Dear Fencers Club Members,
We thank the Fencers Club community for their thoughtful expressions of views and recommendations to the Board, including in the recent petition and at the members meeting on June 16.
We would like to inform you of the Board's initial views with respect to certain matters raised and to suggestions made by members of the community.
The Board, at this time, after some further dialogue with the community, has the intention to take the following actions:
- We intend to form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force (the "DEI Task Force"), consisting of Board members as well as members of the Club who are not on the Board, to consider the important issues and concerns raised by members of our community and to make recommendations to the Board for implementation. Every recommendation will be taken seriously and addressed as quickly as possible.
- We will work with the DEI Task Force to encourage input and suggestions from our students and members of the community, and to provide support to the student who bravely complained of Boris Vaksman's conduct.
- We will mandate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training (including racial sensitivity training) for all FC coaches and staff, as well as for all Board members.
- We are committed to recruiting and contracting with qualified Black coaches (who would, like all of our coaches, be independent contractors). Our Coaches Search Committee consists of members of both Peter Westbrook Foundation and Fencers Club. In addition, since we have several Black athletes who are interested in becoming coaches, we would like to explore giving our athletes opportunities to learn from our talented coaches to further develop their talents.
- We are committed to adding Black members to the FC Board and committees. We seek to add at least one Black member to the Board in the near future, which would increase the number to four out of 13 total Board members. We encourage members of the community to make recommendations to our Board's Nominating Committee on individuals to be elected to the Board.
- In vetting and hiring staff and coaches, we will continue to utilize the rules and guidance of Safe Sport and act consistent with its requirements. We do nationwide background checks on all applicants being considered as staff members or coaches. All staff members, school coaches and coaches must undergo and pass Safe Sport training on an annual basis. Moreover, everyone, including Board members, must have a USFA professional membership that includes Safe Sport training and background check.Fencers Club has its own in-house Staff and Coaches Handbook. Everyone working at Fencers Club as staff and coaches must read and sign the agreement to follow the rules in the Handbook. There is an annual meeting with staff and coaches to go over the handbook as we update the handbook to keep it current. In addition, we will be working to add stricter language on anti-racism in the Handbook.
- We have established a confidential Hotline to encourage any complaints from our students and community members concerning our staff or coaches. We will appropriately follow up on any such complaints, while protecting the complainants and preserving their confidentiality. In this regard, we will seek to foster a community that is willing to speak out, and we will be responsive to the complaints and concerns presented to us.
- The DEI Task Force will make recommendations to the Board on outlining strategies and policies for implementing anti-racist efforts, and the Board is committed to following through on such recommendations.
- The DEI Task Force's role will include reviewing matters of discrimination involving the Club.
- We commit to communicating to our membership on a monthly basis with an update on our anti-racist efforts.
- Two members of the Peter Westbrook Foundation board are also members of the FC Board. PWF representatives therefore already have direct dialogue with FC Board members on a regular, quarterly basis. In the past, Peter Westbrook and FC Board Chair discussed having quarterly meetings with PWF representatives and FC representatives to have an ongoing open conversation to best serve both organizations. This is an idea that should be seriously considered. To facilitate further direct access between PWF and FC board members and representatives, we are open to ideas from the community as to the most productive and effective way to facilitate this.
The Board responds to other inquiries, thoughts, and suggestions as follows:
The individual published statements that have come from our Board of Directors, Chairman, Executive Director, and Executive Committee, the termination of Boris Vaksman's contract, and the opening comments at the June 16 members meeting make it clear that FC and its leadership strongly condemn the comments of Boris Vaksman.
B. We do not intend to further investigate the actions of Boris, as his contract has been terminated and he no longer has any connection to the Club. If any investigations are initiated by any government agencies or regulators, we will of course fully cooperate with them.
C. We do not have any record of any past complaints involving Boris.
D. All complaints will be properly reviewed and investigated, while remaining confidential to provide whistleblower protection to complainants and to otherwise treat them in conformity with New York State laws mandating the confidentiality of such complaints.
E. Board minutes of the Club are properly treated as confidential. The votes of individual Board members are not ordinarily set forth in the minutes. Deliberations concerning personnel matters are also properly treated as confidential.