By Kitan Tataru
The Membership Manual contains more information about this topic.
In the Wheel of Time series, no one is a member of an Ajah until they are raised to Aes Sedai. An Accepted chooses which Ajah to join during their raising ceremony (NS, Ch. 11). These people have had many years, through the process of being a novice and Accepted, to discover what the different Ajahs are about and where their personality will fit.
From TarValon.Net's founding until January 2006, Accepted and Soldiers could only access one Ajah or Company (Community Group) at a time. They would choose which Community Group they wanted to join when they were raised to Accepted or Soldier, and they very rarely changed groups. We found that this led to people assuming that, once an Accepted or Soldier chose a Community Group, they were then a full member of it. After "joining" a Community Group in this way, Accepted and Soldiers were allowed to take full part in discussions about topics that only affected that group's Aes Sedai or Gaidin, as Community Groups did not have a private forum that excluded Accepted and Warders at that time.
More significantly, there was an expectation that Accepted and Soldiers were locked into their choice of Community Group. Changing groups was considered extremely bad form, and some people even saw it as borderline betrayal of the Accepted's or Soldier's previous group. This was not what the site's administration wanted or intended to happen, so the Guesting System was implemented to change the culture of inflexibility regarding finding one's home within our community.
When the Guesting System was first introduced, a significant number of Senior Members (Aes Sedai and Gaidin) were very concerned. Some thought that Accepted and Soldiers would be constantly cycling in and out of the Community Groups' Sitting Rooms or Great Rooms as if there were a revolving door. Others thought that anything shared in a Community Group's Sitting Room or Great Room would soon become public knowledge. To address these fears, a Chambers forum was created for each Community Group, which was only visible to the group's Aes Sedai or Gaidin. However, as Chambers were new forums, virtually all discussions continued to happen in the Sitting Rooms and Great Rooms for a very significant period of time.
Fortunately, privacy concerns and other fears did not come true. The first guesting Accepted and Soldiers and those thereafter respected the space of each Community Group and kept information from the Sitting Rooms or Great Rooms confidential.
Ultimately, the Guesting System became one of the best changes TarValon.Net has ever made. Accepted and Soldiers are no longer afraid to change Community Groups; they feel free to find the place where they truly belong. The Tower community as a whole has been brought closer together by the creation of the Guesting System—people in different Community Groups who would not have known about each other found themselves with new friends after guesting in different groups. Many of these friendships persisted even if an Accepted or Soldier Aspired elsewhere. Members aren’t nearly as cloistered in their Community Groups with only a few friends outside of it. Our members also have a better understanding of how the different Community Groups work, which has led to more cohesion amongst the Tower as a whole, particularly among our Senior Members.
This is how the Guesting System works.
How to Guest
For the first 6 weeks someone is an Accepted or Soldier, they must guest with two Community Groups at a time, regardless of whether each group is an Ajah or Company. At any time, the Accepted/Soldier may change which groups they are guesting with, so long as they are in two groups at a time (not one, not three, just two).
An Accepted/Soldier may spend as much or as little time as they wish within a given group. Some people will guest with a Community Group and immediately know that it is not their home. Others may spend 8 weeks in a Community Group before deciding that it not where they belong. Some people may guest with every single Community Group to make sure that they are not overlooking a group that might fit them the best.
Some people do two or more "rounds" of guesting - they will guest with every Community Group during the first "round", then revisit the few Community Groups they think might end up being their home. Other people may know exactly which Community Group they will Aspire to as soon as they are able and will not participate much at all within the second group they are guesting in. Still others may leave the Community Group they think they belong in to see how much they miss being there. All of these guesting methods and more are perfectly acceptable ways of finding one's own home within our Community Groups.
Should an Accepted/Soldier wish to change one of the Community Groups they are guesting with, they should email the Head of Ajah/Company Commander of the group they want to leave and ask to be removed. Many Accepted/Soldiers have made a point to post in the Community Group's sitting room prior to leaving to say goodbye and thank you. This is usually greatly appreciated by the members of the Community Group.
When requesting to leave a Community Group, an Accepted/Soldier must also request to guest elsewhere unless they have Aspired. The Tower Gatekeepers cannot move an Accepted or Soldier from one group to another until they have received both requests. An Accepted/Soldier should let the Master/Mistress of Accepted and Soldiers know if they have any difficulty moving between groups.
