By Rod Boucher
In response to the turmoil over the recent rollout of Filoli's new volunteer agreement, Heidi Brown, president of the Friends of Filoli, has stated in an Almanac article: "We figure that at least a hundred pair of eyes have seen this document."
There may have been a hundred pair of eyes that have seen the document, but clearly not one pair of those eyes has "seen" the problems with the document. On the other hand, some 800 volunteers, well over half of the volunteer workforce, did "see" and immediately made their concerns known. They asked questions; wanted clarification; offered suggestions. Would this not alone have been enough to alert all those hundred pair of eyes that there were issues with what was written?
According to Heidi Brown, there were too many questions to answer: Ms. Brown said she and Executive Director Cynthia D'Agosta tried to answer volunteers' questions, but there were too many of them. "We'd have to have a staff working to answer every single question," she said.
Is not a free work force of 1,300 people worth the effort? How is a comment like that supposed to make the volunteers feel?
Those who refused to sign the volunteer agreement saw two major problems with the agreement. One was with the content, the other was with the tone.
The content puts all the risk and liability on the shoulders of the volunteer while Filoli, by omitting in the agreement a written declaration of how it will protect the volunteer, bears none. One of the most egregious items, the Release and Indemnification clause, has been temporarily removed as the volunteers have, for the moment, been given the opportunity to cross it out; but other issues remain.
Answers to the remaining concerns are still not forthcoming: not by the executive director, the governing board, or the Friends of Filoli. Due diligence on the issue has not been provided by any of the above nor by the National Trust for that matter. Are lack of transparency, refusal to dialogue, and inability to be accountable the going trends of the 21st century?
Not only can they not "see," neither can they "hear." The second problem has had to do with the tone of the volunteer agreement. There is nothing in the document itself nor in the way it has been presented that speaks to any respect, regard, or appreciation held for the phenomenal workforce Filoli has in its corps of volunteers. It was cold, harsh, and without grace.
The fact that the administration refuses to give complete and thoughtful answers to the concerns expressed, the fact that they care so little for the volunteers that they are incapable of offering a sincere apology for what has transpired, only confirms that the volunteers are not worth their time.
Bringing Filoli into the 21st century has resulted in leaving her soul in the past.
Rod Boucher has been a volunteer docent at Filoli for three years and has been a mentor in the nature education training class for the past two years.