Statement from Team 33

In response to the recent revelations concerning IFI and their leadership practices, Team 33 has discussed this situation with our leadership team and we have decided that a continuing relationship with IFI is not aligned with our team values.

For this reason, Team 33 will no longer participate in TeamIFI and we will no longer be accepting sponsorship from IFI for the 2023 season and into the future. We will pursue using products from other suppliers in our future robots designs.

We thank everyone who has come forward to expose these concerns to the FIRST community.

We sincerely hope that the leadership of IFI will take these concerns seriously and will make the changes necessary to restore the culture and reputation of IFI and its related company divisions. The employees and staff of IFI deserve this.

Jim Zondag
Killer Bees Robotics

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Awesome! 33, 254, 987, 1114, 1678, 2056, and 4613 have now officially left #TeamIFI - every single out of state IFI team is gone. Truly, thank you, every single one of you, for being a shining example of FIRST values.

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I don’t love the “Awesome!” here. Nor do I think we should be having some weird BINGO card for “which teams dropped their sponsor due to serious toxic workplace allegations.”

The goal here isn’t to “win” or celebrate the demise of TeamIFI and dance on their proverbial grave.

I think the economic stand 33 (and others) are making is a shining example of FIRST values. However, I don’t think celebrating them as an “awesome! woo TeamIFI is dead now” decision is.

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I don’t think that’s what he meant, I think what he meant is that it is awesome that his initial post as the OP of the open letter to vex inspired members of the community to step up and share their story; and that teams are taking real action to show that they support their values even if it comes at the cost of losing a sponsor.

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The tone on the unofficial FIRST Discord is very much what @JPalmer is getting at.

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That’s a message I can get behind, I might even be guilty of it and it is something I will be more mindful of going forward. But when you call out a specific post and quote that post on Chief I assume you are talking about that post.

Let me be clear, I agree that there are definitely some that deserve this.

Though, I think it is fair to continually point out there are still great people who are employed at IFI that are stuck and unable to leave, or even speak out, for fear or hurting themselves or their family in a multitude of ways. Only one of which being financially.

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I think you’re taking this out of context. I read this as Jim saying that “the employees and staff of IFI” deserve:

As opposed to all employees of IFI deserving the criticism that we have expressed towards IFI leadership and those enabling the actions that have led to this week’s discussions.

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I may have misunderstood. I hope I did.

However, if I interpretted it in this way, others may as well. And I still think the point I made is valid and has not been said enough.

Thank you for clarifying though.

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You’re right, my post was overenthusiastic, I should have toned it down. But I do want to clarify that I made the post because I understand how hard of a decision it was - I wish they were never put in that position in the first place.

As I stated in my original post calling on teams to discuss this topic, my team was personally put in a similar position. Our rookie year, both of our two technical mentors and our largest sponsor (which would have increased our total budget by ~20%) were all exhibiting behavior that was making students uncomfortable. The students and their parents went to school administration, got the two mentors kicked off the team, and we rejected the sponsorship.

I would have never thought less of a team for making the decision that keeping the sponsorship was better for the team than losing it, but I am commending them for making a powerful statement about how this sort of behavior is not ok. These decisions are hard, and in my opinion, tough choices should be celebrated.

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Take this response and an impartial evaluation. The team that I play on does not have any ties to IFI or their associates, and neither do any of my friends on other teams. That said, after digging what details I could from various sources, here is my final judgement. I know I am some random nobody but I want my thoughts to be known, as someone with 0 bias towards either party.

The problems that have risen from IFI’s workplace culture is wrong. Objectively wrong. However, it’s not okay to throw the “bad guy” shade over every individual that works there. You shouldn’t declare people guilty by assosiation just because they work there. Just because someone works at a company that has done bad things doesn’t make them a bad person. Some people that work there were not involved with the affairs that heppened there, and there’s a chance that some people didn’t even know about them as they were happpening. Here’s a way to rephrase this: Let’s say someone donates money to charity, but after the donation was made it was discovered that the head of the orginisation was putting the money into their own pockets, not supporting whatever they were collecting for. Does that make the donator a bad person because they sponsored someone’s greed? What about the volunteer at the orginisation itself, who only collected the money and sent it to headquarters? Both the donator and the worker thought they were assisting the charity administer aid, but in reality they were forwarding money to a theif. The volunteer even handled the money that went to the boss! Does that make the volunteer bad too?

I’m not at all saying what happened at IFI was okay, or that everyone there is innocent. There are 100% people to blame, and it’s good that you stood up for FIRST’s beliefs by not taking their sponsorship. Just don’t generalize things too much. Remember that there are innocent people there who work there for a living. Some people might have even known about the affairs happening, but couldn’t call out in fear of being sued, or otherwise attacked.

TLDR: What some people at IFI did was wrong, and they shouldn’t be given the resources to continue their bad practices. Just don’t generalize it and say everyone at IFI is a bad person. Having a “serves them right” sort of attitude is not a healthy way to approach this. Yes, certain corrupt people do deserve punishment, but the orginization as a whole does not. If you remove the bad people and put in good people, IFI will change back to having good standards and practices. There are people there who really do need to work there to support themselves or their families, so they shouldn’t feel the repercussions of the actions of a select few.

If it isn’t clear enough, what happened was BAD. It is GOOD that you are not supporting immoral practices.

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You said it perfectly. I don’t think it is necessarily wrong, either, for you to be excited that people are finally holding accountable an organization that has been mistreating others for a long time. These teams made a decision that is not easy, and being proud of people and teams for making a decision of sacrifice to properly address toxic culture seems reasonable to me.

I feel like so many people have been impacted by the same kind of toxicity in the field of STEM, ESPECIALLY marginalized people, that IFI has been perpetuating. People are going to have charged emotional reactions to seeing this finally addressed on a more massive scale than anyone has seen in a while. I feel like anyone gatekeeping how individuals impacted by this toxic culture, at IFI and throughout all of STEM, isn’t the most productive conversation to be having. The conversation we need to be having is next steps. The conversation we need to be having is addressing how we address our own issues in team and league culture so we don’t mirror IFI. The conversation that we need to have is how we center and support the victims of this culture. I don’t think your reaction was unreasonable or inappropriate at all, and I’m proud of you, and everyone else, who kick-started this conversation.

Team 33, and every other former #TeamIFI team who has stepped, you all have played a huge part in hopefully a domino chain of events that results in accountability on a wider scale. I hope to see this accountability and change continue. FIRST aspires for a better future always, so let’s create that. We can make a change not just technologically, but culturally. Though cheesy, we are more than robots, and this is a time to make that shine.

In addition, not everyone at IFI is bad. There are probably good people who work there. It is a systemic issue, moreso than an individual issue. What will define these people as good, in the end, is if they choose, if able, to be a part of this change.

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Awesome will be when IFI realizes that they have a serious problem and no choice but to fix it, starting at the top. Every team that steps up to say “we will not associate with a company so misaligned with our values and the values of FIRST” (especially those putting their money where their mouth is by rejecting their sponsorship) is bringing this moment closer.

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