By Shirley.

As we prepare for a semester, and maybe even a whole year, in which IN groups will be dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is very important that we all follow some membership etiquette and cyber security measures to safeguard each one of us as well as the IN community.

IN has had a long history of welcoming, befriending and helping ladies from all over the world. We can continue this work as long as none of our groups fall prey to hackers, cyber-attacks or somehow become  a source of COVID-19 spread. For this reason, we are bringing you guidelines on how we would like our members to conduct themselves.

We have been fortunate to not have had problems so far, but as the world changes rapidly, we ask all members to adhere to some basic and probably already familiar guidelines.

IN is a non-political, non-religious and non-commercial organization. Therefore, please be aware when having discussions not to veer the conversation to these three topics in a way that might make other members uncomfortable. Please be respectful. Do not use derogatory or profane language towards others.

Most groups meeting this fall, are doing so via Zoom or a combination of Zoom meetings and in-person socially distanced and mask wearing meetings. All in-person meetings are to follow Federal and State health guidelines. If you are participating in an in-person meeting be very self-aware of any, even slight, symptoms that might indicate that you have been infected. As we move towards fall, cold and flu will become common. If you have any symptoms, even if you think it is just a cold or allergy, please do not attend the meeting. If you have participated in a meeting and after the meeting start developing signs that you might have been infected, contact the group leaders immediately and let them know. Keep them posted of any change in your health status. We would like to make clear to our members that we are aware that each one of you feels different about how comfortable you are in each situation.If you have signed up to a group that has a hybrid schedule (some meetings on Zoom and some in-person) but you don’t feel comfortable participating in the in-person meetings, it is okay to skip them. Your status inside the group will not change and the leaders of the group are not going to have their feelings hurt if you skip meetings you are not comfortable with. Your opinion of what you are comfortable with might change along the semester, and that is fine as well.

Zoom meetings might be safer against the coronavirus but might have its own pitfalls. Here are some things to know:

It is a policy of IN not to share full names publicly. It means that last names (family names) are not used in the website, Newsletter and Facebook. You might have thought that the reason IN only uses first names was because Americans use first names when addressing each other. In reality, IN has agreed to omit last names to protect those individuals seeking asylum in the USA. Similarly, personal email addresses and personal residential addresses are not made public. Please do not share other member’s email addresses and/or residential addresses without their consent.

If you are a brand-new member of IN, welcome! Once a new member has registered on the IN website, an IN Ambassador will contact the new member to generally explain how IN works and to answer any questions. Ambassadors are volunteers that welcome new members. They try to connect with members of their own country and/or language. They can provide a newcomer with information and support while the newcomer gets used to living in Michigan. Throughout the year, if you have a question, you can contact your IN Ambassador for help.

Now, you are ready to sign up to an IN group or groups. You have read the  descriptions in the Newsletter and the individual group descriptions in the website, and have made your choices. Then just go ahead and sign up in the website. But what about if you have questions about the groups? Let’s say you have a question about the English level of a group (what does an intermediate level looks like?). What should you do? First of all, you can contact the area coordinator with your questions. The area coordinator email address is at the bottom of each area article in this issue of the  Newsletter. After the Virtual Open House, if there is enough demand, the area coordinator might organize a Zoom meeting where you can talk to several group leaders in the area and see which group would be a better fit. Or the coordinator will contact you via email to answer your questions. You are welcome to “visit” several groups before you decide which one/ones you would like to join. Once you have made your decision, however, make sure to contact all the other group leaders you have visited to tell them what you decided.

Once you have signed up to a group, the group leader will contact you and will try to get to know more about yourself. Do you have any questions about the group? Do you need explanations on how it works? Once the first contact is established, the group leader will email you a Zoom invitation (if the group is meeting on Zoom). Please do not share this information with anybody else. If you have a friend interested in the same group, your friend has to go sign up for the group and receive the invitation from the group leader.

Now, here is an important guideline for everyone: Group leaders will be using the waiting room on Zoom meetings. Their guideline is to not let anybody in the meeting that they do not recognize. So that nobody has a problem with the waiting room feature, you should inform the group leader in advance if you are participating in the meeting with a computer/iPad/phone that is not registered to you. Here is an explanation: Several of us own more than one device capable of accessing Zoom. Some of them are not necessarily in your  name – the computer might be registered in the husband’s name or the iPad in the daughter’s name. In the waiting room, the name of the registered device will appear as you wait to enter the group. The host should be told in advance if your device will be showing a different name than your own, so she will know that the different name is your husband’s, for example, and not a troublemaker.

Permission should be asked whenever photographing or recording  video or audio. Permission should also be asked if a photograph, video/audio recording or a member’s name is to be used in the website, Facebook or Newsletter.

If after some time you decide you don’t want or you can’t continue in the group, it is okay to sign up to a different group or to just drop the group. In that case, please let the group leader know of your decision. Do not just disappear without a word. Group leaders and members can be very concerned about members that have disappeared. It is a courtesy to let people know that you can’t/won’t participate in the group anymore.

If you haven’t check it out yet, IN has a Facebook group. As a member of IN, you can also be a member of the Facebook group. But people who are not IN members will not be accepted in the Facebook group. The IN Facebook group is a private closed group. Anyone can search for the group on Facebook, but only members of the group can see who is in the group and what people post. Any member of the group can post to the group.

The IN Facebook group is intended to promote IN events and to facilitate community building among members of the group. This group is not to be used for commercial or promotional purposes.

Please respect the privacy of IN Facebook group members by not sharing member’s names with people outside of this group, taking screenshots of any posts or conversations in this group, or sharing any details of conversations with members not in the group.

All the people working in IN –  group leaders, area coordinators, ambassadors, IN Day organizers, Fall Virtual Open House organizers and many others – are all volunteers that like you are trying to adapt to the new world situation. We are trying our best to meet the needs and expectations of our members. If you see a problem or have a better idea on how to solve a problem, let us know. Because this is what IN is about – working together and learning from each other.

I hope to see you on Zoom or in person soon.