Is this the end? Time's Up board members resign from troubled group

(Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)

Last month Tina Tchen, the CEO of Time’s Up, resigned after text messages revealed she had ordered the group to stand down and not issue a statement in support of Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. Roberta Kaplan, the chair of the group’s board of directors, also resigned after it was learned that she had met with Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa to discuss how to respond to the allegations from Boylan.

But it turns out that was just the start of a larger collapse. Over the weekend Time’s Up announced many more of its high-profile board members would be resigning as well. This includes board vice chair Nina Shaw, co-secretaries Kathie McGrath and Shonda Rimes as well as members Eva Longoria, Hilary Rosen, Jurnee Smollett, Ana Navarro and Valerie Jarrett. Only four members of the board will continue with the group:

To mark the establishment of a new TIME’S UP, the organization will have a new and reconstituted board.  To that end, the members of the existing board will be stepping aside over the next 30 days, giving our CEO the ability to refocus the organization’s leadership to suit its mission and needs. As we do so, we commit to making sure TIME’S UP has sufficient financial resources to do its important work. And we have asked four existing board members— Colleen DeCourcy, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Ashley Judd and Gabrielle Sulzberger—to remain during this period to help ensure a smooth transition.

Publicly, the group is treating this as a necessary transition but there’s some speculation that maybe this is the beginning of the end for Time’s Up. This is from The Wrap which has followed Time’s Up pretty closely since it was founded in 2018.

I wouldn’t buy the hype that Time’s Up is simply morphing into a new stage, with transitional leadership. Everything that made Time’s Up what it was — a unique power play by women, for once, on behalf of less powerful women — has quietly been dissolved…

Many of the volunteer activists on the Time’s Up board concluded that there was no path forward, according to two individuals with knowledge of its conversations.

But the more interesting aspect of the story is that it’s not really the external problems that seem to be bringing the group down. Internally there is a divide between the board members who believed the group should be using their institutional power to change laws and the staff who believed the group should be focused on supporting “survivors.”

the board was frustrated at the constant criticism from survivors for not doing enough. This was reinforced by the organization’s young staff, who expressed their feelings that survivors should come first in every case, one insider told me. “It’s a ‘theory of change’ question. Those who believed we were working on policy — NDAs, statutes of limitations — bumped up against those who said, ‘Don’t focus on power but give support to survivors,” this insider said.

The board was firmly in the former camp. “We needed access to power to change the structures of our society: to change policy, laws and culture,” the insider said.

That may have sounded good but in the case of Gov. Cuomo, it seems the staff was proven right. Having access to power also meant power had access to the leadership of Time’s Up. The governor’s office convinced the group not to publicly support Boylan, the first accuser, making it appear the organization didn’t believe she was credible. In short, they compromised because of their back-channel communication with another woman in a position of power. Now, as a result of that compromise, the CEO and most of the board is gone.

That may sound like a resounding win for the staff’s view of things, but only if the group can survive without most of the high profile board members that made it newsworthy in the first place. If the entire effort collapses for lack of funds then the victory of the staff in this internal battle will have been a pyrrhic one.