Dice Game – “Sorry you cant come home”

The commune works and redesigns itself in order to meet as many needs of the members as possible.  And there are some rough edges when it comes to what drives most interesting ethical questions: conflicting rights.

We have had a waiting list for going on 2 years now.  In the abstract it is great to be full of contributing communards.  In practice, when we are full we have fewer degrees of freedom and we loose potentially wonderful members, because we either dont have a space for them – or we dont know precisely when we will.  In the last few months a new problem has popped up – there being no space for returning members on leave.

We have a slightly controversial policy called the Personal Affairs Leave (or PAL) policy.  Part of the reason it is controversial is that i have bent and stretched this policy to accommodate my needs and more than a couple of people have felt run over by this pushing.  But this is for another blog post.  What is relevant here is that there are currently 3 members looking at the possibility of coming back in the next couple of months, and there are not spaces for them, even tho they have rooms which are still theirs here.

This is how it works.  When you go on PAL, if you have lived here for 3 years or more, you can maintain your room rights and when you come back after your leave you can return to the room you had when you departed.  So far so good.  To come back to the community, however, there needs to be a space for you.  If we are at our population cap you need to wait for someone to leave to create a space.  Historically, this has worked pretty well.  When Angie wanted to come back from her PAL she could basically come right back, for example.  These days appear to be past.  Even tho the new member waiting list is quite short, people who want to return here in Sept and October might have to wait months.

The commune hates this, but when you go on leave there is always some chance this might happen.  And then we wrestle with questions about “How long can someone extend their leave, while they are waiting for a space, and how fast do they have to come back?” And “Can a returning member be a guest here while they are waiting for their slot to open up?”  Technically, the PAL policy only permits you to guest for a month (this provision was added for me some years back).  Right now it could easily be a couple of months and perhaps 4 or 5, before a member leaves and creates a spot for someone wishing to return.

Part of the shape of this problem comes in the form of “bumpable rooms”.  There are currently 4 members away on PAL who have right to their rooms when they return.  However, if there is a new member in their room and their is no space for the room owner to come back, they can not bump the new member from their room, unless there is a membership slot available.  Without bumpable rooms, we would need to leave rooms of members on leave only open to guests, which would be problematic.  Without bumpable rooms we would not be able to insure members could return where they left from and many fewer people would take leaves (which would make some PAL critics happy).

We may re-start the Pop Gang which has representatives from different teams (including recruiting and room assigning, so i am always on this body) and it looks at things we can do institutionally to make these tight circumstances work better.  If the pop gang is restarted, we will almost certainly look at guesting until your spot becomes available and trying to craft clever policy around this headachy situation.