Additional update:

My diamond was removed something in the ballpark of an hour ago, as per my request from last week. Thanks for your understanding, everyone.

Some updates:

(1) I signed this letter. It has been signed by a very large number of moderators and ex-moderators

(2) David Fullerton, CTO of StackOverflow [1] has posted a considerably better apology that appears to recognize many of those points. Its an encouraging sign that there's an actual recognition of the issues and some preparedness to address them.

(3) I have also signed this letter; in particular I agree with each one of the three specific requests for action in it.

[1] (which I'll continue to think of and speak of as "StackExchange", since it better represents the network of sites I participate in)

I've been agonizing over this for quite a few days now. I hate to do it - and I certainly don't do it lightly - but I no longer see my position as a moderator as tenable.

A number of things in recent times have concerned me about StackExchange, but recent events have brought matters to a head.

Meanwhile, Stack Exchange Inc has gone to some trouble to make it hard for people to know what is actually going on, including changing the algorithm by which hot meta posts will appear on your page.

For example this meta post Firing mods and forced relicensing blew up, and you should have been notified about it in the "Hot Meta Posts" section of the sidebar but SE made sure that it and posts like it would not appear in the Hot Meta Posts notifications. I found it by pure accident. Nice.

If the StackExchange community is bothered by something, you no longer get to know that unless you're checking meta.SE carefully.

So what has happened? Skipping a lot of details (but you can find them; the above link has many further links in it, for starters, see later posts in meta and their answers and comments for further information, and check the posts in the various site metas, such Writing, for resigning mods across the network), here's a rough summary.

  1. SE is going to introduce a new Code of Conduct which (among other things) is attempting to make the site more accepting of LGBTQI+ users.

  2. A summary of this Code was posted to a private moderator-only chat room. This is not an unusual eventuality and open robust discussion of proposed changes is also not unusual, such things have been discussed with mods before and their views taken into consideration (usually leading to much better outcomes). One of the mods - one of the most respected mods on the entire SE network, and someone I have held a deep respect for since before StackOverflow was thought of - asked some questions about a particular aspect of this policy and how it would work in practice. This is all to be expected.

  3. After a while this discussion went to email.

  4. A Stack Exchange employee appears to have accused this moderator of bigotry. Stack Exchange have removed the moderator (Monica Cellio). This removal occurred hours before a major religious holiday for this moderator (and during which she would not be able to respond)

    The official position is that she violated the current code of conduct. Monica's position is that she has not violated any part of the current code and has repeatedly asked for clarification about what it is that she supposedly did.

  5. The moderator was not even told removal would happen. There was no warning. She thought she was participating in an amicable email conversation and only discovered her removal when she noticed she had gained badges moderators can't get.

  6. She attempted to reach out to achieve some resolution. These have been ignored.

  7. SE staff appear to have attempted to paint her in a bad light in the media at a time when it was clear she could not respond, while also telling the community here they couldn't talk about it.

  8. The "apology" offered by Sara Chipps (overnight my time) was really not adequate. It does not reassure me. To me it does nothing to right the wrongs here and doesn't seem to really recognize that what was done was wrong or seeming to be actually correcting what was wrong about it. (I recommend reading comments under the top answer at that link.)

This is not quite the whole story, indeed we probably won't have it all since some parts of the story are not public; there's some only moderators can see and we'll probably never know the exact content of the email exchange. Don't trust my take on it though, go read for yourself (keeping in mind that we don't have all the information - but even a very generous take on it doesn't leave Stack Exchange looking good).

Explaining these points in some additional detail (as far as I am aware of them) and my views on them:

  • I support attempts to make the site more accepting of LGBTQI+ people. I support a policy of asking users to use other people's desired pronouns each time you use a pronoun to refer to them. Apparently, so does Monica "I would never knowingly misgender with wrong pronouns"

  • Monica's issue seems largely to have been somewhat more estoeric, which related to something which she sought additional clarification on (and which I think would be difficult for moderators to administer). It led to a discussion about whether it was really a requirement in the policy to use preferred pronouns extended to situations in which you did not use pronouns.

