Yesterday, it came to my attention that a piece of juror feedback for a SLF grant was passed along to the writer, and it was inappropriate in two ways — 1) it revealed that the juror had some biases that we should have caught and addressed in the jurying process, and 2) the feedback should never have been passed along to the writer regardless, as it was hurtful in its phrasing. Unintentionally, I think — the juror was trying to be helpful. But still.
I’m honestly grateful it came to my attention, though it was painful for me and for the SLF’s reputation, since it would be worse if the writer received this feedback and didn’t say anything to us; we’d never know this had happened. This incident clearly shows that we need to do more juror training and have more checks built into the system — more eyes on each grant application that comes in, for the most part.
Which, honestly, we already knew, and that’s the main reason why we’re doing the membership drive, to help pay for some extra staffing help, because right now we have a few volunteers running flat out (myself included), and it’s not surprising that mistakes are happening. A good portion of the funds were earmarked for a part-time volunteer coordinator to help us manage this all better. There are actually a lot of people who want to volunteer and help us, which is wonderful, but I simply don’t have the bandwidth to manage them all effectively. And so painful mistakes happen.
We’re going to take some time to think through our processes, and see what we can do to reduce the chance of this kind of bias affecting the jurying again. We can’t promise to eliminate bias entirely, but we can do better at looking for it and addressing it early. Some education work to do all around.
I thought about suspending the October membership drive entirely, but that would be counterproductive, I think — the entire point of the drive is to help us do this all better. But I’m going to take a few days to talk to my volunteer staff, to the affected writer and juror, and make a plan for next steps. We’ll be back with the membership drive soon, after we’ve had a chance to reflect and restructure our processes.
We’re so sorry for our mistakes here. Thanks for your patience with us as we work through this.
– Mary Anne Mohanraj, SLF Director