Tears of an Elephpant

As Enfys, the PHP Diversity Elephpant, I try to promote Diversity and Inclusivity within the PHP Community, and those Communities based around PHP products like WordPress, Symfony and Drupal. I believe that Inclusivity is a moral imperative, as well as beneficial to the Community as a whole. I believe in actively promoting Inclusivity and Diversity within a Community, and that as the Community recognises the benefits, then it will change for the better; but I also recognise that there are toxic individuals who will always resist that change (“Haters gotta hate”), and that there are times when it is necessary to be proactive. A good Code of Conduct is one way of being proactive, especially if it is clearly enforced, so I’m always pleased to see Communities with a public Code of Conduct as a sign that they are Inclusive and welcoming to everybody.

But Diversity and Inclusivity isn’t a matter of accepting people who share our own ideals and beliefs. A Community that is comprised purely of like-minded people isn’t an Inclusive Community; it’s a gated Community. Inclusivity is about welcoming people who are different. There are people within our PHP Communities who I disagree with on political or religious matters, or who I don’t personally like, or who come from countries with laws that I consider repressive, or are governed by presidents or prime ministers who I believe are lacking in respect or consideration for people that I do care about. None of this necessarily precludes them from participating in the Community. What matters is their public actions within that Community. What people believe inside themselves or what they do in the privacy of their own homes (as long as it’s consensual, and not illegal) only becomes a problem if they carry it over into the Community. It doesn’t matter if somebody doesn’t share my faith, and believes that I’m an irredeemable sinner, as long as they don’t try to convert me to their faith; and I (for my part) won’t try to convert them to my faith or beliefs. Nor does anybody’s sexual orientation or preferences matter, as long as they don’t try to push a sexual agenda within the Community, or abuse other members of the Community. To judge or criticise people based on their beliefs rather than on their actions is attempting to control their thoughts, and that’s completely anathema to the spirit of Diversity and Inclusivity.

So it’s with a great deal of concern and sadness that I’ve been reading about the big issue today within the Drupal Community. I don’t know either Larry Garfield or Dries Buytaert personally, only by reputation, so I can only consider what has happened through their own public statements (Larry and Dries), and the comments made by others who do know them, on twitter and on reddit; and without knowing all the facts, it’s difficult to make an informed comment on the subject. But I do believe that I have to speak up about this. Promoting Diversity and Inclusivity doesn’t mean anything unless we’re prepared to stand up and be counted, to speak out, when it matters. Nor am I posting this from the anonymity of a Rainbow Elephpant; but in my own name, as Mark Baker. You may disagree with me, you may believe that I’m wrong, but I feel a need to speak out about the matter and its relevance to Diversity, Inclusivity and Codes of Conduct.

From all that I have read, Larry has supported Inclusivity, not simply within the Drupal Community, but within the PHP FIG as well; and from all accounts hasn’t allowed his private life to interfere with that work within the Community. And without direct access to the reports from the Drupal Community Working Group, there has been no contradiction that “there was no code of conduct violation present for [them] to take any action on”; but the CWG did try to provide a forum for medition between Larry and “Klaus”. The initial response to Larry’s post, feels defensive, and suggests that Dries and Dries alone made the decision to expel Larry from the Drupal Community “in the best interest of the project at large and to uphold our values”. Diversity, Inclusivity and open-mindedness are central to the opening paragraph; yet it ends with Larry being asked to leave because of his personal life. A subsequent comment (posted earlier this evening) was that the Drupal Association and the Community Working Group had followed their due process, with checks and balances, including an appeal process. From that subsequent comment in Dries response, the decision to expel Larry was made by the Drupal Association, with Dries recusing himself from the decision. It certainly seems as though Larry was being bullied to the point where the DA expelled him. And it’s that which saddens me the most: the fact that Diversity and Inclusivity were used as justification, yet the whole episode seems to show a lack of acceptance of Diversity.

For what it’s worth, it seems to me that Larry has been hounded out of the Drupal Community because some people disagreed with his sexual predilections, and went out of their way to dig up dirt on his private life, even though it did not affect his public dealings with other members of that Community. That’s bullying, and clearly contrary to the Community’s espoused values of Diversity and Inclusivity.

The Drupal Association don’t seem to have handled the incident particularly well, and their initial response has been very defensive; but that was also the case with the issue of Playboy in the swag bags at DrupalCon Munich last December, with initial statements trying to justify its inclusion in the conference goodies. Having a Code of Conduct should make a difference, but such incidents do shake my faith in the value of that commitment to Diversity.

Codes of Conduct are all about treating people with respect, without any consideration to the ways in which they are different to ourselves. In this case, the Drupal CWG enforces the DCoC, and seems to have done its job correctly, although it could perhaps have been more active in the mediation process. The value of having a Code of Conduct isn’t in question here, and the reporting process and conflict resolution process are well documented, as is the charter for the CWG. Note that the “values of the project” are not the same as the CoC.
Perhaps the one good thing to come from this incident is that the manner in which “some of the evidence was brought forth” isn’t in keeping with the Drupal values either, and is also being addressed using the same process and is currently with the Community Working Group. If Larry has been bullied out of the Drupal Community, then the bullies should also be subject to the Code of Conduct. That’s what it is there for; to protect members of the Community against bullying: and while sadly it might be too late to resolve the issue for Larry himself, then it should at least serve to show bullies that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

EDIT

Subsequent to my posting this, the Drupal CWG has made its own statement on the actions that it took, and whether or not there was a breach of the CoC in Larry’s case; and Megan Sanicki, the Executive Director of Drupal Association has published a further statement on the incident. Unfortunately, while I can appreciate the need for protecting the identities of complainants, this does little to clarify the situation in any way. If anything, it seems to muddy the waters still further; and besides saying that there was secret evidence upon which the decision was made by the inner cabal, it makes things look even more like a witch-hunt.

EDIT

A couple of other blog posts talking about the same subject:

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