    Now there's definitely some scope for discussion/disagreement here in specific examples, and some mods have explained that they have a problem with a position she took (while not agreeing with what eventuated). This is something that we should expect to be discussed when a new policy is to be introduced -- particularly by the people being expected to police it. Not everyone will be on the same page and discussions are absolutely necessary for us to understand each other clearly. I am completely okay with Monica asking "It's okay if I do X, right?" and I am completely okay with Cyn and some of the other mods or members of the community more broadly saying to Monica "We really don't think that it's okay if you do that". This is not anybody trying to hurt anyone on either side of a conversation. (You might like to read Cyn's post on Writing's meta)

    I think the policy definitely needs more discussion, some clarification and some polishing/refomulating. Not everyone will agree with everyone on all the details, or see them all as workable (in particular, for example, there can be religious restrictions on what some people are even permitted to do -- there should be some attempt to try to find some reasonable compromise in such cases).

I could have easily asked similar questions to what Monica seems to have asked. This is not incompatible with wishing to be inclusive and welcoming. I feel I could easily have been dismissed in her place, had I been part of the same discussion (I would have been if I was aware of it happening at the time). I see nothing in what has come since that would suggest I couldn't have very easily found myself in a similar position.

I think it's ludicrous to remove anyone over a Code of Conduct we don't even have yet which is what seems to have triggered the whole thing; as far as I can see she has not done anything that would consitute a violation of either the spirit or the wording of the current Code (on which, see).

I think it's bad faith to remove a community-elected volunteer without several other steps in between (indeed there was already a policy for removal but it doesn't actually seem to have been followed as far as I can tell) and some opportunity for further discussion. There was no review. No appeal. Just gone, without even being given the courtesy of being informed that it would happen. Monica still doesn't seem to know exactly what she's supposed to have done (which is weird -- what if it turns out someone hacked her email account, for example? How could she even know if what she did was not explicit?)

Some people have raised the possibility that it was perhaps to do with not using some people's preferred pronoun (singular they) in a chat room, but that would surely not be handled this way; any discussion and potential consequences for doing so in a site's chat room would surely be up to the moderators for that site, collectively; there's a formal procedure for dealing with site moderators who misbehave, clearly laid out.

It would take something really extreme for it to make sense to remove someone so quickly (or else it could wait a few days for more deliberate action); if there was some danger of acting improperly as a mod in the meantime (seriously?) then a temporary suspension from being a mod could be used. Something extreme enough that it couldn't sit for a weekend (that the mod had to be inactive for anyway) would likely require the involvement of police.

If anyone understands what it is to be part of a marginalized and abused minority, it's Monica (I'd provide links that might give you some sense of just how directly, but don't want to give away such specific details without her explicit okay, and she has better things to worry about). Worse, the sacking came just hours before the beginning of important religious holidays for her.

On top of everything else, the present situation has seemingly displayed incredible insensitivity and intolerance toward Monica. If Monica was not as gracious, it would very reasonably have been been called antisemitic.

Even if Monica had done what she's been accused of her removal in this fashion would be egregious, but it seems pretty clear that her actual position is not consistent with how it has been officially portrayed.

The present circumstances muddies the waters and seems to hand actual opponents of tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQI+ people ammunition with which to oppose the original aim. Indeed, I am convinced that as it stands it sounds far worse for LGBTQI+ people than anything Monica seems to have done and even worse than what she's been accused of doing.

You don't introduce a policy of tolerance with a purge.

Many moderators have resigned or stood aside. I pondered my response for while, then I stood aside from moderation while I considered further -- all the while hoping Stack Exchange would come clean, admit they made an error in handling it, apologize and reinstate Monica (or at least wind it back to a more proper handling, in a way that justice could be seen to be done).

