MEADOWDANCE REMOVAL POLICY
PURPOSE AND INTENT
Meadowdance is a community designed to foster a particular lifestyle. Because of this, our community is dependent on explicit and full consent of all residents to live within our community Agreements. That is, Meadowdance is not designed to be a place where anyone can live under any circumstances, but rather a community for individuals who support and can live within the lifestyle we have described in our documents. When any resident of the community demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to live within these Agreements by violating or disregarding them, the community must have a means to require such a person to leave, provided an acceptable solution to the problem cannot be arrived at within the community itself.
In order to be clear and unambiguous, this document uses some special terms we have adopted for discussing membership and removal. Key terms are listed here. They are meant for use in discussions on this subject where precision is important, such as here and in removal discussions at a consensus meeting. They do not necessarily need to be in everyday use.
AGREEMENT - Where capitalized, "Agreement" refers to explicit written Agreements among community members. These Agreements describe the foundation of Meadowdance's lifestyle, and are accepted by all who reside in the community.
CUTTING SHORT - "Cutting short" refers to ending a Prospective Member's (i.e. a Guest, Apprentice, Seeker, or Transitional Member's) residence at Meadowdance prior to the individual leaving on his or her own, and prior to consideration of the next level of membership in consensus meetings.
EXPULSION - Expulsion is the removal of a Full Member, who has already been accepted permanently into the community.
MEMBER - For details of membership categories and full definitions of various membership statuses, please refer to the Membership Process Agreement.
REMOVAL - When the community agrees that any Resident of Meadowdance must leave, the term Removal is used. This includes Expulsion and Cutting Short, as well as the process of not coming to consensus on allowing a person to move to the next level of membership. It does not include Resignation (see below).
RESIDENT - This term is used to apply broadly to anyone living or staying at Meadowdance for any period of time, including Guests and Members.
RESIGNATION - A Resident of Meadowdance may resign from the community at any time at her or his own option. This is distinct from Removal, rather falling under a separate Resignation Agreement, to be proposed by the Membership Group if not already available.
ALTERNATIVES TO REMOVAL
Where possible, we may often prefer some alternative to removal, even in a case where a removal can be justified. These alternatives are generally useful only in cases where we feel the individual and the community can reconcile the underlying problem; in cases where we do not feel this can happen, removal is appropriate even if we feel the immediate difficulty can be addressed.
Some ways in which we can approach a problem in the community without resorting to removal include the following, individually or in combination:
- Creating a clearness committee to help sort out the deeper roots of the problem
- Finding a sponsor for an individual with a problem living within community Agreements, so that sponsor can help the individual on a personal level as an advocate and partner in discussion
- Seeking professional counseling for the individual, perhaps at community expense
- Obtaining a heartfelt resolution from the individual to alter his or her behavior. Such a resolution should be one that can be checked and reviewed on a specific schedule, to see if the change has really been made
- Making continued residence in the community subject to special provisions, designed to help ensure that the problem in question is addressed
- Removing the individual for a specific temporary period, with the intention that in the mean time the individual can seek to address the problem, perhaps with some special support from the community
- If removal is proposed based on violation of an Agreement that we find to be flawed and not in line with the underlying philosophy of the community, we may wish to reconsider the Agreement in question.
TYPES OF REMOVAL
CUTTING SHORT - When we Cut Short a Provisional Member's stay at the community, we are agreeing that it has become clear that the individual is not a good fit for the community and that a longer stay would be bad for the individual and/or the community. We can consider cutting short a person's residence in the community regardless of whether any Agreement has been broken, if there is good reason.
NOT COMING TO CONSENSUS ON THE NEXT LEVEL OF MEMBERSHIP - If the community cannot come to consensus agreement to bring a Prospective Member into the next level of membership when this proposal comes to the community as a whole, the individual is asked to leave the community within a period of time agreed upon by the community. This is the least serious type of Removal, as it is simply an admission that the individual and the community are not a good fit, coming at a time when a discussion of that very question had already been planned. If an individual decides to leave the community at such a point rather than asking to be considered for the next level of membership, s/he is considered to be Resigning rather than being removed.
EXPULSION OF A FULL MEMBER - If a Full Member is removed from the community, s/he is considered Expelled. Expulsion is a more serious undertaking than Cutting Short or not coming to consensus on a new level of membership, because it is reversing the decision to accept the individual as a Full Member, which was intended to be a permanent undertaking. Expulsion is only undertaken in the case of breaking a community Agreement by the individual in question, although there is not requirement that it must be undertaken in this kind of situation. Expulsion is not necessarily associated with any personal rejection or censure by the community, as there are many ways to be a good person and not all of them fit within our Agreements.
BASIS OF REMOVALS
A removal is not a punishment, but rather a step taken to protect the community and its lifestyle, and/or to protect the individual. If a removal is considered as a result of criminal activity, the community is not obligated to involve the police or any other outside agency.
A removal is always based on the common sense, compassion, and wisdom of the community as a whole rather than on a strict legalistic process.
