention of these buttons/forms is not to give
people full membership with an equal vote.  The feedback has been acted
upon and the web site is gradually changing: rather than making people
into members, though, the button was changed from "Join the FSFE" to
"Become a Supporter".  This is more accurate but may not be what
everybody wants.

Nonetheless, we have about 1,700 active fellows/supporters who have
"Joined" using the button that previously existed on the web site. 
Regardless of the legal situation, I feel it is important for the
organization to do the following:

a) obtain and publish legal advice on the rights of those "members" who
clicked the "Join" button to have a full vote on things like
constitutional changes.  If legal advice tells us they have rights, even
if those rights were not intended, then we need to act on that
immediately to inform people about their rights.

b) give these people an unambiguous statement about whether they did or
did not really "Join" the association FSFE e.V.

c) regardless of what the legal advice tells us, consider making a
statement confirming all these people as members with the right to vote
at a general meeting

There are practical problems with this.  The most obvious problem is
that there is no board and the GA functions a little bit like a board
and a board with 1,700 members would not be very functional.  To resolve
that, the association would probably need to revise the constitution to
create a procedure for the GA to elect a board.  However, I don't
believe practical problems like this should prevent the association from
clarifying the status of everybody who "Joined".  The "Joining" has
already happened, it is not something that can be ignored.  Recognizing
the status of these people in a respectful manner is simply the right
thing to do and the practical issues should not be used as an excuse to
avoid or delay giving members that respect.

I understand some people don't feel this issue is important but as the
fellowship representative, I feel compelled to raise it for the people
who do believe in this issue, including those who have renounced their
"membership" over this issue.  I feel that responding to this issue
constructively will make the organization stronger.



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