Monica maintains that she doesn't know what it is that they think she has done wrong.

Instead they have doubled down. They have thrown shade in the media and they've acted to make it harder for people to find out it even happened. They've offered a weak apology which doesn't fix what happened and had done nothing to make me feel confident they understand what people think was wrong nor how wrong it was. The assurances that they'd do it better next time really concern me, since it needs to be better this time.

Monica has been one of the mods for whom I have the very greatest of respect - a moderator who I would aspire to be as good as. She appears to have been very shabbily treated. How does any of this improve Stack Exchange?

Every single employee of Stack Exchange, at every level, needs to think very carefully about one simple fact: the content that pays their salaries is generated for free by its users, and curated by the high reputation users and diamond moderators who donate huge amounts of time and expertise to make this a good place to find answers. Your income depends in very large part on the goodwill of the communities that generate content for you.

If mods can be terminated so casually, no matter the feelings of the communities who chose them, then they really should be paid for it.

I think this could have been solved a week ago, with a few emails and an actual apology or perhaps, two, if it were necessary to apologize both ways. Or failing that, with a simple, considered review of what went on, and then backing up before applying something nearer to proper procedure. How much has this policy of doubling down cost Stack Exchange already? For a company needing to make money they're acting like the sources of that money are both expendable and fungible.

Stack Exchange keeps saying they want to listen to moderators and to the community, but increasingly it seems like they do not (they actually did it pretty well, once). Stack Exchange talks of respect and tolerance but throughout this they don't seem to have shown a lot of either.

I continue to hope that SE will take real steps to undo the harm they've done to the goodwill of moderators and to Monica in particular (and indeed to any perception that they care about being welcoming and tolerant) but I see nothing to indicate that they will. At this stage an independent review of what happened and mediation would be a reasonable first step on that path, but given the response so far, I can wait no longer.

I can't give the implied support to Stack Exchange Inc that continuing as a moderator would suggest, and I can't be responsible for enforcing a future Code of Conduct that I (seemingly) can't completely understand (and apparently could risk removal for asking serious questions about), for all that I support its underlying aims.

I must, with the deepest of regret, step down.

I have to take care of some urgent work shortly after I post this, but I plan to notify Stack Exchange officially as soon as I get some time (assuming they don't see this and remove me before I get to it, which is fine, since my intent is 100% clear). [Edit this official notification has occurred; it might still take a while before I actually lose the diamond.]

As things stand at the moment I expect this will be my last post as a moderator, though I may add some details and will continue to edit as needed.

I'd like to thank my fellow CrossValidated mods for their kindness, professionalism, support and much else besides, throughout my term as a moderator and before. I have the deepest respect for each of them. I'd like to thank the wider moderation community on the SE network, who have helped me many times during my term as moderator. I'd also like to thank our many knowledgeable and giving users who make our site work so wonderfully. I think our community here in CrossValidated is amazing, and I hope to continue to be an active part of it in the future as an ordinary user, though for a time I will be stepping back somewhat from that as well, reducing my participation as an ordinary user for the present; I'll still be around hoping that Stack Exchange show a clearer recognition of their responsibilities in this relationship.

Just in case anyone is inclined to misunderstand the implications of any of the above, let me be clear:

  • I have no trouble whatever with singular they. In fact quite the opposite -- I have been arguing for it as a nongendered pronoun since approximately the mid 80s - useful, for example when you don't know a gender for whoever you're referring to - and have used it in my writing, sometimes in the face of quite a bit of opposition from editors. I didn't always win those arguments (in that my text got changed over my objections).

  • More generally I have no trouble with referring to people by a preferred pronoun[2]. None of this is in any way a stance by me against calling people what they want, especially not people from marginalized and abused communities.

[2] (except for people who don't take it seriously and want to try to claim they should be referred to using "helicopter" as a pronoun or something; I think that ends up harming the very people it should be helping by making a mockery of it. That's not okay.)