We only undertake to consider expulsion when a person has violated a community Agreement. We will consider the underlying spirit of our community Agreements when considering whether or not to propose expulsion, rather than the letter of their text. As such, we agree it is acceptable to consider expulsion if a person has attempted to subvert an Agreement without technically violating it. Similarly, we will not consider Expulsion where we agree that a person has violated an Agreement by accident or out of understandable ignorance of it, or where the letter but not the underlying sense of the Agreement is violated. Thus, our expulsion process is not legalistic, but rather a deeper consideration of community intentions and the good of the community, as well as the good of the individual.
In extraordinary cases, a community resident might propose removal based on what he or she sees as an implicit Agreement. This kind of assertion must be considered very carefully, since even if virtually all residents of the community agree on a certain point (e.g. vegetarianism), this does not mean that it is an implicit Agreement. An implicit Agreement is a belief that helps form the foundation of the community without having been put into writing, not simply a widely-held opinion. This provision is important only because our Agreements can never be perfect, and therefore we must make allowances for our own limitations as a community.
The limitation that an expulsion must be based on violation of an Agreement applies only to Expulsions, not to other types of Removals.
Any resident of the community may propose the removal of any other member of the community. If the removal is an Expulsion, the person(s) proposing the removal must specify the specific Agreement or Agreements violated, again with the understanding that this is for information and not for legalistic analysis.
Of course we must come to consensus on a removal before it takes effect. If a person brings a removal proposal frivolously or dishonestly, this in itself is a violation of community Agreements, as it does a kind of violence (in an emotional and social sense) to another person.
POSSIBLE RESULTS OF A REMOVAL CONSIDERATION
We have several options when considering removal of a community resident. They include:
- We do not reach consensus on removing the individual, but some individuals have strong concerns. In this case some means of addressing the problem is usually very important, but removal is not the means by which it is addressed
- We find some alternative to removing the individual that answers the underlying concerns of the proposed removal
- We lay down the removal discussion as being unmerited
- We postpone discussion of removal to a specified future consensus meeting pending further consideration and/or additional information
- We come to consensus on removing the individual
- Consensus on removing the individual is blocked. This situation as a rule will be indicative of a serious underlying problem or disagreement, which should be carefully considered and addressed.
THE REMOVAL PROCESS
Any resident or collection of residents (regardless of membership status) can propose a removal for any other resident. For example, a Guest may propose removal of a Full Member, for instance if the Full Member has done some violence to the Guest.
The Membership Group will accept the responsibility of presenting the removal proposal on request; however, the requestor is always attributed. In other words, we cannot accept anonymous accusations in this process.
The proposal to remove is then brought up at the next consensus meeting (by the proposer(s) or the Membership Group). A special or emergency meeting may be called if necessary. If at all possible, the individual under consideration must be given the opportunity to be present at the meeting, although s/he is not required to attend. Those calling a special meeting must make every effort to notify and include all residents.
The discussion and decision on removal are handled like any other consensus discussion. At least two meetings (a first to present and discuss, a second or more to discuss further after consideration and potentially come to a decision) are strongly recommended as being helpful to strong consensus and a well-considered result.
The individual under consideration can participate fully in the meeting, except that s/he may not block this particular proposal. The rationale behind this is that an individual who has actually violated community Agreements may not act in the best interests of the community, instead feeling defensive, frightened or angry and acting out of that feeling. A person who has been acting in good faith and should not be expelled is of course still subject to this limitation of not being able to block, since that is largely the subject under discussion: s/he is dependent on others within the community to act with wisdom, understanding, and compassion, as we all are in all events.
In extraordinary circumstances (e.g. individual is in jail, individual is comatose), we may consider the decision without the potentially removed member present. However, even in this case some member must be designated as the individual's proxy and must faithfully represent and if possible confer with the individual before consensus discussions begin. If no member is willing to volunteer for this role, the Membership Group is empowered to appoint a person, as any individual being considered for removal deserves to have at least one person acting with careful consideration of his or her interests.
This process is not a trial, and the intent is not punishment but preserving the community and its lifestyle as well as the well-being of individuals in the community (including the potentially removed resident).
If a consensus decision to remove the member is reached, we must then reach a consensus decision on when the individual must leave. The default in normal situations is two weeks, although any period is acceptable if it has consensus approval. In emergency situations, where such an individual appears to present an immediate danger to the community, the default period is twenty-four hours.
We may consider an individual, couple, family, or other collection of individuals in this process, but only if all are alleged to have been involved in the underlying problem. Note that references in this document to an "individual" also apply to any group we consider together for removal. The exception is that if all of a child's parents are considered for expulsion, the children are included in the final decision by necessity, although not due to blame. The children are not subject to the same readmission requirements as a removed parent, however, if the children themselves are not the cause of the decision.
APPEAL AND RETURN
A member who has been expelled or cut short has no avenue for appeal, as there is no higher authority than the community as a whole.
If at some time we find that information that was significant in coming to the decision was incorrect, or if significant new information comes to light, the person or group that has acquired the new information is obliged to call for reconsideration of the decision.
A removed resident may re-apply for membership any time after six months past removal. As usual the community must come to consensus on admission of the individual for him/her to return. If accepted, the individual must go through the usual process from Seeker to Transitional Member to Full Member (i.e. return to the community after an expulsion is not into the former member's original status). We are not obliged to consider this re-application if no community member is willing to sponsor it.