Incoming wall of text, all of it opinion. Bear with me, I think it needs to be said.
The PCs made a statement this week on the topic of background checks. Although this statement had great intentions, I feel that it fell short in some ways.
First, this is about a policy being set by WotC for members of the WPN. While a few judges are themselves members of the WPN, this really isn’t something where we, as judges, have any influence–and it isn’t a place where we should interfere. As my friend Steven Briggs writes, “I see some of the worst corporate governance in my business career” at work here. The initial message about the WPN change was incomplete, the posts from the WPN reps are vague, and the twitter posts from WotC employees are inconsistent. With this in mind, I have to say that it is improper for us to inject ourselves into what should be delivered as a clear policy with some concise guidance. We are Magic Judges, experts in tournaments and policy and rules–not in contract or HR law.
The whole reason that this change was made is the potential of lawsuits–primarily in the United States, but also abroad. Here in the states, giving legal guidance without being a lawyer is itself fodder for a lawsuit. Add to this the above notes on how the policy is vague and inconsistent, and I think it is highly irresponsible and even dangerous to judges in my community to encourage them to collaborate with the TOs on policy meaning, to share their findings of laws and procedures, and to present themselves as any wiser in this area than the WPN representatives.
Similarly, we cannot hand a TO a piece of paper that says we have been screened. That puts the TO in the spot of not actually doing the checks and it makes us responsible for any gap. It’s foolish for them to accept such a paper; I know my employer would not blindly accept that my last company screened me before hiring me. It’s equally foolish for us to try to background check ourselves and convince people that it’s good.
In this light, my advice to my fellow judges in the USA South is this:
Commiserate with the TOs. Empathize with them. Tell them you think it sucks, too. For many of us, these are our close friends. It’s natural that we want to help; most of us joined the Magic Judge community out of a desire to do exactly this—to help! As hard as it may seem, we must refrain from trying to interpret any policies or messaging for them and from attempting to guide them through the morass of laws and contractual obligations. That is a job for WotC and the WPN, not for the Magic Judges.
So… Where does this leave us?
At the end of the day, we have to live with it, but we need not suffer from it.
In all truth, I think not much changes for judges. We give the TO our name and DCI number. Often they have our phone numbers. There is a great deal of open, publicly searchable information that can be checked for free or for little cost with this information they already have. In fact, the TOs could be doing this now, without our knowledge or consent, without us doing anything further. They probably should be.
A few TOs might ask for more information than your phone number or your current name. Try not to take offense; they are making the best of the situation they know how, and it’s their prerogative as the organizer. This does NOT mean you are required to give information if you are not comfortable doing so. I only ask that you are polite about declining. Saying “I’m sorry, that’s more information than I would like to disclose for a hobby activity” is a fine response. A TO might even ask you to pay for a more detailed check. Again, that’s their choice, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree to it–I probably won’t.
At the end of the day, we all want events to be fun, fair, and safe environments. I can’t think of a better group of people to work toward this end than judges, and on this I wholeheartedly agree with the PCs. I will even quote them and sign my name to it as well: “The vast majority of judges we have personally met are among the most trustworthy, honest, loyal, and kind people we could meet in our lives.”
I have high expectations of judges, and I am seldom disappointed. Keep being fantastic people, and show that all this hubbub is overblown.