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    $\begingroup$ (+1) I'm appalled by SE's actions too, though I haven't yet decided what the best thing to do, for me, will be. After all you've contributed to this site, I'm sad & angry that you've been forced to make this decision. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 '19 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ This will be utterly obvious but it needs saying: @Glen_b has been an outstanding moderator as well as an outstanding contributor here and his work for CV cannot be too much appreciated. I have glanced at some of the threads on this topic; already the volume of discussion is overwhelming, even just that accessible to non-moderators. I will not repeat points already excellently made but just underline my utmost personal sympathy and respect for this decision as well as extreme regret about the circumstances. I retain some hope that SE staff will reverse much of what should have never happened. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 4 '19 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ I've been reading about this terrible situation for the past couple of days. I am outraged at SE's awful behaviour and support your decision. But I'm also sorry to see you step down - you've been a fantastic moderator (and contributor!) here, and your presence in that role will be missed. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 4 '19 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ Some answer from StackExchange is posted on this news website: theregister.co.uk/2019/10/01/stack_exchange_controversy "We understand that a few other moderators have resigned, and they may or may not have full knowledge of the situation." Beyond that this issue is so difficult to follow. Is there anything that StackExchange has done to improve the community's 'knowledge of the situation' and to better explain their position and viewpoint? (preferably a small post and not a big flame war of posts and dozens of links to more posts with more dozens of links) $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 4 '19 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ They won't discuss the details publicly - and certainly shouldn't without the affected person's explicit agreement (though my recollection is Monica has been essentially asking them to do so; they could certainly seek to find a way to collaborate with her to figure out what could be said). With or without that, they could certainly spell them out in detail to a mod that has been removed -- with a clear explanation of exactly how the present code of conduct has been violated in that discussion -- and so seriously as to apply a sanction in the manner they did. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 4 '19 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ Today's "apology" is so clueless and tone-deaf that it has persuaded me of the merits of following in glen_b's footsteps. I can tolerate mistakes by a corporation--people err--but when SE doubles down like this, it becomes painful to retain an official association with them. I wonder, though, just how constructive it ultimately would be to terminate that relationship: the message is good, but in the end what will it accomplish? Perhaps the threat of a massive emigration of moderators might be more helpful than a trickle of resignations. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 4 '19 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I definitely agree that there's doubt over how constructive it is and it's right to ask whether it will accomplish anything - it may be more productive in the long run not to do it. I simply felt I couldn't remain in the current circumstances and though that I ought to try to explain something of why I felt that way here, as best as I could manage. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 4 '19 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Stephan Unless SE corrects this issue very soon, that is one action I am considering. What I'm trying to figure out is how to make the most of my present position (as a mod on two SE sites, BTW) to help effect a good solution. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 4 '19 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ This thread has now vanished from the Hot Meta Posts list. I'm sure that's not a coincidence. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 4 '19 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @mkt: I noticed that, too, and was going to write that exact comment. Seriously, what are the folks at SE thinking? Yes, that may prevent this thread from being seen by some people, but it pisses other people off majorly. I think someone is very nervous at this point. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Oct 4 '19 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ The mealy-mouthed apology post is now unlocked if any of you wish to register your opinion there. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 4 '19 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Heartbroken at @glen_b leaving because he has made so much of a difference here and to me in one-on-one communication. I appreciate his thoughtfulness and his stand. Side note: I am transgender, and when I landed on the post about Monica the other day (on another SE) I was taken aback at (what I remember as) her stance against singular they pronouns: folks in several US states, and in several countries have legal identities that are non-binary, and state endorsement of gender aside, that position is deeply unfriendly to many trans folks and GNC folks. Still: unhappy w/ SE's process. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Oct 5 '19 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis I will still be around (a bit less often than I would as a moderator where I felt it necessary to be around at least once a day). I am still very keen to help people when I can and in fact I will still be 'moderating' in the same fashion any high rep user can without the diamond. Even more so - I have a lot of gold tag badge privileges, so I can unilaterally close a substantial proportion of posts without a moderator diamond. I worked out that I could do it with about 35% of new posts before I became a moderator; it'd be more than that now. (I just took the liberty of emailing you btw) $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 5 '19 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ Sigh. This is getting worse and worse. Yesterday, someone posted a feature request on Meta.SE, requesting a feature that displays a user's preferred pronoun in their user card, in anticipation of the new CoC non-mods have not seen yet. I took it as a bona fide question, downvoted it and wrote an answer saying that I for one do not want more noise. (Although the question is a valid one: assuming we will be required to use preferred pronouns, how do we find out what a particular user prefers?) Others took it to be trolling. Today the thread is gone without a trace. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Oct 5 '19 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ Not very important, but since I mentioned its behaviour earlier: this thread has appeared and disappeared from the Hot Meta Posts list many times since yesterday, while the usual pattern is for posts to remain on the list for days at a time. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 5 '19 at 13:22

