CIA (e)Bulletin/(e)Bulletin de l'ICA
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December 2015

How the Current Discussion Listserver Terms of Use Came to Be

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By Marc Tardif, FCIA

Prior to 2014, the CIA Discussion Listserver Policy had not been reviewed since 2006, when a number of changes were drafted and approved by volunteers at that time to reflect the communications circumstances of the day.

Two things happened to compel the review of the policy in 2014. The first was a report from the CIA Policies Task Force chaired by Simon Curtis in early 2013. The task force had a mandate to review all CIA policies to ensure that they were appropriate, required, and current. The task force referred the Discussion Listserver Policy to the Member Services Council (MSC) for review and action.

The second event was a follow-up note to the chair of the MSC in September 2013. The note mentioned that in its current form, the listserver document was not a policy per se. The task force recommended that the document be modified and retained as a policy or moved to the Rules of Professional Conduct or the Bylaws.

The MSC, which I chaired at the time, appointed a working group consisting of CIA members Frank Grossman, Marc-André Belzil, and Claire Bilodeau, to the task of reviewing all the policies assigned. The Discussion Listserver Policy was saved until last, as at the time other documents were in higher need of updating. Les Dandridge, CIA director, communications and public affairs, served as staff support for their work.

The working group launched its efforts on the listserver policy, focusing on the feedback that the current policy did not take the form of a typical CIA policy, but was more a list of rules.

The group decided that listserver behaviour was not an appropriate subject for addition to the Rules of Professional Conduct (although the rules were certainly part of the background of many working group discussions) and they also felt that it would be inappropriate to go through the complicated process required for a bylaw change for what should be a simple thing: creating an online environment which encourages communication among professionals.

At the end of the discussions, the group decided that, to support an online environment where all members feel comfortable discussing ideas in a collegial atmosphere, changing the listserver policy to a terms of use (TOU) document would resolve the issues that the task force had pointed out, and would help bring more light and less heat to many listserver exchanges.

Many elements of the former policy were maintained, but the key changes included the following:

  • A shift in philosophy about the discussion listservers. Subscription and access were to become privileges rather than rights of membership. The implicit contract did not change, but with privileges come responsibilities. Subscribers would need to treat their fellow members with courtesy and professional respect. CIA Head Office staff could post messages. And CIA officers do not communicate on discussion listservers.
  • The TOU would encourage all members to participate by establishing and maintaining a professional and constructive environment for communication.
  • The discussion listservers were to still be unmoderated, as they had been from their start. They are monitored to ensure that the TOU are followed, but once a member sends an e-mail, the member’s message is delivered directly to subscribers.
  • In the policy being replaced, subscribers who contravened the policy received a mandatory warning. This was seen as not being effective and the working group decided to make warnings optional.
  • Subscribers whose privileges are suspended can appeal their suspension to the chair of the Member Services Council, whose decision is final.
  • The CIA’s director of communications was given the authority to enforce the TOU, as what was being monitored was not actuarial in nature, but focused more on the tone of the exchanges.
  • In terms of tone and content, the same very clear and simple standard that applied in the policy was maintained. "Statements that would be inappropriate in a session at a CIA meeting are inappropriate for a discussion listserver." Of course differences of opinion will occur, but following this standard in a cooperative way would help.

Once the working group was satisfied with their document, they sent it to the MSC for discussion and approval, which happened on October 22, 2014, by a vote of MSC members.

Marc Tardif, FCIA, is the Board liaison to the Member Services Council.


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