Una Smith una at
Wed Mar 2 16:20:49 EST 1994

I've extended the distribution of this article from bionet.women-in-bio
to include bionet.general:  this is a situation that the larger bionet.*
readership should be made aware of.

David Kristofferson <kristoff at> wrote:

>S.A. Modena maildrop <maildrop at> wrote:

This attribution is incorrect.  As I previously explained, Steve
Modena merely forwarded, with full and correct attribution, a
letter which appeared on the sanet-mg mailing list.  The letter
in question was from the acting director of the NAL, a woman. 
In your article, you deleted the attribution from the top of the
original article, and you also deleted the "signature" at the 

[Text of a letter *not* written by Steve Modena.]

>Not being a frequent reader of this group I will have to investigate
>this further before commenting on this particular case.  I also
>caution others to avoid knee-jerk reactions.

We've already addressed this issue, Dave, and I think we have it
under control.  The sanet-mg mailing list, to which the letter was
addressed, has already reviewed the thread in question.  I don't
think it's necessary for bionet.women-in-bio to investigate the
issue further.

>This group [was] a sociological departure from the purpose of the rest
>of the BIOSCI/bionet groups and was bothersome to some readers. ...
>I found it disturbing initially that a few male readers tried their
>best to shut the group down by promoting controversy here through the
>posting of inflammatory comments at that time.

I can not imagine what possible place this comment has in the context
of the current situation.  Do you mean to imply that Steve Modena's
act of forwarding the letter is meant to promote controversy, and if
so, that this controvery is somehow inappropriate?  You appear to be
implying that Mr. Modena had an ulterior and destructive motive.  Your
statement comes very close to libel, and I am very disappointed in you.

I find your statement to be particularly disturbing since you mistake
or ignore the fact that Mr. Modena is not the author of the letter,
and in light of the significant deletion of the author's name, position,
and e-mail address from the letter.  The letter that you posted today,
that you attribute to Steve Modena, has been *altered* in important
details.  Given that the original article is available to you, I find
your implied accusations simply astonishing.  They are grotesque.

>As manager of these groups, I will take action on cases of repeated
>abuse that are brought to my attention...

This is really amazing.  I did not see you stepping in last month when
a woman outrageously accused her officemate, via bionet.women-in-bio,
of sexual harassment.  And I don't see the "abuse" in the current thread.
Again, you seem to imply that you consider Mr. Modena unwelcome here.  
Isn't that for the readers of bionet.w-i-b to determine?

If by "take action" you mean to moderate the newsgroup, I think this
should be put first to a vote of the bionet.w-i-b readership.

>This analogy with a global newspaper does not hold.  All contents of a
>newspaper go through an editorial process.  Even the "Letters to the
>Editor" section in newspapers is reviewed.  Unmoderated newsgroups are
>not edited. 

That's a good point.  I'll be sure to use it, if a similar situation
comes up again.

>BIOSCI/bionet strives to maintain a higher standard than the rest of
>USENET through a more formal management structure than in most other
>USENET hierarchies, but the increasing number of posts makes that
>increasingly difficult in light of staff limitations.

I am extremely offended by your reference to "the rest of USENET" as
being of lower quality than the bionet.* groups (gated to the BIOSCI
mailing lists).  This is a gross stereotype, and considering that you
are comparing 40 or so bionet.* groups to 2000-7000 others (depending
on what domains you count), and I know, first hand, of *many* groups
that are both very popular and have good manners and friendly rapport,
it is also a *false* stereotype.

>*** I CAUTION READERS*** that libel laws *do* apply to anything that
>you decide to post, so those who feel that they can say anything with
>impunity on the newsgroups are seriously deluding themselves.

No need to SHOUT with capital letters, Dave.  The author of the letter
isn't reading bionet.women-in-bio, and in any case it isn't libel if
it is true.  And regardless of who posted the letter to bionet.w-i-b,
the letter clearly purports to speak on behalf of an employer who is
displeased with an employee's behavior.  This does not appear to be a
case of libel;  it may be defamation of character, though.

>The volume on BIOSCI/bionet has grown to the point where I personally
>can no longer read and monitor every flame war on the net (nor should
>I have to - each newsgroup has a discussion leader) ...

I agree that you should not read and monitor flame wars.  I would much
rather have the newsgroups left to solve their own problems, while you
concentrate on keeping the mailing lists and archive running
smoothly.  And I certainly don't think it is appropriate to take sides
when you haven't followed the thread and don't know what's going on.

Most Usenet newsgroups don't have "discussion" leaders, and they get
by all right.  What sets the tone for a group is the consistent, daily
participation of its regular readers.  They are the true leaders and
authority figures in bionet.* newsgroups, just as elsewhere.  Please
don't patronize and belittle the most constructive participants of the
bionet.* newsgroups by stepping in to scold the newsgroup and threaten
some intimidating unspecified "action".  It's really not called for.

>Finally, it is sad that this kind of rare incident is what attracts
>attention and what people tend to remember about the network.

It seems to me that unpleasant incidents happen at least as often,
if not more often, in the bionet.* groups than in the sci.* and
bit.* groups that I follow.

Frankly, I don't think this is anything to get upset about.

	Una Smith			smith-una at

Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT  06520-8104  USA

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