Anyone who visits CrossValidated for more than 10 minutes will notice your ubiquitous great contributions to this site, and anyone who visits longer will recognize your enormously valuable insight and skill as a statistician.

When high-profile moderators like yourself across the SE network make this decision it might finally get the message through to those in charge that they are really taking steps in the wrong direction.

I really hope that this brings about a positive change, and that all these sites do not truly lose their most valuable members as moderators this way... but perhaps I am being too optimistic. Regardless, I think it is a very noble thing to do, after the tremendous effort you must have put in to get where you are now.


Sorry to hear. I have never trusted Stack Exchange to be a long-lasting source of information due to their for-profit objectives and sometimes very hostile moderation policy. I encourage everyone to regularly export their data in case one day the ship sinks for good: Is it safe to use Cross Validated as a note keeping software?

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Excellent advice. This happened to me 15 years ago with a site on which I had contributed 5K posts--and I still have the complete collection that I scraped just before it ceased operating. Many thanks for the useful links; I was able to obtain all my SE posts and their linked images (around 50 MB total) in just a few minutes and split them into separate files on a local hard drive. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 6 '19 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ I am learning a lot about this. I had no idea that it was so serious that our top moderators are quiting! My question for Glen_b and other moderators is will you continue to be members on the site. I have tried to contribute a lot to the site over the approximately 8 years that I have been a member. But I have learned a lot too especially from Gung, Huber, and Glen_b. In the early years there was also Cardinal & Macro. It was nice to have other well known statisticians contributing, like Frank Harrell & Christian Robert. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Nov 24 '19 at 6:15

The thing that SO, Inc. cares most about is that it has something of a unique online community: people who generally behave themselves.

Moderators play a key role in maintaining that. Stepping down or threatening to step down isn't a good solution, because

  • good moderators can be replaced with worse ones;
  • purging SO of rebellious elements seems like something an malevolent organization would seek to do and volunteering to be removed is cooperation with that goal;
  • making SO, Inc. fire you is much more uncomfortable for SO, Inc because instead of the community being upset that one moderator, Monica, was fired, the community will be be upset that dozens of moderators were fired.

Instead, my suggestion is a

moderator & user strike

Stop doing moderator tasks until SO Inc takes your grievances seriously and commits to making positive changes. Moderators are an enormous source of free value for SO, Inc. That value evaporates without moderators doing their level best.

Users can support the strike by doing the same: don’t vote, don’t flag, don’t answer, don’t participate. Make it clear that you're withdrawing your participation explicitly as a result of SO, Inc.'s indifference and opacity.

You don't have to have Glen_b's statistical acumen to grasp that only a small number of individuals on Stats.SE and all of SO do most of the work that keeps the sites useful. The reason we have answers, closure queues and flags is to make the site function smoothly. If the dedicated cadre at the core of every site walks away, SO will break. They have the plant, but we have the power.

