At the formation of the Berkeley REACH in April of this year, I wrote in support of projects like it, and announced that I'd personally be contributing to it. Now that I've decided to discontinue the latter, I feel that I owe a public accounting of my reasons.
Initially, I though that REACH was worth supporting on general principles. As I was no longer based out of the SF Bay Area, I didn't think I'd get a lot out of it personally, but it seemed good to have a community nexus in a community full of people I cared about. I happened to be back in the Bay for a few months and ended up hanging out there a bit, and benefited from access to a community space. It seemed like at the very least, I should support it as long as I was back in town.
In June, REACH banned a close friend of mine pending a potential future investigation. Neither they nor I were told about the details of the conduct banned, much less the evidence involved. This puts me in a difficult position in a few ways.
This banning standard is appropriate for someone's personal property / living space (accountability in that regard seems bad), but not for a community space (which should have intelligible communal standards). Even so, this isn't inherently an intolerable situation - if someone's preferences are sufficiently representative of the community's, a "living room" style policy can save on overhead.
In the short run I was willing to cut REACH some slack, especially since it's still, as far as I know, not getting enough financial support for Sarah Spikes to run it full-time. But in September, three months after the initial ban, I asked whether any progress had been made on an investigation, and now it's been another month and as of initially writing this post I'd received no response.
On a pragmatic level, were I still in Berkeley, REACH would no longer be a good default place for me to hang out and socialize. If my friend were guilty of some sort of serious misconduct, I'd consider myself adequately compensated by learning of the evidence for this. (It would help me do my part to reduce exposing others to risk, for instance.) But I don't even know what they're accused of.
On a procedural level, I don't feel comfortable participating in a community where bans aren't as a matter of course intelligibly explained to the remaining members of the community. This isn't the same thing as having community standards, but it's a necessary precondition. And if I don't know what the standards are, I can't defend my own interests, or even track when they're likely under threat.
I held off publishing this for a while, since I had the sense that there were negotiations underway that might result in a better outcome, but all the info I've learned since the initial draft has given me the impression that REACH has been prioritizing having a big official-seeming process over simply informing members about what's going on.
I stand by my general support for spending resources on community institutions. My position is still that REACH is likely underfunded for a community center; perhaps if funding were adequate, it would be doing better at meeting the needs of people like me. But I shouldn't try to solve the tragedy of the commons by unilaterally contributing to the commons in the face of a strong incentive to the contrary, hoping for the best, and continuing to do so when this is manifestly inadequate. Instead, I'm cutting my losses and moving on, in the absence of either a principled or pragmatic reason not to.
Thanks to everyone who sincerely contributed to this experiment. I think it was a good try, and I still hope it manages to succeed at being a good place for someone. It just doesn't seem to be a place for me at this time.