From: Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 15 1998 - 18:27:45 EST
I was just about to leave my office for the night when I checked in to find
your message. I'll try to answer without taking too long.
(1) Dropping from the List:
When our List-Owner, David Marotta, decided the whole burden of
operating and policing the List was more than he could handle, he decided
to: (a) Appoint a "Chairman of the Board", who would be the one person
acting in his stead to remove from the List those who were making problems
for it; and (b) ask for volunteers who would offer to do other jobs which
might need doing, a group he called the "Staff."
He chose to appoint me as the Chairman (the Gatekeeper, the
Keeper of the Keys). I agreed to do so, provided that Carl Conrad, Carlton
Winbery, and Edgar Krentz would help me. Edgar didn't want to invest the
time it would require, but the other two did.
I have never been willing to act alone; in fact, I have never
initiated removal of anyone from the List. But there have been some
serious problems, many of them invisible to most of the subscribers.
I have consulted with Carl on all occasions, often with Carlton, and almost
always with David Marotta (who keeps telling me that I don't need to do so)
if the case seems doubtful. David has repeatedly made clear to me (and to
Carl) that he would prefer we act much more promptly than we do.
I have found Carl so valuable in this onerous task that I asked him
to be Co-Chairman or (Co-Chair) with me. Without him, it would be
(2) Function of the Staff:
Those who volunteered for the Staff, David accepted. He asked them
if they would offer help in whatever way they might suggest to him. You
offered to spare us the endlessly repeated "Unsubscribe" and "Subscribe"
messages, and that has been a useful service. Jonathan has done wonderful
service in creating our WebPage, our archives, and several other related
tasks, a really time-consuming task.
The Staff was NEVER intended as a group to vote on what the Chair
should do, any more than they are to vote on what David is to do. Carl and
I have made sure, AS A COURTESY, to let the Staff know when any serious
action is taken; we do not notify the List as a whole when someone must be
removed. The task of writing the FAQ was effectually handed to Carl by
David and me; Carl was careful to circulate each successive draft to the
Staff to get feedback and comments, which were often helpful. But this
was not because the Staff was to vote on it or approve it. THE person who
does final approval is always David Marotta, our ListOwner.
(3) The Case of Andrew K.:
Every post which insults or impugns the competence or integrity of
another member of the List is given a private warning, reminding them of
the FAQ. If it seems serious, a longer message is sent. Here we are often
helped by some sensitive members who write first, sending us copies.
Usually, this is enough. When things flare up, Carl periodically writes a
general message urging civility. But these measure don't always work, and
the offender gfoes public with more personal attacks. At this point,
serious intervention is necessitated; sometimes this succeeds (as in the
case of Paul Dixon, for example). Sometimes it does not, and the gate has
to be closed to further such postings. Other really serious cases are
in the air right now. You might find it hard to believe the malicious
messages sent to any of us who tries to calm the waters--not just Carl and
me. Some--like Andrew--think that if they jump the Chairman, he cannot
intervene, else he will seem petty. I have in the past put up with many,
many private slanderous attacks, which I don't deign to answer because
being private, they don't violate the List's protocols. But not answering
inflames some of them even more (including Andrew K., who had to go public
when I would not rise to his baiting privately).
(4) Your method:
Indeed, the world would be a lovely place if no one rose to the
bait of those who bait others. Or rather, it would if it did not deliver
the world into the hands of the baiters, who would never be stopped
by silence. This List is often praised by those who are on other Lists
without our constant attention to civility and courtesy. It is only
relatively civil and courteous because we try to suggest quickly to those
who begin the process of personal disrespect that they desist. When we
have let things go on for a while, we get a flurry of private (even public)
messages asking us to intervene. One grop which is freequently subject to
nasty comments and innuendo is the Jehovah's Witnesses, who have shown far
more courtesy on the whole than their detractors. But we try to be sure
someone responds when the snide or the nasty or the dismissive first pops
up on the List.
If you think Andrew's sniping at three different persons on the
List during a single week was the first he had done it, you are sadly
mistaken; he has been at it for a long time, and has been warned several
times before. This last, concluding with a public harangue, was only the
straw that broke the back of the camel (who may have been trying to get
through the eye of a needle!).
Thanks for coming directly to Carl and me with this. I don't have the time
or the energy to go through a big debate about how David has chosen to
organize this List of his. Better to deal with it privately.
I wonder if you would clarify something for me. Since the staff was formed,
I don't recall ever being notified in advance that a subscriber was being
considered for dropping from the list. From time to time, someone is
dropped, and I usually felt it was appropriate so I didn't say anything.
This afternoon, when I read Carl's letter notifying Andrew that he was
being dropped, I frankly didn't find what Carl cited to be that offensive.
Since I have not been keeping up with the flood of B-Greek posts lately, I
called up all of Andrew's recent posts and read them. What struck me was
the ad hominem attacks on you and Jim West, and these alone justify
dropping Andrew. But aside from them, the only element that seemed untoward
was Andrew's emphasis on the matter of "certainty"--a point I found to be
naive but not terribly offensive. Nonetheless, I agree with unsubscribing
him from the list.
Even so, the incident raises two points. First, what is the function of the
B-Greek staff? Originally, I thought we'd be consulted in matters
concerning whether someone ought to be dropped from the list. It seems,
rather, that you and Carl are handling this and at best are consulting with
certain other staff members--but not all. If this is the case, what is
expected of those not consulted? And if nothing is expected, then why keep
them (me) on the staff? It's not that I need another task--gate-keeping is
about all I expected to do--but I'm curious about why the staff exists, at
Second, it seems a terrible waste of time and wave-space to have these
antagonistic "I said, you said" exchanges appear on the list. While it is
sometimes appropriate (as we did in one instance) to ask the combatants to
"take it outside" (i.e., off list), it's equally appropriate, especially
when the exchange involves one of the B-Greek regulars, for that person to
simply refuse to respond. Going back to Andrew, I didn't find his initial
statements that offense, and if they were simply left unanswered I suspect
they would not have reached the vitriolic level that they did. Most of the
time, I suspect that antagonistic or non-scholarly argumentative statements
are intended as bait, and the best way to defuse them is just to not bite.
I also think that a more seasoned member could step in and suggest, on
list, that the baiting is not appropriate.
An additional benefit of the above "don't bait/don't bite" suggestion is
that it would cut down on the volume of B-Greek posts. I easily get more
posts from this list every day than I do from all my other lists combined
(when I logged on about an hour ago, I got a half-dozen from four lists,
and 26 from B-Greek). I don't like the "digest" alternative because it
doesn't let me list the posts by subject, which is how I usually wind up
reading them. But a bit less volume--especially when nothing constructive
is being posted--would be welcome.
In closing, I hope I've been clear that this is in no way a criticism of
how things are done, but a request for clarification and a suggestion of
alternate approaches. I look forward to your (and/or Carl's) response. If
you think that the issues I've raised and your response to them is
appropriate to the entire B-Greek staff, feel free to share them.
212 Marne Avenue
Haddonfield NJ 08033-1444
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