In scientific and popular circles there has been a relatively sustained interest in the geological history of mass extinction events. Wikipedia has a descriptive article. Such mass extinction events describe occasions where there is “a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth.” Taking this definition as a starting point, it appears that the Open Stories Foundation (OSF) board has undergone yet another mass extinction event, the most recent in a significant history of such occurrences. Rational Faiths and Medium (particularly the latter) have alleged that a large portion (possibly all) of the OSF staff, and around half of the board have quit or are otherwise no longer working there. Markus Smith, the nominal author of the Medium article, corroborates this initial claim with the observation that the OSF team website appeared to have been taken down. As I write this, it appears to be back up, though with a number of board members and staff no longer in attendance. For whom the asteroid tolls, eh?
This is, of course, not the first time a large portion of the board disappeared. Rumor has it that a substantial portion of the board resigned around the time of the Rosebud incident (also earlier posts).
Reports vary as to the reasons for various departures. A “toxic work environment” has been cited by at least one observer. As Wikipedia again says, “In general, large extinctions may result when a biosphere under long-term stress undergoes a short-term shock.” But unlike the departure of the dinosaurs, much of this event has gone much more quietly, and one reason for that is the stunning effectiveness of John Dehlin’s use of NDAs. A nondisclosure agreements or NDA (Wikipedia again) is a “legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to or by third parties.” What is less clear is the purpose and scope of the nondisclosure agreements. Rumor has it the nondisclosure agreements are the reason we haven’t heard more about these departures. Is the scope of the NDA such that they can’t talk about prior abuses during their work at OSF? There appears to be more to the story of the turnover, but some Mormon Stories inevitably get privileged over others when a legal device is being used to prevent transparency.
The reply from the surviving members of OSF (entitled “Statement from the Open Stories Foundation Board of Directors”) unsurprisingly does not address the NDA question, but to my reading raised several others. For example, after describing a period of internal self-evaluation leading to reorganization, the author claims that “The board unanimously approved the changes from the self-evaluation.” The obvious question here is who was on the board at the time that this “unanimous” decision was reached or, in other words, if this was before or after the latest “event” trimmed them down. Are the outgoing board members willing to confirm that this is the case? Are they even able to under their current NDA? Are these agreements being used for a legitimate reason or are they being used primarily to shield John from criticism?
I call on the board to release the language of all NDAs that have been used for members of the board and employees so that we can transparently evaluate whether these agreements are conducive or contrary to ethical operation of a non-profit.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time he has actively censored others. During this most recent dust-up, I’ve additionally noticed an unusual number of posts being removed from Reddit regarding Dehlin and wonder if this is normal community enforcement or something more targeted (see for example here and here).
The next section that caught my eye was headed “Podcaster Compensation.” The question of how many different ways John was profiting off of the non-profit Open Stories Foundation is an ongoing curiosity. The post indicates that revenue to podcasters from podcasts will be 75% of donations to that podcast and will be capped at $200,000. The post later states that John Dehlin’s compensation “is not expected to” exceed $200,000. That statement is nothing if not completely wishy washy, but it actually overlooks a more interesting question, which is: What if a podcast has more than one host that just happens to be in the same family? Would they each get up to $200,000?
Some people find the money stuff tedious. I get that, so I’ll be brief. I call on John Dehlin to release his personal tax returns from 2017 and, when available, 2018 as I think that is probably the quickest way to clear all of this tedious up. #Transparency.