Hearings

As noted in my comments about Codes of Conduct, having rules does no good if they’re not enforced. Since our founding, American Mensa has had hundreds of thousands of members. Our ASIEs note we’ve expelled nine of them, making that action exceedingly rare. Some lesser sanctions have also been imposed, but again that doesn’t happen often. We’ve had more than nine “problem members” over the years, so we need to up our game in dealing with them.

In the on-line world, administrators may impose sanctions including post approval and temporary or permanent bans. Users may also act on their own, muting or blocking individuals’ posts if they find them objectionable. While imperfect, this seems to work reasonably well. Unfortunately, Mensa Connect has fewer tools to deal with objectionable content.

Our current Hearings Process was likely heavily influenced by attorneys since it follows the adversarial model from American jurisprudence. This requires a complainant to initiate proceedings and then present a preponderance of evidence to prevail. This is a heavy burden to put on victims of bad behavior. Many instead choose not to file charges; some leave Mensa entirely. When that happens, the perpetrator may well reoffend. Using our Advocate to bring charges doesn’t change the hearings process’ adversarial nature.

In the business world, bad behavior is generally dealt with via human resources (HR) investigations. Someone (management, a witness, or a complainant) notifies HR of the issue. HR then investigates the allegations, interviewing witnesses to determine what happened and the credibility of all parties. Depending on the outcome, various discipline can be imposed – including termination. False accusations are also cause for discipline.

The HR model isn’t perfect either. In many organizations, HR’s job is to protect the company– not individual employees. Since many employees are “at-will”, employers don’t need reasons to fire someone. To avoid getting sued, sometimes employers find it simpler to unjustly terminate perfectly good employees whether there’s truth behind an accusation or not.

Despite its flaws, I prefer the investigatory model to the adversarial. It doesn’t require a victim to make the complaint, put together the evidence, and endure as much ostracism from friends of the accused. We continue to make tweaks to the hearings process, but it hasn’t changed the number of complaints about bad behavior or the number of members sanctioned because of it. Perhaps it’s time for a different approach.

For more information about my thoughts on various Mensa issues, please click here: