Paranoia Strikes Deep

Two months ago Pima Air and Space Museum announced mandatory training for all volunteer docents. The training turned out to be something else entirely … they wanted us to sign liability waivers. On the surface, the waiver looked like a simple agreement saying we wouldn’t sue the museum for injuries received on site. Staff told us such waivers are standard across the museum industry. I read mine as carefully as any non-lawyer could, didn’t see any threat, and signed.

Pima Air and Space Museum

Now I see this, an article in Sunday’s Green Valley News: Titan Missile Museum Losing Volunteers, Revenue over Liability Waiver.

Titan Missile Museum

The Titan Missile Museum, located 20 miles south of Tucson in Green Valley, is part of PASM. The docents identified in the article are my colleagues. In fact some of them volunteer at both sites, and presumably those who left TMM after refusing to sign the waiver have also left PASM. They think the waiver puts volunteers on the hook for attorney fees and potential damages should a third party (i.e., a visitor) sue the museum.

When museum staff conducted the liability waiver “training,” rather than hold one or two large group sessions, they pulled in just the volunteers working on any given day. That meant many small sessions, seven days a week over the course of several weeks until they got to everyone. It also meant that when we were given the choice of signing the waiver or resigning, there were only one or two of us in the room, with no opportunity for group discussion where issues like those identified in the Green Valley News might have surfaced.

What do I know? The volunteers who left rather than sign the waiver may have spun themselves up over nothing. As I said, I didn’t see any compelling reason not to sign the waiver. But I’m not trained in such things, and had there been an opportunity for group discussion, I would have been able to make a more informed decision. And now I can’t help wondering if museum staff intentionally broke us up into ones and twos to prevent just that kind of discussion.

Yeah, you know the song:

Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep,
It starts when you’re always afraid,
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.

Adding to my suspicions, up until the beginning of this year every volunteer docent team (walking tour team, tram team, Boneyard tour team, etc) had volunteer team leaders. I used to be a team leader, and one of my responsibilities was to keep and distribute an up-to-date roster of current team members’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers. That way we could contact one another when we needed a substitute, or share info when it was impractical to have face-to-face group meetings.

What happened in January? Museum staff eliminated the volunteer team leader positions and took those duties on themselves. Since then there have been no rosters, and when I asked a staff member when we could expect a new one she said they weren’t sharing other volunteers’ contact information over privacy concerns. Hey what? A paranoid person (and I’m rapidly becoming one) would take that to mean they don’t want us to be able to get together to discuss issues affecting us.

If that’s their plan, I wish them luck. Have they even heard of email and social media?

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, hey, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, now, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down,
Stop, children, what’s that sound,
Everybody look what’s going down.

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