If it has been a week after an Accepted/Soldier has alerted the Head of Ajah or Company Commander that they wish to leave a group and they have not been removed, they should email the Director of Membership. An Accepted/Soldier should only be able to see into two groups at any given time.
Etiquette while guesting
The message in this part is important enough that it deserves its own section.
An Accepted/Soldier truly is a guest while they are in the various Community Group forums. Remember that this is where many of our Senior Members consider their homes to be. That means that personal information is often posted in these forums.
Under no circumstances should an Accepted/Soldier discuss any information they read in Community Group forums with anyone not in that forum.
They should not allude to that information by any means, manner, or form.
They should not repeat it.
They should not copy/paste it anywhere.
They should not paraphrase it.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
If anyone is found to break this ethical code, the punishment will be severe. An Accepted/Soldier should not join a Community Group just so they can gawk at the skeletons in the closet.
Aspiring to a Community Group
Once a member has been an Accepted/Soldier for at least 6 weeks, they are eligible to Aspire to a Community Group. This means that the Accepted/Soldier is declaring that this is the group they intend to join once they are raised to Aes Sedai or Gaidin. This is a necessary part of being an Accepted/Soldier--they cannot become a Senior Member until they Aspire. When an Accepted/Soldier has Aspired to an Community Group, they are called an Aspirant.
An Accepted/Soldier does not have to Aspire to a group right at the 6 week minimum time period; some people take several more weeks or even months before deciding to Aspire to a particular group.
Each Community Group has a different process for Aspiring. An Accepted/Soldier will learn about that procedure either by looking through the stickies in that Community Group's forum or by contacting the group's Head of Ajah/Company Commander.
Once an Accepted/Soldier has officially Aspired, they should alert the Head of Ajah/Company Commander of the other group they were guesting with to have themselves removed from that group's forum. This means that until the Accepted/Soldier becomes a Senior Member, they will only see one Ajah/Company forum.
Aspiring to an Community Group does not mean that an Accepted/Soldier is a member or even a half-member of that group. They are still free to explore other Community Groups if the desire strikes them; they just need to un-Aspire by alerting the Head of Ajah/Company Commander of their Community Group.
Accepted and Soldiers: Please do not let reluctance of offending the members of the Community Group to which you're currently Aspired prevent you from finding your true home. Senior Members realize that sometimes it takes time to find the right group, and they respect that.
Choosing to Demote
Sometimes, for whatever reason, an Aes Sedai or Gaidin feels they do not fit into their Community Group anymore. If the Aes Sedai or Gaidin is not able to resolve this problem, they may choose to voluntarily demote to Accepted or Soldier to find a new Ajah or Company.
All demotions are voluntary. No community members are demoted as a disciplinary measure.
The process of voluntary demotion is a difficult one, and is set up as such on purpose. The prospect of leaving one's Community Group is not to be taken lightly, nor should it be taken for granted. The TarValon.Net Administration and Department of Membership take a Senior Member's changing of Community Group very seriously, and it should only be done as a last resort.
It is important to understand that voluntary demotion is not a procedure that is easily approved. Petitions for voluntary demotion will be examined by Administration and either approved or denied. Senior Members who are given approval to leave their Community Group must meet certain criteria.
If the only reason for leaving a Community Group is a matter of people involved rather than the concept of the Community Group itself, the Senior Member's petition for demotion is not likely to be approved. The Senior Member must present their petition so that it is clear that this member should not be affiliated with their present Community Group. Appropriate reasons include no longer fitting the profile of the present Ajah/Company or visibly fitting the profile of another Ajah/Company more ideally than the current one.
Petitioning for Demotion
A Senior Member who wants to change Community Group affiliation will petition the Director of Membership, giving valid reasons for the demotion. The Director of Membership must receive the petition before the deadline posted in Site Announcements (usually sometime in June and December).
If approved, the Senior Member will be required to demote themselves to Accepted or Soldier and participate in the guesting system. They will guest in two Community Groups at a time, like any other Accepted/Soldier, but will not be able to Aspire to their newly-chosen Community Group until after after 12 weeks of guesting (rather than 6 weeks, like usual Accepted/Soldiers).
Community members who voluntarily demote are not eligible for re-raising to Senior Member until 6 months after they have demoted, and many members find that it takes them longer than that to be raised again to Senior Member.
The Demotion Experience
The voluntarily demoted community member will be an Accepted or Soldier in truth, rather than any special in-between rank. Although they will be given the courtesy of not being required to complete further raising project or contribution to the Tower, in all other ways they are to be treated in the same manner as any other Accepted or Soldier. They will be raised eventually through the Hall and will be subject to all the strictures inherent in the Accepted/Soldier rank.
