Linden Endowment for the Arts, and Hazing in Second Life

Linden Endowment for the Arts, and Hazing in Second Life

Update 7/6/17: I was contacted by a Linden and told they’re looking into this.

This post makes me sad. I don’t want to type it. I’ve been trying to avoid it by settling the matter privately or seeking help from Linden Lab on the downlow. But after several tries to get the office’s attention about what’s going on, I think the only real solution is to make this issue public. They simply aren’t responding because what I have to report doesn’t fit exactly into their usual categories.

Everyone knows I’m about art. It’s what I do for a living irl and I’m very happy with it. After a great bout of years in the art field, I got involved with Linden Endowment for the Arts thinking that would be great experience for joining a real, larger panel for an established museum. Unfortunately, that’s not what I found here.

What I found inside the LEA committee was hazing, harassment, and power plays. Specifically, junior members who sign up to join the Linden Endowment for the Arts are put through an unofficial series of subtle hazing–and that is what I’m here to talk about today.

Because Linden Lab allows this group to operate by providing several sims’ worth of free land for them to use and allocate, I feel this is important and worth speaking about so that one day, maybe this issue can be fixed.

What is Subtle Hazing?

From Auburn University’s website:

Subtle hazing is behavior that emphasizes a power imbalance between new members/rookies and other members of the group or team. Termed “subtle hazing” because these types of hazing are often taken for granted or accepted as “harmless” or meaningless. Subtle hazing typically involves activities or attitudes that breach reasonable standards of mutual respect and place new members/rookies on the receiving end of ridicule, embarrassment, and/or humiliation tactics. New members/rookies often feel the need to endure subtle hazing to feel like part of the group or team. (Some types of subtle hazing may also be considered harassment hazing).Some Examples:

  • Deception

  • Assigning demerits

  • Silence periods with implied threats for violation

  • Deprivation of privileges granted to other members

  • Requiring new members/rookies to perform duties not assigned to other members

  • Socially isolating new members/rookies

  • Line-ups and drills/tests on meaningless information

  • Name calling

  • Requiring new members/rookies to refer to other members with titles (e.g. “Mr.,” “Miss”) while they are identified with demeaning terms

  • Expecting certain items to always be in one’s possession

The first story of harassment and hazing doesn’t belong to me. It actually belongs to John H, who runs Kultivate Magazine.

Watching John Fall

When I joined the LEA committee as an adviser, John had the same position. At that time, he hadn’t shown up to the first meeting I attended, thus it was discussed about removing privileges from him since he was away. I didn’t realize it then, but one of the senior committee members, JMB Balogh, started grooming me to vote against John keeping his privileges.

In a private Discord chat, she told me that John had threatened her and fellow panel member, Secret Rage, “many times”. She didn’t go into what the threats were or how they were said. Still, I was aghast at this and wondered how they kept him on the committee at all. John then posted a letter in the LEA Google Groups site, stating someone had shown him the chat about removing his rights and that he was never contacted about anything. He seemed betrayed and very upset.

JMB became angry and grilled me in a private chat to see if I was the one who spoke to John. No one spoke up about who did it, so it was never revealed who was the culprit.

John resigned shortly afterwards. I had the inkling that someone pushed him to resign; he’s an emotional guy, and someone knew doing this to him would make him quit. But I kept those thoughts to myself and went on with training at LEA.

Hostility Over A Suggestion

LEA had a round of voting to allocate land to artists for its 13th batch of AiR grants. There were 30-something applicants; although my vote weighed less due to me being an adviser instead of a full member of the panel, I was still allowed to participate and become a liaison for the winners (which means, I would assist land grant artists if they had questions or needed help).

I also had an idea about promoting LEA to rl art media sites. I felt LEA needed better recognition; just courting blogging sites and machinima websites wasn’t going to do it, especially with artists like Marina Ambrovic and Jeff Koons co-opting the digital exhibit idea already pioneered in Second Life. After suggesting this, the panel liked the idea and said it was my project.

During the 13th round of voting, I saw several artists who seemed familiar to the voting process doing something strange–they were leaving direct notes in their apps for the panelists to read. Mostly this was listed where artists were to link their portfolio. Some 3D artists, instead, were inviting LEA members to view a “sneak peek” of their upcoming work. In fact, they wrote panelists’ names; some, who weren’t even with LEA any longer.

I thought it was weird and brought it up in the LEA Discord chat to discuss there first. My point was that a friendly reminder for people not to write notes like that in their apps would help to keep better distance between judges and applicants, in case the Lab ever looked over the apps in an audit.

Two people understood what I was saying (Patti and LaPiscean), but had different reactions. Patti felt I misunderstood the notes, while LaPiscean agreed and wanted me to bring it up at a meeting. I waited for the next panel meeting to take place, which was about every two weeks. When I did, I received a surprise.

At the next meeting, I was accused by JMB and Secret of causing trouble when I brought up the notes issue. I was shocked–was I not supposed to speak up about these things as an adviser? While LaPiscean still understood my stance, he explained they couldn’t address this publicly. It was best to let it go and move on.

