Three key staff members of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) have resigned in protest at the organization’s decision to reinstall Richard Stallman as a board member.
Executive director John Sullivan, deputy director John Hsieh and chief technology officer Ruben Rodriguez all resigned at a board meeting on Monday. A short announcement on Tuesday morning confirmed the resignations but failed to directly say who had quit, merely linked to the FSF staff page with some members listed as “Outgoing”.
The announcement appears to indicate that the FSF board is determined to stick with Stallman even after a slew of organizations have pulled funding in response to his reinstallation. Stallman resigned in 2019 after offensive comments he made that downplayed the alleged rape and trafficking of a 17-year-old girl orchestrated by convicted sex offender and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Richard Stallman says he has returned to the Free Software Foundation board of directors and won’t be resigning again
Those comments sparked a MeToo-level backlash with women going public with their unpleasant experiences with Stallman, stretching back decades. Years of controversial comments made by Stallman over consent, particularly when it came to young and underage women, were also revisited and led to pressure for him to eject.
So when Stallman himself unexpectedly announced last week that he had rejoined the FSF board and was “not planning to resign a second time,” the news was greeted with shock by the open-source industry. Since then, Linux giant Red Hat, the Open Source Initiative, X.org Foundation, code internship body Outreachy, the Processing Foundation, security firm Bad Packets and numerous others have said they will pull funding from the FSF and cut ties with the organization while Stallman remains on the board.
The FSF board appears determined to stick with its decision, however.
Last week it put out a “preliminary board statement on FSF governance” that outlined a “series of changes,” but it amounted to little more than a promise to be more open about adding new board members in future. The statement was an effort to dispel concerns about Stallman reinstallation but appeared to have the opposite effect.
Today’s announcement is similarly obstinate. “Some of our colleagues in the FSF have decided to resign,” it reads. “We are grateful for the good work they have done for so long, and we will miss them. We regret losing them; we regret the situation that has motivated them to leave.”
It goes on: “We appreciate their strong commitment to free software and we want to find replacements with a similar competence and commitment. We are open to suggestions and applications for these positions.”
The last paragraph gives an indication of the maelstrom that the FSF brought on itself but remain defiant: “Finally, we would like to thank the numerous friends across the free software movement who have recently joined as well as those who have have left and provided suggestions for helping us through this difficult time.” ®