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    $\begingroup$ What has transpired over the last couple of months, and especially the last couple of days, makes me doubt your first paragraph. There have been many, many signs that the community has been unhappy with the way things have been going - but few signs that these grievances were being taken seriously. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Oct 4 '19 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ SE has always emphasized that we all are moderators and that there's virtually no difference between a high-rep user (typically 20K+) and diamond moderators. Are you therefore asking all high-rep users to make this decision (and to announce their positions)? $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 4 '19 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ I’m suggesting that organization across the SO website is the most effective path to change because the users are the website. This will involve users at all rep levels. I’ve edited my post to emphasize this. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ Good moderators can also be rereplaced by the same moderators if they and the community wish to. $\endgroup$ – Sextus Empiricus Oct 4 '19 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MartijnWeterings You're assuming SO doesn't retaliate against moderators who step down. I see no reason to believe that is the case. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ @StephanKolassa If SO, Inc. hasn't heard these grievances before, that's a reason to raise our voices louder now. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Sycorax: Given SE's absolute control over this platform it may become hard to organize unless alternative channels of communication are quickly arranged. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 4 '19 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ Related: A very recent post asking people to go “on strike” was just deleted $\endgroup$ – Stephan Kolassa Oct 4 '19 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ I believe everyone on this thread knows how to get in touch with me. We can organize elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ If as a user I stop monitoring the review queues (which i have until this mess is cleared up) then the effects of that will be public in an ever lengthening queue. If I stop voting to close from the questions page then the queue will not lengthen which rather defeats the object of making a protest, however feeble. $\endgroup$ – mdewey Oct 4 '19 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @mdewey You're forgetting the reason that the queues exist: to govern the website. If empowered users (moderators, high-rep users) walk away, the website stops being governed. That's the power that SO has given us; by the same token, it's power we can withhold. $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ I share the goal of making SE management take notice of dissent, but I am not convinced. A strike would hurt mostly newish users whose questions will be less likely to be answered. I think the biggest risk is that the whole system collapses financially and then the website disappears. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Oct 4 '19 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ @NickCox The system is collapsing slowly now. Driving people like glen_b away make me less interested in participating, strike or not. I don't think I'm alone in this. (New users can get their questions answered later.) $\endgroup$ – Sycorax Oct 4 '19 at 18:37

This is not an answer (are there such things here?) but just some grieve that I need to place somewhere.

Recently I said on chat

"The discussion sketches a horrible situation. The criticism avoiding response like publish.illinois.edu/shavitt/files/2013/07/PNAS-Reply.pdf… cuts away a big chuck out of my last, and already small, remaining idealistic hopes for science and society."

That was in response to the current bad state of science which seems to have turned into a strange economy where side issues (like making the news, making lots of references, marketing etc.) have become more important and are taking over.

This recent issue with gender neutrality has a similar (if not greater) disillusioning impact on me.

The fact that it turns into actions like a volunteer moderator being fired makes me feel like the discussion is turning into a completely pointless direction. We just want equality, that means that people to start acting normal about this concept. This mess... is completely the opposite. We still have a long way to go.

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    $\begingroup$ I imagine that many of the actors in this situation think they have been 'acting normal', but every culture defines what that means differently. And the remaining people think that what's considered 'normal' is the problem. Culture clashes are complicated. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 5 '19 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Well said, Martijn Weterings. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Oct 5 '19 at 16:14

In light of An apology to our community, and next steps will you, Glen_b, be rejoining the moderation staff? Or are there outstanding issues that you feel have not been addressed and which compel you to eschew the diamond?

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    $\begingroup$ It's certainly an encouraging sign -- which I was editing my post to acknowledge at about the time you were writing this. I'm really not in any rush to jump back in - I'd prefer to see what the ultimate actions are - and if I were to decide to return my thinking is that it would probably be better to give our community a chance to choose someone else if they prefer. StackExchange will give me my diamond back on request (if they get around to removing it) without an election but if I decide I want back in I think the wider CV community should have some say in that. Anyway, we'll see how it goes $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 7 '19 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ More than a week later, followup on that apology has been...wanting. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Oct 15 '19 at 20:19

I don't fault your decision, @glen_b, and I think SE has behaved very poorly in all of this. But I want to call people here's attention to something that re-colored my opinions on all of this a little bit.

I have no inside information, but I'd like other moderators to consider very strongly before resigning. With @glen_b going and @whuber apparently considering it, it's very easy to see a path towards this site more-or-less imploding, which I think all of us would consider a bad thing.

For context: I'm transgender, a reasonably active user on stats.SE (not in the top 10 all-time rep, but well within the top 100), and not yet publicly out (hence not using my main account here, since people in my life know it).

My understanding, based on obsessively following meta for the past week, is that "asked some questions about a particular aspect of this policy and how it would work in practice" is not really a full description of Monica's actions.

Specifically, a trans mod has said

She referred to someone using gender neutral pronouns in an edit to her post as something that is physically nauseating to her.

(It seems that this may not be an accurate paraphrase – gung couldn't find it, and Monica doesn't remember using the word "nausea," but didn't dispute the general sentiment.) I also believe that Monica has said she's willing to use gender-neutral neopronouns like "xe"/"xer", just not "they"/"them".

But the idea that her prescriptivist opinion about a pronoun usage is so strong that it makes her feel physically ill to consider it...well, it sure lowers my (previously high) opinion of her, and it sure makes me feel unwelcome to think that someone in a position of such respect and power on this network held their fairly arbitrary linguistic opinion as so much more important than respecting the humanity of a group of people like me.

This isn't purely academic; I again don't know any of the behind the scenes stuff, but a different trans mod resigned the day before Monica's firing, saying

By other mods, by staff, and by the entrenched power structure of Stack Exchange, I have been made to feel unwelcome for my queerness.

Singular "they" is really not that big a deal. In general it has a very long history, and even for the relatively newer usage as someone's only pronoun, it's just a really small ask. (It's probably about as novel as that usage of "ask" just was.) As linguist Geoff Nunberg says in an article called "Even A Grammar Geezer Like Me Can Get Used To Gender Neutral Pronouns",

It's not a lot to ask — just a small courtesy and sign of respect. In fact, the accommodations we're being asked to make to nonbinary individuals are much less far-reaching than the linguistic changes that feminists called for 50 years ago. Yet the reactions this time have been even more vehement than they were back then.

Refusing this small courtesy – particularly when third-person pronouns really come up so rarely on SE anyway – is really not nice to a group of people who are already marginalized both in broader society and also to a fair extent on the network.

Basically: SE has clearly behaved poorly here. I 100% support people feeling that they can no longer donate so much time to a for-profit entity that treats its volunteers this way.

But a lot of people across the network seem to be thinking that Monica's actions are completely without blame, or that this is all just nonsense so the company can seem "woke" or whatever. I want to emphasize that the actions she seems to have taken do harm people.