JMB and Secret were set against me for the rest of the meeting, bringing up whatever they could to try and get me in trouble. It didn’t work and I was defended by Patti. By the time the meeting ended, I was angry. I told Patti about it, who said she had spoken to JMB about her tone. LaPiscean said I had to “earn my wings” with them.

I approached JMB and Secret separately and told them to never talk to me like that again, then turned in the resulting logs to Patti. In response, Secret posted a mass email to the entire group saying I had threatened her. When I asked Patti or LaPiscean to correct her over this lie, neither one of them did anything.

Pressure and Escalation

I had taken on a project to translate the LEA Sandbox rules into Spanish; I spoke a conversational amount but ended up needing help with translating certain terms anyway. When a fellow Second Life user came to my rescue, I thanked her by granting her a portrait to show my appreciation.

There was a meeting called at 2am (for 12 hours later) by one of the panelists. Although we had a deadline for me to finish the translation in two weeks’ time, the panel wanted me to turn the translation in that day. I told them a meeting called in less than 24 hours wouldn’t net me giving them work; it was unfair to expect that of me.

The next meeting, I turned the TOS translation in. But they wanted more. JMB suddenly recalled me having taken on the project of all the translations. Patti suddenly could not remember and seemed confused. I said no, because I only knew Spanish. They kept pressuring me to take the work, and I kept refusing. Then I told them, they can’t demand this of me and then be rude to me at the same time and call me a troublemaker. This is when they got upset and implied I shouldn’t be on the panel anymore. I told them I just wanted some basic respect, not to be lied about, and not pressured to go above and beyond for them while being treated badly.

JMB told me I had to “earn respect” with them.

I told them I had asked a mole to find a Linden to help me with this issue. They got upset and said it was against the rules to speak to people outside of LEA about LEA business. I pointed out that this is Linden business, and it is not against the rules to seek help for a situation in LEA gone awry.

What Secret Rage said then disheartened me: “They aren’t interested-we have 2 in our email thread with nary a peep.”

In other words, they knew they could do this to people and they would get away with it. This is why they have so far.

They held another meeting afterwards, locked me out, and passed me a note asking me to resign. I refused. Suddenly, everything from John’s push-out made sense; JMB had lied about the threats in order to turn my opinion against him. I had gotten played like a fiddle and was now the target of their next bout of harassment.

Afterwards, LaPiscean had this to say to me in a private chat: “Patti and I were outvoted. [JMB] will be on her way to give you the bad news, if she hasn’t already. But I am making moves so that this cannot happen to others.”

Recognizing Abuse Online

Isolation, deception, implied threats, and trying to limit your outreach to authority for help. This is abuse. And when you’re dealt this as a means of proving your worth to receive some kind of promotion or acceptance, that’s hazing. Straight up. Looking back, it’s crystal clear to me.

I know John and I aren’t the first people to deal with this. Many artists who deal with LEA believe the panel exercises bias when doling out grants. I went in believing maybe people just didn’t see the other side of what happens in planning and awarding grants, but I was horribly dismayed to find their assumptions were true–and so much more.

I’m leaving this entry here to warn others against dealing with any of the panel members here. If you do, document everything. Find a Linden to turn it into… if you can, because my efforts to even find a Linden to listen to this tale have been unsuccessful. If you’re out there, a Linden reading this? I’ve got logs to back up what I’m saying.

The Linden Endowment for the Arts is a mess. I have no idea what it’s going to take to clean it up. A rotating group of curators who vote in projects when it’s time? A smaller panel whose only job is not voting, but janitorial duties who works with the temporary panel of curators? A Linden on the panel to keep an eye on everybody? To wipe this program and start over, and not let SL users control app files and archives this time?

Whatever LL does, next time they need to make sure the committee doesn’t get so comfortable with itself that it resorts to hazing and power plays to control others. We would all be a lot better without that. ☆

Bonus: Questions

  • “Why haven’t LEA members done anything about this?” Per LaPiscean, they know what’s going on but it seems to be an issue of voting majority. It’s going to take enough to stop this from happening. Some of the quieter members are also averse to confrontation.
  • But I don’t see evidence of wrongdoing.” Thankfully, the quotes I listed show they are aware of their actions; they just don’t want to fix it.
  • “Would you return to LEA if they installed a new committee?” Nope. I don’t even feel people should mess with the panel anymore at all unless a Linden is keeping an eye on them. As a group, they just aren’t trustworthy at this point.
  • “Why do you care about this at all?” In a way, people are paying for this program. LL provides 20-something free sims for LEA to play with. That money’s coming from somewhere, and it isn’t the employees’ pockets.
  • “What will you do now?” Thankfully, I have a career outside of here. I guess I’ll sob into my new comic anthology, my ongoing book distribution deal, and my art shows in NY and abroad. Lol but seriously, I’ll be fine. ✌

Posted by Aemeth

Hi! I’m Aemeth. I paint and make things in SL for fun.

