Automatic Recusal Policy


This is a sandbox page.

It is not approved or active policy. It is a draft, and as such, may be incomplete.

Purpose: To prevent bias, miscarriages of: staffwork, discussion and codifying of policy, disciplinary action, and anti-harassment action.

In order to begin to address proper recusal we need to understand what precipitates the need for a staff member to recuse themselves from a policy/disciplinary/anti-harassment discussion, staff work, or votes.

To do this we need to understand and define 'Conflicts of Interest'.

Conflict of Interest: This is any measure of potential incentive or gain that may influence or inhibit a person's ability to make an objective decision on policy issues, disciplinary actions, or staffwork. It is important to distinguish this from investment, as an individual can be invested in a situation without it rising to the level of a conflict of interest.

Conflicts of Interest typically come in three distinct flavors. These are personal, financial, and emotional.

  • Personal: Personal conflicts of interest usually revolve around incentive or gain in either social or material circumstances.
    • To some degree staff already exercise policy against this flavor of conflict of interest, and thus these are perfect examples to demonstrate. While wikiwalk was active crosslinkers were not allowed to create crosslinks to their own articles. Staff members are not allowed to vote on their own promotion. Anti-harassment team members are automatically excluded from discussions about cases against them.
    • However there are also examples where staff does not currently or has not exercised policy against Personal Conflicts of Interest. Some examples of this include: Disciplinary Team has not automatically recuse or exclude team members who had complaints filed against them. Disciplinary Team has not recused members who have filed a report against a user where their own writing was involved (see plagiarism). Staff does not automatically recuse an individual who becomes the target/subject of rulebreaking behavior. Staff members frequently use their platform to be rude/dismissive/demeaning/belittling towards members of the community they disagree with.
  • Financial: Financial conflicts of interest usually revolve around monetary or direct economic incentive or gain in terms of policy, staffwork, or disciplinary action.
    • Current examples of policy against Financial conflicts of interest include explicitly barring members of staff from receiving bribes or monetary benefits for executing staffwork.
    • It is important to note that Financial conflicts of interest can be very concerning/damaging to staff action/policy as financial conflicts of interest are a strong motivator for acting against or in opposition to the best course for the community. Given policy in the past was raised, pushed, and voted on by staffers who had direct financial incentive to do so, with no recusal on their part, it is important for staff to put in strong recusal measures against Financial conflicts of interest to be able to act in the best interests of the site and the community.
  • Emotional: Emotional conflicts of interest are, as the name suggest, emotional incentives or gain for certain policies, staffwork, or actions.
    • Staff currently has no policy for action/recusal as a result of emotional conflicts of interest.
    • Examples of where staffers should have been automatically recused due to emotional conflict of interest include: Advocating against disciplinary action for a friend. Failure to remove/recuse multiple heated staffers in policy discussions. Attempting to advocate for disciplinary action against users who the staffer actively dislikes. Utilizing a lover/fiancé to enable beneficial staff outcomes. It's important to note that Emotional conflicts of interest are difficult to codify policy for, and may require the most subjective and vague wording to allow for implementation.

It's important to consider that any recusal policy will not automatically account for/fix some of the issues caused by conflicts of interest. This is why it's important that we begin to consider a broader accountability mechanism in tandem with targeted recusal policies.

When a staff member is under investigation by the Disciplinary Team for a fault, they are automatically recused from exercising their authority in areas which intersect with the behavior they are being investigated for, for the duration of that investigation. This includes the following cases:

  • An administrator being investigated for abuse of Fiat (specifically distinguished from routine Fiat reviews, which are not disciplinary investigations), their ability to utilize Fiat is suspended.
  • A captain being investigated for misuse of their Captaincy powers is temporarily removed from Captaincy of the team(s) which they acted improperly in.
  • A Disciplinary Team member being investigated for misused of Disciplinary powers has their ability to use those powers suspended, as well as their ability to participate in Disciplinary deliberations.
  • A team member being investigated for misuse of team powers has their ability to use those certain powers suspended. As with censure, they may participate in that team's discussions, subject to the discretion of administration and the acting captain(s) of the team, unless administration or the Disciplinary Team request otherwise with public reasoning.
  • A staff member being investigated for misuse of staff powers has their ability to use those certain powers suspended.

A staff member is also automatically recused if they would have the potential to influence a Disciplinary investigation beyond the normal scope of their duties, whether intentionally or not. They may not participate in the relevant Disciplinary deliberations in any way that non-Disciplinary staffers cannot, and must actively avoid any behavior which may be perceived as influencing the case, however minor. This includes the following cases:

  • Staff members may not participate in Disciplinary proceedings if they are the subject of the investigation.
  • Staff members may not participate in Disciplinary proceedings if they were materially affected by the subject of an investigation. For instance, if they were the wronged party in the case.
    • Complainants for a case may not port the matter to disciplinary chat. They must submit it to a non-recused Disciplinary Team member, who will port it, as if the case were submitted by a non-staff user.
    • At the discretion of the Disciplinary Team, offenses against a large number of targets may be considered offenses against the site rather than each of the individuals in question, if the number of those targeted would be large enough to cause automatic recusal to prevent normal functioning of the disciplinary process. As an example, imagine if a user vandalized the author pages of every member of staff, then a naïve reading of the policy would require all staff members be recused, which would also preclude any disciplinary action against the vandal.
  • Staff members must suspend work on policy which may affect an investigation looking into them, or into an individual who they were materially affected by (as above). For instance, if they are revising technical policy and the alleged offense was improper use of technical resources.
  • Staff members may not perform staff actions which may affect an investigation looking into them, or into an individual who they were materially affected by (as above). For instance, if their duties include pruning or archiving material which may contain evidence for the case.

To clarify disciplinary procedure specifically:

  • Staff members who are the subjects, complainants, or substantially affected by (as above) by a case may not see the discussion as it occurs.
  • Communication with such staff members about the case may not occur in channel. It should occur in PMs, with responses ported back as necessary.
  • Essentially, regardless of their access to disciplinary discussions in normal circumstances, recused staff members may have no greater access to the matter than any typical community member would have.
  • The Disciplinary Team captain is responsible for enforcing these boundaries. If they are recused or unavailable, this duty falls to the Vice Captain, or some other person designated by administrative or staff consensus.

All recusals (whether from this policy or not) must be announced on the appropriate O5 Disciplinary thread, or if it has not been created, in staff chat (meaning visible to all junior staff and higher). (After the relevant disciplinary threads have been created, information about the recusals must be copied there.)

If necessary, administration may alter a staff member's access to staff resources to enforce a recusal.

In the case of a significant disagreement about whether recusal applies, the opinion of administration on the matter is to be followed. However, a staff-wide vote may be held to apply or remove recusal for a specific person in a specific case, which will override any administrative consensus.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License