This is an open letter from arbitrators and arbitration committees from across the Wikimedia movement.
We have followed closely the process of the creation of the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC). We know that many small communities do not have a basic set of rules, so it's hard for new editors to have a good sense of what is allowed and what not. Additionally, we encourage the creation of basic rules of conduct for all wikis to ensure that nobody gets treated poorly. Editors in our communities wish to have an environment conducive to creating high quality content. We do not want to see editors discriminated against based on opinion, culture, sexuality, etc. Editors should be judged by their editing. In our experience, the global community and our projects will generally endorse rules that ensure no individual is a victim of discrimination or hounding.
However, we are concerned about the enforcement of the UCoC and concerned about how that enforcement will be viewed on our projects. The lack of formal consultation with projects before the board approved the UCoC means it risks being seen as imposed by the Wikimedia Foundation from above, rather than being seen as a legitimate community endeavor. Several of our projects have seen major damage and harm done when the communities have come into conflict with the Wikimedia Foundation (for instance dewiki with SUPERPROTECT and enwiki with FRAMGATE). We do not want that to happen with the Universal Code of Conduct as that could undermine the benefits it has to offer for projects without well-developed policies, systems, and experience for dealing with editor behavior. Recent changes to the timeline to allow for more consultation and discussion are a positive step.
It is therefore vital that projects with more sophisticated governing systems, like ours, be formally involved in the next step of the UCoC process. We note the recent call for a new committee to draft the second phase. At least one person with experience as an arbitrator, or similar experience dealing with complex and difficult behavior issues, should be added as a member of the drafting committee, and at least one additional person with this experience, or experience as a Steward, should be added as an advisor.
We understand that individual projects cannot be given a veto over the implementation of the UCoC. However, we hope that you understand that individual projects must feel committed to whatever enforcement mechanisms arise. Without this sense of investment and partnership the UCoC will ultimately fail. Mere consultation is insufficient. A formal process for ratifying the UCoC enforcement system is necessary.
The UCoC must also be a living document. The community is changing and evolving and so has universal behavior. We know that this is a different document than if it had been created 10 years ago, and we feel that universal norms will be different in 10 years. A way to amend the Universal Code of Conduct must be added, and this amendment process should build on lessons learned to date to ensure that communities and individuals have a chance for meaningful input before any amendment is adopted.
Wikipedia and other projects are only possible because of the hard work of editors at communities to create and maintain the incredible store of knowledge available. This path is longer, but hasty decisions and decisions that lack legitimacy in the eyes of the volunteers they effect could cause real damage to our communities and the work we do. In the words of the Wikimedia Foundation values, "Collaboration is not always easy. Sometimes we struggle. Working together is hard, but it’s worth it. We do it because it makes us stronger." We ask you to be stronger together with us.