12 comments

  1. Amen. Good on you for sharing and making public. Sl is a place for ppl to harass each other and back bite. I keep a healthy distance now.

  2. I’m actually not even a little bit surprised. Powerful positions are controlled by bullies? Yep, not surprised.

  3. I’m an LEA volunteer member, and this doesn’t make me happy to hear. However, this is the attitude and behavior that is unfortunately typical of people in sl nowadays.

  4. Wow. Sounds like these people are all jerks. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I have never heard it called hazing…in my day we called this “SL drama”. It happens because anonymity makes people feel free act like jerks because they don’t have to look people in the eye and they don’t have to worry about physical retaliation. The mob effect of a group endeavor just amplifies that. I can tell you that Linden Lab doesn’t really respond to abuse and drama complaints very well in general. I run a real estate biz in SL and there is a particular scam that happens so frequently that I have put a warning in caps at the top of my covenants and people still fall for it. I have had people say they were scammed out of 100,000 L and I do everything I can to try to prevent it. But the Lab traditionally doesn’t care and doesn’t help. Even tho there are many steps they could take to prevent or discourage this kind of scam. They have a very hands off approach to abuse. You are not the first person to feel abandoned by the Lab, there is a very long line of people ahead of you and there will be more behind you. It’s one of the reasons I am leery of Sansar. If they don’t start standing up and taking responsibility with what happens in their world’s, I don’t have high hopes for that project either.

    • Hey there! Yeah, I feel we should definitely talk about the nature of harassment in online spaces more. We often think of hazing and harassment as happening just in college and at the workplace, but it can definitely happen anywhere. If it’s conditional to accepting a promotion and it’s known this happens as a process, that’s hazing. My hope is that anyone else who finds themselves in this situation will recognize it and know how to get out of it.

  5. I worked many times at LEA, and the idea is good. But the problem is that a committee don’t exist anymore and the actual members are out LEA rules. For example, official LL wiki declare that LEA is a collaborative venture between Linden Lad and “Guided by a dedicated board of renowned Second Life artists”. Well, no one in the committee is a artist, all the “renowned” artist are escaped from this committee, because you can imagine that a voting system where exist a mutual agreement between voters is not so good. I did a proposal with my SL name after have sent a note to committee with some comments about this topic and only one talked with me trying to understand (Solo, that is runned away some time ago), the others sent me hysterical messages and banned me from LEA, they refused successive proposals. Then i writed a application with a unknow alt, using a online bullock art generator for write a “artistic” proposal and they accepted and my alt did a nice expo and he was happy. Another problem is that the committee members are firmly glued to chairs also if is too long time that they are always the same.

  6. contacted by a Linden is not enough, they listen only this people words. can be a good idea stop the LEA activity for 6 months and build a trusted committee by scratch, involving real and well know artists as asked by LEA rules.

  7. i am gone a bit more in dept about this topic, was strange that a important page as the LEA Mission & Purpose on LEA site had become so simple; Using the wayback machine is enough easy see the page transformation, and is interesting this:

    https://web.archive.org/…//lea-sl.org/about/lea-bylaws

    where was present some rules as:
    4.1.1 There will be a maximum of eleven (11) and a minimum of seven (7) Committee Members once the number goes below seven (7) elections will take place.

    They are 5 now, missing two for have the minimum.

    5.1.5 Term for Committee Members shall be 2 years (commencing with the ratification of these bylaws).

    5.1.6 Committee Members may serve up to 2 terms.

    5.1.7 After 2 terms, Committee Members may be moved to Ex Officio status.

    Almost all the people in committee is glued to chairs from more long times than 4 years, they have to go.

    (follow)

  8. And others point, but this is already enough for understand that the actual committee is not legal.

    This rev. 07/17/2012 document remain active until march 2016, then someone who know who and why make a simpler and light version, and the rules about terms of committee oplà disappear.

    https://web.archive.org/…//lea-sl.org/about/lea-bylaws

    Then in 2017 all the rules disappear, making the About page useless and generic. Why they did this work? Who know. Who was embarassed?

    https://web.archive.org/…//lea-sl.org/about/lea-bylaws

    all the versions archived:

    https://web.archive.org/…//lea-sl.org/about/lea-bylaws

    So, is the actual committee agreed by Linden Lab and legal? They know this strange traffics? Ask to your Linden contact.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m appalled but also not surprised. People try to make up for what power they lack in real life, with power in SL. Nothing wrong with that but then it is so very easy to abuse power where there is little to no risk of repercussions. That’s the danger of being powerful, popular, and / or successful in any life. I’m sorry you had this experience but really glad to hear that you stood up to them.

    • Hi! Thanks for responding. Yeah, I found a lot of… deficiencies with the panel that made me wonder how they got their positions in the first place. There were a lot of basic things about the art world I had to explain to them (like how to promote their program, what is “media” and that not being just some SL blog). They didn’t seem to keep up with art industry news either, or put current events together with LEA’s exhibits. None of that seemed to register. It was just about what they could control, and that made me very sad.

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