Last night, along with thousands of other free software and open source community members, I signed the open letter calling for Richard Stallman, otherwise known as RMS, to step down from the Free Software Federation's board, and the rest of the board to also step down.
Thank you to Josh Simmons for bringing the letter to my, and many other people's, attention:
We, the undersigned, are calling on RMS to be removed from all positions of leadership, and for the _entirety_ of the FSF board to resign.— Josh Simmons (@joshsimmons) March 23, 2021
Join us as a signatory on this open letter: https://t.co/RAdd5qU5qp
...and thank you to my friends in the community who have also signed the letter. Instructions for doing so are in the letter. I will happily help if you are not sure.
Honestly, I don't feel I need to go into too much detail about why I think RMS should step down. If you do need a refresher, the appendix to the open letter has a summary. I do think I need to explain why I wholeheartedly agree that the rest of the FSF board must step down, though, as that is quite a big deal.
So, the free software community became aware of the apparent change to the board during a video call, unrelated to FSF board matters, where RMS himself announced his reappointment. Neither affiliated groups of the FSF nor even the FSF staff were aware of the reappointment before RMS's announcement.
This leaves us wondering exactly what has been going on at the FSF board. That there would be a huge reaction to RMS's reappointment is obvious to the vast majority of the free software and open source community.
I can only see two situations that could have led to this reaction not making the board think twice — each of which leaves a question about the board hanging:
- They knew that many, many community members would find the re-appointment abhorrent yet still went ahead.
Why did they still press ahead? Does RMS have some sort of hold over members of the board? Is the board compromised?
- They didn't predict the massive reaction that inevitably took place.
Why not? It was obvious, wasn't it? Is the board competent?
No matter how I play the scenarios at board level over in my head (and yes, I have experience on two boards), I cannot fathom a scenario that doesn't fit into one of the two options above - they are either compromised or incompetent.
Now, some people are saying that we need to remember that the board cannot act quickly but I don't see how that is relevant. Both of the above situations happened before RMS made the announcement - they had all the time in the world to consider whether the re-appointment was a good idea or not. They had all the time in the world to plan proper communications before their decision was announced.
Having said all that, I do not expect a board to step down en-masse immediately. They need to do that in a managed way that ensures the continuity of the FSF.
But they do need to step down.