“This is what happens when you have a group of very passionate, well-meaning people without the organizational experience who take on a tremendous amount of work, with this sort of Herculean mission of saving science,” says Jacquelyn Gill, who volunteered for the March for Science in its early stages, left the organization in April, and had signed the new open letter. “It set the stage for a culture that was big on enthusiasm and energy but weak on logistics.”
In a statement responding to the letter, Temple-Perry notes that the organization has taken several steps to address these problems, including soliciting feedback from partners and volunteers, running a retreat in May, issuing an open invitation to join an internal communications network, and staging biweekly calls with satellite organizers and partners. “Unfortunately, individuals on the letter have not yet called in to participate,” she notes. “That being said, the concerns brought up in this letter are being discussed by the board. We will continue to work toward greater transparency in all stages of our development as an organization and movement.”
But several of these measures were only initiated after the damage was done and volunteers had walked away, says Huertas. “People had stopped interacting with the national organization because they weren’t being listened to,” he says. “Volunteers don't see it as an effective use of their time.”
Rufus Cochran, who led the march’s satellite group in Indianapolis, has seen evidence of this through his attempts to unite leaders from the Midwest groups into a unified network. He says that around 8 groups have unplugged themselves from the national team because “their voices weren’t being heard” and several have become largely inactive. The central team, Cochran says, “are not 100 percent responsible for that but they’re a major factor in that loss of momentum.”
Despite the changes, confusion still abounds around the organization’s structure and finances. Huertas has pushed for MFS to publicly publish details of its expenditures and revenue, which he says is good practice for grassroots organizations—and a standard that several satellite marches have adhered to. Stephani Page, who was formerly on the national leadership team but left in April, says that even before the march, “I and others asked questions specifically about what was happening with the money. The response was always: All the money is going toward making the event itself happen. I never saw a budget.” When I asked about details of the organization's funding, I was directed to this page which breaks down revenue according to donations from organizations, individual donations, and merchandise sales, with no further information on financial structure and outputs.
The open letter also alleges that Caroline Weinberg—one of the three MFS cochairs—had been promoted to a paid director position, contrary to promises made that such positions would be open and competitive, and that the cochairs would only serve on the board or as advisors. After five rounds of circuitous emails, some of which wrongly stated that Weinberg is still simply a cochair, the MFS finally confirmed with The Atlantic that Weinberg is currently acting as executive director in an interim capacity; this was agreed to by the board of directors, and an openly posted search for a permanent ED will be conducted in the future. Weinberg is leading a team of eight other part-time staff working for MFS, including Terry Kush, the new chief operating officer. None of this information is currently available on the MFS website. Temple-Perry, the comms director, notes that the site will be updated soon.