A Decade of Sanctions

There has been a recent spate of interest in the number of Society-level sanctions issued by the SCA in recent years. This information is publicly available, as it is contained in the meeting minutes of the Board of Directors, but it isn’t organized in a consistent fashion, so counting the records is perforce a manual process.

To facilitate this type of analysis, I am making available a list of sanctions-related actions extracted from the quarterly Board minutes for the decade from 2013 to 2022. These records are found in a Google Sheets document linked to below, along with a statistical breakdown of action types by calendar year.

Important Caveat: This list is not authoritative and should not be utilized as a reference for making decisions or conclusions of any kind. This is merely a casual attempt to summarize some information found elsewhere, and if you need accurate records of what has really taken place you should consult the Society’s official documents.

Data Processing Method

The meeting minutes for this decade were retrieved from an archive. In cases where meeting minutes were not available, the President’s Report was substituted. Some conference call minutes were included in this analysis but not all of them; that omission definitely leads to an undercount of sanction-related actions, especially in recent years.

The source documents were converted from PDF format to plain text using open-source software (pdf2text -format). A regular expression search was used to extract portions of the text which might contain sanctions actions (revo.* (and|&) den|banish|suspen).

Source files and matching records were manually reviewed to remove false positives and add overlooked stragglers. However, it’s certain that this process still missed some sanctions-related actions, including cases where the formatting of the Board minutes was different than usual, or the record of the action did not use the same phrasing as in other cases, or where the type of action was uncommon or unexpected. Among other things, this means that this list should include nearly all of the R&Ds during this period, and most of the TRPs, but it definitely omits a lot of administrative and royal sanctions.

Society names were extracted for analysis, as was the type of sanction or other action. The text of the decision from the minutes was processed to remove the modern names of the person under discussion, although the names of the Board members were preserved as they are well known and not the subjects of the action.

Statistical Summary

A pivot table was constructed, counting actions by type and calendar year. Related action types were grouped together; for example, starting in 2020 the term “Expulsion” was replaced by “Temporary Proscription from Participation,” which later became “Temporary Removal from Participation” — to facilitate comparisons, in the statistics table these items are all shown on the same line.

Some of the changes visible over the course of the decade may be due to changes in reporting practices, while others may represent changes due to external factors; for example, it seems plausible that there were fewer “banishments from the royal presence” during the Covid shutdown when in-person events were halted.

I suspect that the paucity of of R&D actions in 2014–2015 and the subsequent spike in R&Ds in 2016 is the result of an internal delay caused by a review and revision of the Society’s sanctions process, although I am not sure of the details. Certainly the number of R&Ds processed in the marathon multi-day series of executive sessions associated with the April 2016 Board meeting would suggest that they were working through an accumulated backlog.

Data Files

Sanction Actions — Google Sheet, 291 rows, 4 columns

Sanction Statistics — Google Sheet, 21 rows, 12 columns

Illustration of stocks released into the public domain by publisher Pearson Scott Foresman.

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