The EAR Council
The EAR Council is a group of three to five IMC practitioners, respected for their integrity, who are available to any community member requesting help in dealing with ethical concerns, conflicts, and grievances within the IMC community, including conflicts with teachers. The IMC Board appoints council members to three-year terms, following the same procedure for election of board members.
Ethical concerns and conflict will inevitably arise within the IMC community. The health of our community is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict, rather by our willingness to find effective, responsible, and compassionate resolution of interpersonal tensions when they arise. The commitment to attend to and learn from conflict is a clear application of Buddhist practice in our daily lives. With this intention, practice can become a deeply transformative vehicle for our lives.
Buddhist ethics and conflict-resolution go beyond right or wrong, blame or guilt, winning or losing, offenders or victims. Rather, they are based on compassionately addressing the suffering of all concerned. Hurt, fear, and anger are taken seriously through forums where all parties may speak honestly, safely, and completely about their own direct experiences and feelings. In seeking resolution, Buddhist practice values dialogue over silence, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, taking responsibility for harm caused by one’s actions over assigning blame, and making amends over punishment. Because the process of reaching such resolution is often difficult, IMC’s Ethics and Reconciliation (EAR) Council offers support and guidance.
The Insight Meditation Center is committed to cultivating an inclusive and ethically sensitive practice environment. The creation of the EAR Council is an expression of our commitment to build supportive structures for the Sangha around ethical concerns that arise within our community as well as conflict resolution. Periodically it is appropriate to review and revise IMC’s Ethics and Reconciliation Council procedures and its Teachers’ Code of Ethics. Both documents were reviewed and revised in 2019.
PRIMARY PROCEDURE: Provide Consultation and/or Support Reconciliation
1) Confidential Consultation
Any Sangha member may approach any EAR Council member for consultation. The primary role of EAR Council members is to provide confidential consultation to anyone with concerns about ethical issues or conflicts within the IMC/IRC community. When appropriate the preference of the Council is to seek reconciliation between all parties in dispute. When an EAR Council member is approached by a Sangha member with a concern, the EAR Council member will notify the other members of the Council, and the Council will determine how it can best be of service to the parties concerned and the Sangha as a whole. Some of the ways the Council may respond include:
- as confidential sounding boards for a Sangha member’s (or Sangha members’) concerns;
- as a source of guidance for deeper personal reflection and practice around an ethical issue or a conflict that has arisen;
- as a source of advice on how best to resolve a particular conflict that has arisen with another sangha member or teacher;
- to facilitate skillful discussion and reconciliation between parties in conflict or in other ways bring conflict to a satisfactory resolution; and/or
- for matters that require immediate action to protect the safety of IMC and community members, the EAR Council member in consultation with other EAR Council members and Board Executive Committee will contact the relevant legal or health authorities.
SECONDARY PROCEDURE: Grievance Process
In the rare occasion that a more formal process is necessary, and following the above primary sequence of steps, the following grievance procedure is available.
1) Bringing a Concern
A formal grievance procedure is initiated by submitting a letter of request to the Council that includes:
- A statement that a formal grievance procedure is requested.
- The name of the person(s) or party whose behavior or policy the complaint involves.
- A detailed written description of the alleged behavior.
- A history of attempt(s), if any, to resolve the complaint through other means, including the primary reconciliation procedures listed above.
- A general statement about the resolution desired.
2) Accepting the Concern
The EAR Council will first determine whether the issue is directly related to the sangha and to members of the sangha and the relationships therein. Once it has been determined if the concerns expressed fall within the scope of the EAR Council’s responsibilities, the EAR council will convey its decision to the parties involved as promptly as possible. As part of this notification, the Council will state its understanding of the issue under inquiry in writing and will distribute this document and a copy of the original letter of request to the party named in the complaint. If the Council does not accept a request, it will communicate its reasons for doing so in writing to the initiating party and may recommend further mediation or another course of action. In some cases, outside mediation may be recommended.
3) Forming a Grievance Committee
When a complaint is accepted, one member of the EAR Council will convene and facilitate a Grievance Committee to investigate, issue findings, and render a decision on the complaint. The facilitator will be engaged in discussions and other activities but they will not participate in Committee voting.
The Grievance Committee will be made up of the facilitator and three people selected from past and present IMC Board members, IMC Chaplaincy Council members, and IMC Dharma Leaders. Each party to the grievance will be given an opportunity to request one person for the Grievance Committee from the aforementioned groups.
4) Investigating the Concern
The facilitator will schedule a closed meeting where all parties are given a chance to present their understanding of the issue under investigation. The Grievance Committee may question parties, gather additional information, or schedule additional meetings. If desired, the parties may each bring a supporting companion to such a meeting.
All parties will have an opportunity to respond to all information – oral, written, or other – gathered by the Committee.
The proceedings and all pertinent documents, including any notes taken by Grievance Committee members, will be held confidentially, unless a court requires disclosure.
During the time of investigation, review, and decision-making, an EAR Council member who is not functioning as the Facilitator or serving on the Grievance Committee may function as a source of support for those involved in the conflict at the request of either party.
5) Committee Findings and Recommended Actions
When the Grievance Committee members are satisfied that they are adequately informed, they will review and discuss the grievance among themselves. At its discretion, the Committee may seek non-‐binding advice from any other source who agrees to hold the matters discussed in confidence. The Committee will endeavor to reach its decision by consensus and present a unanimous finding. If unanimity cannot be reached, committee members will vote. Within two weeks of a decision(s), the Council will email all parties with the result of its deliberations. For matters involving grievances and conflict that could impact IMC and its community in significant ways (such as issues that could lead to the suspension or other sanction of an IMC teacher or that could involve a legal proceeding) the EAR Council will provide its written findings and recommendations to the IMC Board of Directors to determine the best next steps.