At the same time, it is important to know that guesting after demoting will not be the same experience as it is for Accepted/Soldiers who are guesting for the first time. Demotees have a history with many other Senior Members, and this history doesn't just disappear. Voluntary demotion should not be perceived as a clean slate, do-over option. It is, rather, a shifting from one situation to another.
The voluntarily demoted Accepted/Soldier must appreciate that other Senior Members might have a hard time getting used to the demotee having a different rank. Senior Members, especially those belonging to the Community Group where the Accepted/Soldier chooses to Aspire, might be cautious. This caution might come from something as simple as wanting to know for sure that the Accepted/Soldier will not change their mind again before the Senior Members fully warm to the concept of them as a member of their Community Group.
At the same time, it should be respected that the Accepted/Soldier chooses the Community Group, not the other way around. Raising an Accepted/Soldier is not up to a vote with the new Community Group. Of course, members of this group will have input which may be put into the raising packet gathered by the Head of Ajah or Company Commander and shown to the Hall, but ultimately the member’s raising is up to the vote of the Hall, like any other raising.
The voluntarily demoted Accepted/Soldier is encouraged to take their time in deciding which Community Group to Aspire to. Likewise, someone who has demoted should not feel that other people are rushing them through the process. If an Accepted/Soldier finds that they are being pressured to choose (or not choose) a particular Community Group and that they aren't being allowed to fully enjoy the guesting process, please contact the Master/Mistress of Accepted and Soldiers.
Second voluntary demotions were not always permitted at TarValon.Net. However, after the Guesting System and Demotion were established for a while, Administration found it necessary examine all of the potential ramifications of allowing people to demote a second time, while considering that we want people to be happy both with TarValon.Net as a whole as well as within their chosen Community Group.
To that end, at the Spring 2014 Admin Meeting Administration decided to allow second voluntary demotions. However, they will be far more restrictive than a first demotion is.
Here are the requirements for second demotions:
- The Senior Member must have been a Senior Member for a minimum of 3 years in their current Community Group.
- The member must be active and participating in the overall TarValon.Net community (though not necessarily in their current Community Group).
- Thus, a second demotion wouldn't be approved for someone had been on a long term Leave of Absence, then came back with the demotion request being one of the first things they do. Since TarValon.Net things can seem very different after a Leave of Absence, we want members to have time to get to know the people and the Community as a whole again before making a huge change. If a Senior Member still wants to demote after showing that they have been present and active on the site (without which they most likely wouldn't be raised again in any case), then they are more than welcome to submit an application to the Director of Membership in the way described above.
- Members who demote a second time are able to Aspire after 6 months.
- Members who demote a second time are eligible for raising to Senior Member after 1 year.
If you have any questions about the Guesting System or Demoting, feel free to email the Director of Membership.
These rules only applied to those who demoted on January 1, 2015 for the express purpose of changing paths (for men to join an Ajah or women to join a Company). For these exceptions only, administration allowed what was called a "Hall Pass".
From the Fall 2014 Admin Meeting:
Members who change paths will be considered demotees. However, they will *not* need to go through the Hall for advancement back to Senior Member. Rather, as with our normal raising process, the Head of Ajah/Company Commander, with input from their members, will determine when the demotee is ready to advance after the waiting period of 6 months (a year for second time demotees). The raising packet will still need to be sent to the respective Admin, as well as to the Director of Membership before the raising will be sanctioned. When the raising is approved, an announcement will be made congratulating the demotee on their promotion to Senior Member and appropriate permissions will be restored.
This exception with the Hall will *only* apply to this very first group. If someone elects to demote and change paths during subsequent application periods, all normal rules pertaining to demotions and the Hall will be in effect.
In addition to this, we will be considering extending the Hall Pass on a case by case basis to petitioners who meet the following qualifications:
- Have been demoted for over a year as of December 31, 2014 [i.e., demoted before January 1, 2014]
- Made a good-faith effort to find an Ajah/Company they belong to, but have not found their home.
Any other demotions will continue as normal, and ALL demotees must be aware that they will need to guest with at least two groups for a minimum of twelve weeks (6 months for a second time demotee).
After this time, they are free to choose a new community group to Aspire to.
If you have questions about the Hall Pass, please contact the Director of Membership.