BCS trustee threatens rebels with libel action
Model railway enthusiasts or professionals?
Rebel members of the BCS have been threatened with libel action unless they withdraw claims that appear to question the probity of the organisation's Trustees.
The BCS is the midst of £5m 'transformation' programme that includes re-branding to "BCS: the Chartered Institute for IT". Such moves have not gone down well with some members.
Over 50 people have joined calls for an Extraordinary General Meeting, which will be held on July 1. There will be a vote of no confidence in the current board of Trustees and BCS chief executive David Clarke and a call to suspend spending on the multi-million pound change programme.
The two sides have been arguing online and via mailing lists.
But now one of the trustees, Ken Olisa, has sought the immediate retraction of what he regards as libellous remarks made in calling for an EGM.
In an email to one of the critics, Olisa demanded "that you and the other 5 signatories withdraw the unwarranted slur on my good name, apologise forthwith (copying the recipients of your message) and undertake in the same correspondence not to repeat the libel".
The email added: "I take my reputation very seriously and will have no hesitation in pursuing you and your co-signatories in the Courts unless I receive an unequivocal apology."
Ken Olisa told The Register that he was disappointed that his email had become public but stood by his actions. He said: "This is a personal action but the essence of being a professional is surely honesty and integrity so I must defend myself."
Olisa said the row over the future of the BCS was whether information technology was to be seen as a true profession, like doctors, with a truly professional body representing it, or if it was to continue to be regarded as a club for enthusiasts. He compared the current view to that of model railway fanciers.
He said it was a democratic organisation and the direction would be decided democratically by its membership.
The row has clearly traumatised some members, with accusations of bullying, threats and even blackmail being made in documents seen by The Register. Some members have already resigned in disgust at the changes being made.
The existing management is determined to push what was once called "the Dad's Army of IT" into being a proper professional body.
Members can vote online, by post or in person at the meeting on 1 July. ®
Dad's Army of IT
"Your name vill also go on ze libel action. Vot is it?"
"Don't tell him, Pike!"
The BCS's reputation
When I graduated, a few years ago now, people said even then that the name sounded quaint - like some kind of club (reminiscent of the British Interplanetary Society which doesn't actually do any travelling to other planets, either, but it sounds more fancy) - so you can see what people are getting at. Having said that, the BCS and IEEE's computing arm have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by people they still dismiss as amateurs: the open source software movements, people actually exchanging knowledge in the open, rather than going through the gold-plated members-only gateway.
I'm just surprised the BCS is still going in this day and age. That someone would sue for libel based on someone else exercising some kind of democratic institutional right says it all. I thought there was some kind of ethics programme in the BCS, but I guess there isn't after all.
I am a member of the BCS, have been before I got my IT degree and still am.
O'yea and it stands for British Computer Society.
I have been a member for quite a few years now (MBCS encase your wondering), and I have on the whole found it a useful organisation.
The most irritating thing was there rubbish website, which is now significantly improved, and there massive hike in membership costs, which did make me think long and hard about the value of membership.
However since I started using the BCS, I have found they have two things I find very important.
The first, is the number of variety of forums, talks, introductions and presentations you have free access to as a member (and you can also usually take a non-member mate with you). At these things you get to network with other IT folk/organisations, get a handle on new technologies, historical information and get to ask questions. If you have an active interest in IT, there very good and very good value for money.
The second, relates to ethics training mentioned above. What it essentially means to be an MBCS member is that you have a formal approach to resolving issues of ethics, and a formal manner in which to deal with (in most cases) your employer. Should this fail, you have the backing of your professional body and its much easier should it become necessary too defend your self if you have followed a formal method endorsed by your own professional body.
Now regardless if these two points interest you or not, essentially I am very glad this article was here, as it caught my attention and having read the 'rebel' link, which I have to say is significantly more useful than the 'BCS links' to them I am going to support the EGM.
Essentially this EGM is about Trust. Regardless of the direction of the BCS, the directors have not released documents asked for by the council, such as showing due diligence in a number of areas, specifically in pressing ahead with a £5m plan. Even now the EGM has been called (a year after they were originally challenged) this information is still not forth coming.
So regardless of the future of the BCS, I think the future of the directors and board of trustee's is the door. What disgusts me more than anything else is the tone of the BCS has changed significantly since I have joined. Putting 'quick vote' options onto voting forms, and there choices of words and counter resolutions. I suspect even with out the issues of clarity, I would have little trust. The top level of the BCS seem to of been Bushed or Blair’ed, time for a flush I think.
I also feel a slightly longer article would, or at least one that touch’s on the main points of contention would of been valuable for us reg readers.