Josh Simon (jss1113) wrote in sysadminguild,
Josh Simon

Summary of Recent Actions

On one of the many mailing lists I'm on, someone asked the question:
Could someone please give me a two paragraph summary of what the heck is going on? I got lost at: Usenix cut SAGE off, newSAGE considering going its own way without Usenix.

Since several people have asked here (publicly and otherwise), I thought that an answer to that would be of interest. Trey Harris (formerly a SAGE Executive Committee member and officer, then a member of the Interim SAGE Board appointed to oversee the transition, and now a recently-elected member of what's become the LOPSA Board of Directors) wrote the following reply (posted with his permission and reformatted for LJ by Yours Truly):
Last June (2004), Rob Kolstad submitted his resignation as SAGE Executive Director. In response, the USENIX Board dissolved SAGE as an STG and turned it into a staff-driven program headed by Kolstad, dismissing the SAGE Exec. (Later, somewhat obscurely and without USENIX Board action, SAGE became a "Special Interest Group", but still under USENIX staff auspices.) The dissolution motion specified that USENIX would continue to run SAGE that way unless and until a new nonprofit formed and met certain requirements, at which time USENIX would spin SAGE off to that corporation. Shortly thereafter, David [Parter], Geoff [Halprin], Lorette Cheswick and I (the "Interim SAGE Board") together formed a new corporation ("The System Administrators Guild, Inc., a New Jersey nonprofit") and began work on those requirements.

We completed the requirements (though there are some technical disputes about some of them), but the USENIX Board got legal advice that the structure of the original spin off motion, if completed, could put USENIX in danger of losing its nonprofit status. So they changed the requirements to include an "outsourcing agreement" whereby the new corporation would run SAGE on behalf of USENIX on a fee-for-service basis. The Interim Board was unable to reach agreement with USENIX before we held elections this July, and the permanent Board resumed negotiations, led by Andrew Hume.

The negotiations went poorly, as requirements kept getting added or changed by USENIX with no quid pro quo, and, exasperated, we sent a letter to USENIX (what they later called our "ultimatum") three weeks ago. It outlined three nonnegotiables: that the agreement had to be done effective Nov. 1; that we needed until the end of 2007 to pay back our outstanding debt; and that future disputes would be subject to binding arbitration rather than USENIX's sole discretion.

USENIX took up a motion to proceed with the agreement based on those nonnegotiables on Oct. 27. It failed on a tie vote, 4-4. At that point, we decided to proceed with building our new organization, regardless of whether negotiations continued with USENIX — but we believed they probably would, especially since at least 2 of the nay votes said they would vote for it given minor tweaks or additional information, and we only needed one additional vote.

We were thus rather surprised when USENIX President Mike Jones sent his memo to all SAGE members on Oct. 31, saying that negotiations had ceased and USENIX would be continuing SAGE as a staff program. Much heat, but little light, erupted on the sage-members list (and the new sage-governance list, which Mike created to shunt traffic about this topic to, a goal which mostly failed). Significantly, no official statement from USENIX as a whole (rather than just from individual members) ever came, even to confirm that Mike was speaking for the Board in his memo.

In the past week, meanwhile, we launched our website (, announced our new name (the League of Professional System Administrators, LOPSA), chose a logo and color scheme, began accepting members (, set up a number of mailing lists, and have received dozens of new sponsorships and memberships. The #sage-members IRC channel moved en masse to #lopsa, and Chris held an IRC press conference/open meeting to answer questions. It's been quite a week.

We'll have a presence at LISA, but not an official one, since we're no longer "newSAGE". (We will have the official party cabana, though. ;-) We're still open to any overtures USENIX might make, but we're not counting on it at this point — we're making a go of it on our own.
Originally posted Thu 17 Nov 2005 22:25:24 PST
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