A brief look at the making and breaking of rules that govern the Alumni Network.
Like all online websites, the Alumni Network has a set of rules that define acceptable conduct. In the Alumni Network we call those rules the Guidelines of Acceptable Conduct or "GAC" for short. The GAC is maintained, reviewed, and enforced by the Administration and the community itself through a set of community-staffed committees with rotating memberships.
We strive to maintain a safe, productive, and edifying online environment and believe the best the way to accomplish this is by empowering the community to develop, manage, and support the rules that govern it.
Making the Rules - The Policy Review Committee
The Policy Review Committee develops and maintains the Guidelines of Acceptable Conduct. Learn more about the Policy Review Committee here.
Enforcing the Rules - The Neighborhood Watch Program
Unlike some online services where where certain individuals are vested with the power of being a “moderator,” the Alumni Network is moderated, to a great extent, by the community itself using a system we call the Neighborhood Watch Program. We believe, and have found to be true, that is not necessary to have a moderator, or group of moderators, “watching over” other members. The rules are plain enough, and given the tools to perform the service, the community itself can report and resolve issues through the Neighborhood Watch program. We prefer this largely self-governing model to the "forum bosses" model you may be familiar with from other discussion forums.
To the greatest practical extent, we view the enforcement of rules not as a position to be granted to an individual or group of individuals, but rather as a service to be provided to the community, by the community.
How does the Neighborhood Watch Program work?
The system is pretty simple. Here's the life cycle of a typical situation:
More detail on who does what is outlined in the table below:
- A member of the community reports a violation to the Response Team.
- The Response Team reviews the report and takes necessary action (removing objectionable content, etc.)
- If necessary, the Response Team may assign consequences (prescribed by the Administrative Committee) to the user(s) who violated the GAC.
Like a good neighbor, you (and every member of the community) should report violations of the GAC.
Report possible violations to the Response Team.
Members of the community appointed by the Administrative Committee to serve 6-month terms.
Receive reports from the community, clean up violations (remove obscenities, etc), make easy-to-interpret* violation determinations, notify violators of violations, and send reports to Administrative Committee.
Review reports presented by the Response Team and answer two questions as necessary:
1) Is it a GAC violation? (*if deemed questionable by the Response Team)
2) If so, what is the consequence for this violation?
What happens when someone violates a policy? [link]
After receiving a policy violation report from the community, the Response Team will send a notification to the violator to bring their attention to the applicable section of the GAC. First-time policy violators usually receive a warning or temporary suspension of forum posting (or other) privileges, however, “at the discretion of the Administrative Committee, consequences for violating any of these guidelines will range from warnings and suspension of privileges to account suspension and termination.” (GAC 4.2.2)
What about "gray area?" How is the GAC applied and interpreted? [link]
While most of the guidelines are objectively applicable, interpretation is sometimes required. For example, there may be differing opinions of what constitutes “trolling,” or “flaming,” or what is – and is not – “obscene,” or what constitutes "inappropriate" behavior, etc. Although much of work of interpreting the policy is done by the Response Team, the Administrative Committee is the final authority on matters of policy interpretation.
Who is the Neighborhood Watch?
The Neighborhood Watch isn't a person - it's a community-wide program involving the following:
See "How does the Neighborhood Watch program work?" above to learn more about the roles of each and how you can help.
- You (every member of the community),
- the Response Team,
- and input from the Administrative Committee when necessary.
Why are members of the Response Team anonymous?
Unfortunately, with Internet discussion forums being what they are, the folks who violate the rules have been known to harass those who enforce them. We don’t want anyone shooting the messenger or giving flak to the volunteers who help enforce the rules, so the personal identities of the Response Team members are not made public. The Response Team is directly accountable to the Administrative Committee, so any complaints or suggestions may be sent to the Administrative Committee directly.
Also see: FAQs about GAC Enforcement.