List of FSFE Resignations and Expulsions

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software at 7:14 am by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from the Free Software Fellowship

Despite constant rumours and gossip, nobody has actually been expelled from FSFE e.V. in recent times.

At least seven significant figures and over 100 Fellows have resigned from various posts:

  • Armijn Hemel, Tjaldur Software Governance Solutions, lengthy resignation email copied below compares FSFE to a student union
  • Polina Malaja, who resigned from her staff position as legal coordinator immediately after accepting blame for the LLW scandal and went to work for Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries in Brussels
  • Jonas Oberg, who resigned from the Executive Director post after irreconcilable differences with President Kirschner
  • Daniel Pocock, Debian Developer and the last representative elected by the Fellowship, who published his resignation on his blog.
  • Werner Koch (GnuPG), whose departure is noted in the minutes of the 2019 annual meeting.
  • Over 100 Fellows resigned after being Force-Migrated to the Supporter program in early 2018
  • Hugo Roy (FSFE’s France co-ordinator and legal team member)
  • Shane Coughlan (Linux Foundation, Open Dawn)

The last two FSFE e.V. members resigned immediately after the 2019 annual meeting decided to pursue a vendetta against the former fellowship representative.

These resignations don’t reflect any wrongdoing on the part of the members who have departed, they reflect the fact FSFE e.V. itself is being consumed by foolish vendettas.

President Kirschner, like the current occupant of the White House, finds himself surrounded by people who won’t question his immature antics. Is that the foundation of a strong and credible organization?

Resignation of Hugo Roy

From: Hugo Roy <hugo@fsfe.org <mailto:hugo@fsfe.org>>
To: mk@fsfe.org <mailto:mk@fsfe.org>
Cc: ga@lists.fsfe.org <mailto:ga@lists.fsfe.org>
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 21:41:57 +0200
Subject: [GA] Withdrawal from the association

Dear Matthias,

I write to you, in your role as President of the Free Software Foundation e.V., to declare my withdrawal from the association, effective today.

Dear members,

I have reached a point in my involvement, where I have decided it is time to move on. This decision reflects the reality that both people and organizations change in their priorities.

In terms of free software, I will continue to apply myself, but I have to find new partners.

Kind regards,

Hugo Roy

Resignation of Shaun Coughlan

From: Shane Martin Coughlan <shane@opendawn.com <mailto:shane@opendawn.com>>
To: Matthias Kirschner <mk@fsfe.org <mailto:mk@fsfe.org>>
Cc: FSFE Legal Team <legal@lists.fsfe.org <mailto:legal@lists.fsfe.org>>,
FSFE General Assembly <ga@lists.fsfe.org <mailto:ga@lists.fsfe.org>>,
FSFE Team <team@fsfeurope.org <mailto:team@fsfeurope.org>>
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:59:37 +0900
Subject: [GA] Withdrawal from the association

Dear Matthias

I am writing to you, in your role as President of the Free Software Foundation e.V., to declare my withdrawal from the association, FSFE team and FSFE legal team, effective today.

Dear GA Members, Members of FSFE Team, FSFE Legal Team

After 12 years in the General Assembly of FSFE, and 13 in FSFE team and the FSFE legal team, I have decided it is time to move on. This decision reflects the reality that both people and organizations change in their priorities and their application of scarce resources such as time.

In terms of open access and open technology, I will continue to apply myself activities such as the OpenChain Project and spaces of shared knowledge such as the Legal Network and the Asian Legal Network.

I can be contacted, as always, at shane@opendawn.com <mailto:shane@opendawn.com>



Resignation of Armijn Hemel

Subject: [Legal Team] leaving FSFE's legal team
From: Armijn Hemel - Tjaldur Software Governance Solutions <armijn@tjaldur.nl>
To: legal@lists.fsfe.org <legal@lists.fsfe.org>
CC: ga@lists.fsfe.org

hello all,

I have decided to leave FSFE’s legal team after almost 12 years. This
was not an easy decision to make and it has actually been on my mind for
many many months.

My frustration with FSFE has been growing for the last number of years.
When the new leadership team came on board it was to be expected that
some things would change but unfortunately it was not the change I had
hoped for. While there are many things that have contributed to my
decision there are a few core issues that are central. I am going to
explain these and hope that FSFE’s leadership will (finally) listen and
take action.

* Decreased engagement of the legal team

Where before the legal team would be consulted for its opinion prior to
decisions regarding the legal strategy of FSFE or other issues affecting
the legal team it now seems that the legal team is merely informed of
the decisions made by FSFE’s management. This has had profound effects
on the motivation of the legal team. While before there used to be a
flurry of activity this is no longer the case, and there are very few
conversations about real legal issues or discussions about legal
questions, and so on.

* Decreased visibility in the outside world regarding legal issues and
policy, no vision and forgetting about core goals

In the years prior to current management there was quite a bit of work
being done to collaborate with Brussels and international business
communities. This seems to have completely fallen to the side. Instead
FSFE seems to focus much more on short term goals like campaigns, which
will create a bit of press for a short time before moving on to the next
campaign. While campaigns are good they are short term and have limited
value without long term follow up. This part is missing.

There is no long term vision (“what do we want to achieve with FSFE in
the next 5 years?”), there are no ties being forged in the political
arena (apart from fringe parties like the Pirate Party or the Green
Party, which contributes to being ignored by others), and core goals
seem to be forgotten. Instead of working towards strengthening free
software’s position in Europe and shaping how free software is perceived
(both I would consider core goals) the focus has shifted to goals like
gender diversity. While these goals are worthy they seem to have
replaced (instead of augmented) FSFE’s original objective and I don’t
think this is the right way forward.

* No knowledge being institutionalized

Knowledge about people, events, and political sensitivities, etc. is not
institutionalized. Several times when talking to the president and legal
coordinator about topics I became aware that we had already discussed
these matters before. However the information was treated as new to the
other party. Looking through my notes and e-mail archives later, and
talking to other people on the legal team, I confirmed that these topics
had indeed been covered already (one example was NIPA from Korea).

Additionally, the executive team and staff seem to be unwilling to
learn about the people and organizations active in the field (who is
who, what are their goals and motivations, where is their place in the
hierarchy and so on), despite being nudged repeatedly to be aware and
engaged by several people including me. Without this information it is
very difficult to operate effectively.

* Bad organizational management

FSFE feels like it is reverting back to being run like a student union,
whereas in the past people tried to make it more professional. FSFE’s
management makes very basic and unnecessary mistakes unworthy of an
organization trying to have global influence. This is hurting FSFE.
Even though this has been addressed a few times (by some, including
myself) nothing seems to be done to rectify these mistakes. A few cases
that I am aware of:

- everyone taking leave at the same time (post-FOSDEM), meaning the
office grinds to a halt

- stakeholders not being alerted to key people being absent

- e-mails from potential sponsors getting stuck in mailinglist queues
for a long time because everyone is on leave at the same time

- e-mails about legal cases (France) getting stuck in a mailinglist
queue for a long time because there is no monitoring

- virtual machines not up and running because of lack of monitoring

and so on. I do not want to discuss these cases individually, but what
is clear is that there is a pattern: the organizational infrastructure
is fragile, there are no fall backs in place and where they are in place
they are not working.

* No improvements/personal attacks

None of the issues mentioned above are new (and if they are, then QED)
and have been mentioned before. What I have noticed when issues are
mentioned is that either one of these three things happens:

- they fall on deaf ears

- they are acknowledged and then ignored

- FSFE gets very defensive, or launches personal attacks. The most
glaring case was when the vice-president recently came barging in and
arrogantly threw insults left and right without understanding any of the
background of the situation, and launched a vicious personal attack on
two of the previous legal coordinators.

All these things combined have tipped the scales and now the negative
far outweighs the positive (because there is very little positive left
in my opinion). I no longer feel that FSFE is the right place for me,
or that it is advancing free software in Europe (especially the legal
field) and it is better to focus my energy somewhere else where I can
have a more positive impact.

Have I been perfect myself? Of course I haven’t and I am very aware of
where and when I screwed up. But the difference is that I try to learn
from it and prevent the mistakes from happening again.

As the next step I will unsubscribe from the mailing list (I will stay
on the legal network).

Good luck FSFE, as you will need it.


Armijn Hemel, MSc
Tjaldur Software Governance Solutions

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