I'm very sorry to see you go, @glen_b. I'm very sorry that SE behaved this way that has I think unambiguously made things worse even for queer users here, at least in the short term. And I would be horribly sorry to see such a dumb chain of events stemming from such a silly opinion lead to the collapse of a site I really enjoy, that has benefited me tremendously, and has helped so many people.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for sharing your experience, @anon. I have just reviewed the moderator thread & I don't find her saying she's "nauseated" by referring to someone as 'they' anywhere. The discussion does get somewhat heated, though, with many people piling on her, & her repeatedly saying, 'I respect trans people, I would never deliberately misgender anyone, I just want to refer to them using something (anything) other than they'. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @gung. My understanding is that this wasn't something that happened last week on chat but earlier on a Teams post, but I'm not asking you to dig anything up that you're not supposed to share. That said, (a) piling on is of course not productive etc etc, (b) it's really holding this stance so strongly that I do find somewhat dehumanizing and not the particular word "nauseated." $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 5 '19 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ That's what I looked at: the teams post. It isn't there. Your position is reasonable. I've read a lot of old stuff over the last week, & no one comes out smelling like a rose, IMHO (this obstinate fixation on a stupid grammar rule is weird to me), nonetheless, my feeling FWIW, is that she was the most reasonable party in each of the several episodes I've reviewed. (BTW, the least sympathetic party is the SE employee.) $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ $+\infty$ As a transgender individual I was taken back and leery the other day that an SE mod would assert a personal policy of not using singular they (a grammatical construct that was good enough in Chaucer's day so ought to be well enough established) in the context of transgender members of the community (and some cisgender gender-non-conforming folks, BTW). Non-masculine/non-feminine pronouns are legal pronouns: in some US states and in several other countries. Dishonoring that is deeply problematic. I wish the process with Monica did not escalate so far and fast. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Oct 5 '19 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate hearing your perspective, @Alexis. It helps me to connect this to real people. This was blown out of proportion & badly botched. From a purely public relations standpoint, I find it hard to overstate the incompetence with which this was handled. It is clear to me that Monica's issue is narrowly grammatical & that she bears no ill will towards trans people. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ @gung I appreciate the wide upset of the community with SE, including your own. I have seen much less elsewhere than I have read on this page. What is to be done? $\endgroup$ – Alexis Oct 5 '19 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know, @Alexis. It is clear that SE doesn't care & isn't going to do anything substantive / meaningful. (I'm sure there'll be a blog post in a month promising more respect for users.) Everybody needs to make their own choice. I'm not sure what my future status will be. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your perspective. (Edited to add a little context about historical usage; hope that’s okay, roll back if not.) $\endgroup$ – Danica Oct 5 '19 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ We should allow the OP to decide whether to add information about the history, @Dougal, I am rolling this back. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Dougal That edit would have made a great comment, BTW. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Oct 5 '19 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I don't know why I edited. I was adding a link to an article about how the usage for non-specific people is older than universal acceptance of singular you. $\endgroup$ – Danica Oct 5 '19 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis, Perleberg did a translation of my stuff. He spells my name wrong, though. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '19 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ +1 To clarify I was at least aware that Monica had some problems with singular they (its part of what she was asking about; I refer to this indirectly in my post) and I certainly don't say she must be completely blameless (I think it's reasonable for her to be at least asking on mod chat about trying to find a mutually acceptable alternative under a future policy, if its done with consideration and empathy) nor do I for a moment think that the new Code of Conduct (to the extent that I am aware of it) is nonsense, for all that I am now completely unsure how to moderate it: I support the aim. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Oct 5 '19 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ I recognise there is uncertainty about what precisely was said because most of us have not seen the chats, but +1 to you & Alexis for the helpful perspective. $\endgroup$ – mkt Oct 5 '19 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ FYI: meta.stackexchange.com/q/334750/225179 $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '19 at 22:25

Sorry to see you go. You've always been a great mentor here. I benefit enormously from you. Your answers on statistical testing (and many others) are just classic.

Your resignation is going to be a big loss for this community.


When I am approached in an official capacity (medical doctor) I can only sometimes avoid using biologically relevant pronouns. There is a need to know female for ovarian cancer and male for prostate cancer, as two rather limited examples, and there are many more, e.g., phenotypically female, genetically neuter. In the workplace, I do not tolerate overtly sexual behaviour of any type, straight or gay.

I have a great respect for Glen_b. His level-headed contributions as a moderator I consider indispensable; without them, this site will be very much worse off. I would seriously suggest that just because someone questions 'woke' policy, that does not make them candidates worthy of hatred, reprisal, and doxing; like me, they may be just doing their jobs. The administration of SE would be well advised to reverse their ridiculous stance on Monica and to leave the SE contributors alone as the alternative is to create a dystopia.


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