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Free Brian Barakauskas

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Petition to Reinstate Brian Barakauskas

Authored by Michael Wagner; February 21, 2022

On February 19, 2022, the United Country Western Dance Council (UCWDC) Board of Directors issued the following statement addressed to All Members of the UCWDC:

“Today the Board of Directors of the UCWDC took an extraordinary action and revoked the Associate Membership of Brian Barakauskas for life as per Section 4, Item 2.2.6,(c) of our Associate Member Code of Conduct.”

This statement was sent to inform all Associate Members of the UCWDC that Brian Barakauskas’ Associate Membership had been permanently revoked.

Following the release of the first statement, a second statement was issued on the same day. This statement was sent to provide clarity to all Associate Members of the UCWDC surrounding the suspension of Brian Barakauskas’ Associate Membership. Listed as reasons in the second letter were:

  • Maintain the integrity and very existence of our organization.
  • Written requests from associate members urging the enforcement of the Code of Conduct
  • Responsibility to be accountable to all associate members who respect and abide by the code of conduct.
  • Based on the UCWDC Bylaws, the Board of Directors has the authority to make decisions regarding Associate Member status; that each person that becomes an Associate Member of the UCWDC agrees to our Code of Conduct, and that each concern is considered on a case-by-case basis.

The day after these two statements were released, a third statement was provided by the UCWDC Board of Directors. This statement was sent to inform all Associate Members of the UCWDC that the revocation of Brian Barakauskas’ Associate Membership had been reduced to 1 year, as opposed to the previous lifetime suspension. At the time of the composition of this petition, this is the most recent statement given from the UCWDC Board of Directors on this issue.

Not only are the allegations against Brian Barakauskas extremely vague, but the reasons for the extraordinary action continue to change as the issue gets brought to light. The second statement clarified that the revoked associate membership prevented him from competing, but he could still attend competitions. Later, the term “extreme cyberbullying” was mentioned in the third statement as the reason for Brian Barakauskas’ “temporary” removal.

There are multiple reasons Brian Barakauskas should not be revoked of his membership rights, the first being most of his critique was positive in nature and the clear intended purpose of his messages was to better the UCWDC organization. However, even in the moments where the critique was not positive, we do not feel as though punishment was appropriate.

Throughout the entire process of his suspension Brian Barakauskas has continued to encourage people to dance in the UCWDC and to help grow the organization. His suggestions were public, positive, and open to retort. It is our belief that his critique does not warrant the description of “extreme cyberbullying”, nor does it warrant a suspension ‘of any kind’. Clearly – he was seeking a more effective means of communication between the dance community at large and the UCWDC officers and directors.

On behalf of a collection of country dance pros, UCWDC Associate Members, and other signing parties, we will respectfully submit a formal request for the full and immediate reinstatement of Brian Barakauskas. We do not believe he violated the Code of Conduct. We support free speech and the right to speak openly and freely throughout our organization. To revoke a membership permanently or for any specific amount of time for speaking openly and publicly in support of the UCWDC is a violation of our rights.

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Michael Wagner

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