Wikipedia:Under a cloud
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"Resigning under a cloud" means a user who resigns from a position of trust in dubious circumstances, where their conduct might otherwise have come under scrutiny or sanction and the resignation may have prevented that scrutiny or sanction taking place. Such a user may be refused the right at a later time to automatically reclaim that role without going through usual processes to confirm they still have the community's trust.
The term is purely descriptive of the circumstances of resignation and does not automatically imply any wrongdoing.
On English Wikipedia, under a cloud describes a user who resigns from a position of trust in the community that must be formally granted or agreed, in circumstances where there may be grounds to believe this was done rather than face imminent exposure, scrutiny or sanction over possible inappropriate conduct or activity of theirs.
Background and handling
As a voluntary community, many of Wikipedia's roles are self-nominated, affirmed by other users, and then held indefinitely or for a fixed term on a basis of trust. A user in such a role can usually step down by personal choice, and later when circumstances improve or they feel able, may resume the role by simple request to do so.
The term "under a cloud" was coined to prevent abuse of this approach. A user whose hidden conduct, questionable good faith, or other uncertain behavior comes to light, and steps down before it can be fully examined, may not be seen as appropriate to resume the role at will once it has become "stale". Also if time lapses the community may not feel it is sensible to reopen matters from potentially years ago to assess the issue after a long lapse of time. The concern also arises because resignation may be seen as having resolved the issue and therefore the matter may have been dropped by others to avoid examining an issue that is no longer in need of remedy.
Accordingly a user who steps down in such a way that it seems they have evaded their conduct being actually assessed by the community, or their fitness to the role being affirmed, may be refused the right to automatically reclaim that role later without going through the usual process again to confirm they do in fact have the community's trust. "Under a cloud" is most often relevant to users who have resigned from higher levels of trust - administrators, functionaries, bureaucrats, arbitrators and so on.
It is important to note that this phrase describes circumstances of a resignation. It does not by itself say anything adverse about the user or situation.
For example, a user may have resigned from a role (or "dropped the bit") in contentious circumstances not for evasion, but to reduce harmful drama, because the dispute was not worth it to them, stress, others' feelings, or other issues and reasons not obvious on-wiki.
Having said that, the community may still look for assurance on all aspects of conduct - including any action that appears to have been intended to prevent or avoid scrutiny, or confirmation that past issues are unlikely to recur - in any review of the matter or as part of the decision to reinstate.
Because these situations can vary widely, exceptions may exist in some cases, for example reinstatement may be by Arbcom appeal or perhaps consensus was reached to leave the matter a particular way at the time. This often happens in cases where passage of time is needed to decide what is fair, where demanding reaffirmation could actually be seen as unfair or impractical, the case needs more careful thought, or there are privacy related issues or other issues to consider.
Examples of resigning under a cloud
A non-exhaustive list of scenarios would include:
- to avoid a de-admin procedure
- to avoid a proposed or accepted ArbCom case
- accepting a recall procedure
Establishing whether a cloud exists/existed
Ultimately Bureaucrats and Arbcom make such judgements.
The key point is usually that the user resigned in circumstances where it was foreseeable they might be held to account on a matter, and there seems a plausible chance their resignation was in part designed to evade or frustrate formal discussion of their conduct, or to cause discussion to end prematurely (or had that effect even if not intended).
Because the term signifies a user who resigns in the face of an actual or likely issue, and by doing so has negated, frustrated or impeded usual resolution or sanction, the term is generally not used when this has not happened. For example:
- A user who resigns from a role but does not then avoid the concerns of their peers, does not cease engaging in discussions about their behavior, and does not seek to evade dialog or prevent resolution of the concern, might or might not be sanctioned in the end, but they would not usually be described as resigning "under a cloud" since the matter was allowed to resolve and a conclusion reached at the time. (This might be the case for someone who resigns early on in a matter because of respect for community concerns.)
- Similarly, when a user resigns in good standing for good-faith reasons, and a concern later comes to light, but the resignation was for unrelated reasons in good faith and unlikely to be down to possible exposure or review of the concern, they may or may not be sanctioned, but they too would not normally be described as resigning "under a cloud" since there was no 'cloud' imminent or threatening at the time of resignation.