Wednesday, March 16, 2022

That BSI membership process, again with the BSI membership process!

 As Sherlockians gathered in Dayton this weekend, I had one moment that was worth pondering. A Sherlockian from that distant land out east came up to me and said, "You're that guy who doesn't go anywhere and complains about everything." 

The truth of that comment is that there definitely is one place I haven't gone lately, and one thing I do complain about a couple of times a year. And while it's not everything to me, it is to some people, so I can see where I might deserve that remark. That one thing?

The annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, specifically its invitation and investiture process.

In the last few decades, the BSI has ramped up their publishing business, their archives, their oral history -- so many innovations, so many changes, so much to be proud of. And yet the invitation/membership process remains in the "benevolent dictator" mode, where if the one guy has some personal reason not to like you, or you just don't meet his view of who a BSI should be, you get ignored until the next regime change. We all talk about this in private, but few mention it in public print, which is where one gets the reputation of someone "who complains about everything." Especially if you bring it up at least once a year as a person with an ongoing blog might do.

And let's be honest here: It sticks in my craw more than most because I got burned early on in my Sherlockian career for complaining about how the benevolent dictator process was keeping women out of the annual event and the recognition that comes with it. Once the gender restriction wasn't an issue any more, the biases against particular individuals wasn't as obvious, as the biases of an individual human will ebb and flow. Someone who might be on the outs this year can be forgiven and blessed a few years from now. The flaw in the system is not nearly as obvious when the patterns aren't as clear, as it was when a whole gender was being kept out.

Everybody enjoys the recognition that the annual BSI dinner provides. And the newly-minted members can be the most ardent enthusiasts for the mechanism that got them that recognition. But taking a long view, there are definitely improvements that could be made to this particular part of the organization, just as improvements have been made to every other part of the organization over the years.  The old "It's Joe's party, Joe gets to decide who comes!" argument might have fit when it was just a dinner party, but the Baker Street Irregulars is much more than just a dinner party at this point.

There's no simple answer to replacing the old system. Balloting requires nominations, and nominations mean known losers, which would not be good. An elected committee to quietly make the choices might alleviate some of the bias and give a little institutional transparency, as well as still let the members feel invested without being particular buddies with the head guy. It would just be nice to feel like the subject could actually be considered and discussed in public without concern over getting on the current regime's bad side. Which is the major flaw of the "benevolent dictator" system -- one individual can have a bad side. And that can lead to missed opportunities as well as poor choices pumped up by those who want to stay off said bad side.

So there you go, more of me complaining . . . or perhaps gently suggesting . . . as I always do. But I did go to Dayton this weekend, so I do have that going for me, in the going somewhere category.

1 comment:

  1. Mary of the BovestriansMarch 20, 2022 at 8:03 PM

    Please tell me you looked around directly after receiving this comment and went "Wow, my house sure looks different today."