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Code of Conduct Committee Mandate Task Force Recommendations

Objective

The objective of this task force is to make recommendations for guidelines, approaches, support structures or policies that could be developed to respond to incidents that happen outside the mandate of the Carpentries Code of Conduct committee. This report has been prepared for the Carpentries Executive Council, and can be used to plan and execute an implementation strategy for our recommendations.

Background

With the growth of our global organisation comes an added awareness of the different ways our community engages with each other inside and outside our spaces and in the broader open scholarship/open data ecosystem. As such, potential conflicts or breaches of our Code of Conduct (CoC) can arise. Some incidents we may want to be aware of and respond to are outside our Code of Conduct Committee’s (CoCc) formal guidelines and processes. To address this, a Code of Conduct Committee Mandate Task Force was convened to make recommendations to help respond to incidents that happen outside the existing mandate of the Carpentries Code of Conduct Committee.

Executive Summary

The task force agrees that The Carpentries should be in the vanguard for sponsoring approaches that ensure that open scholarship/open data communities are safe and welcoming spaces. We recommend our policies be updated to reflect this leadership. As the Carpentries grows as a global organisation, it is very likely there will be an increasing number of community members who have responsibility for monitoring, reporting, and acting on incidents. Our recommendations are in favour of expanding the scope of incidents that justify a Carpentries response. We recommend allowing community members to share incidents that are unwelcome or inappropriate within and adjacent to Carpentries activities in physical and digital spaces. We recommend allowing people to tell their stories and raise their concerns without judgment or fear. Our recommendations will not expand the scope of the Code of Conduct Committee; we present the following recommendations for policies and support structures.

Recommendations

Recommendation 1: Public Statements from The Carpentries

This task force has determined that a transparent rubric should be developed by the Executive Council to evaluate whether an organisation has acted against The Carpentries mission, vision, and/or values. Using this rubric, a public statement should be issued, and/or action should be taken by the Carpentries if:

  1. a potential workshop or instructor training host site refuses instructors or trainers on the basis of nationality, race, gender identity/expression, ability status, etc. unless motivated by security clearance requirements.
  2. an incident results in someone in leadership (Carpentries Staff or Executive Council) either stepping down or being expelled from our community.
  3. the leadership of any Member Organisation, for profit company, non-profit company/project, host site, or other organisation where The Carpentries had historical interaction behaves in a way that is not consistent with The Carpentries’ mission, vision, and values.

By “action” we mean:

  • Removing any references to said organisations from our websites, blogs, and lessons.
  • Potentially ending collaborations or contracts with said organisation.

If a public statement involving a breach against our Code of Conduct, mission, vision and/or values is issued, we recommend that said statement come from The Carpentries Executive Director or Senior Director of Equity and Assessment (or whomever sits in the Equity and Inclusion role at the time). We recommend that public statements be drafted by The Carpentries Executive Council and Executive Director, and reviewed by the Chair of the Code of Conduct Committee.

RATIONALE: By the very adoption of a Code of Conduct, The Carpentries is taking a stand on values in a public way. Members of the community, at least its majority, perceive, and believe for themselves, that the values defended by the CoC are an integral part of The Carpentries’ mission, and not a mere ancillary list of “good behaviours” to follow in its spaces. Thus, the absence of a public response to events that are connected to the organisation, that breach these values and are of wider public resonance would be incongruous. In time, it would risk chipping away at the moral standing of the organisation and the community, and degrade the mutual agreement on values upon which the enforcement of the CoC is resting, i.e. why should I be punished for a behaviour the organisation is not willing to publicly denounce in a host institute, an institutional collaborator, or its own leadership?

Recommendation 2: Volunteer Code of Conduct Facilitators

This task force has determined that neither the Carpentries Staff, Code of Conduct Committee, nor the Executive Council is exclusively responsible for monitoring and/or proactively responding to dialogue in Carpentries spaces (in-person or online), or non-Carpentries spaces where Carpentries community members are active. Our recommendation is for the Code of Conduct Committee, Regional Coordinators, and Instructor Trainers to encourage and empower community members to share any incidents or concerns to an ombudsperson or the CoCc. Additionally, we recommend making the button to report a CoC violation more prominent on the Carpentries website.

If the community feels it is important to have active monitoring on Carpentries channel, we recommend recruiting volunteer Code of Conduct facilitators for online spaces (GitHub, Slack, TopicBox) and CarpentryCon/CarpentryConnect. CoC facilitators could share potentially negative behaviours or otherwise certify that the community is functioning as expected. Anything reported to and mediated through the CoCc would adhere to the CoC Incident Response Procedure and Reporting Guidelines for transparency and consistency. Additionally, facilitators could identify themselves in workshops, but would not be required in workshops.

We recommend leaving the Code of Conduct Committee as an enforcement mechanism, and creating a community CoC facilitator program. This will serve as an added layer of support before something is reported to the CoCc. The program could be developed and supported by the Instructor Development Committee. The following are characteristics that could be included in the program:

  • Anonymous form to send facilitators if a community member wants to talk about a potential incident.
  • Consistent online material to train community members to be facilitators at workshops.
  • Peer mediation training and other opportunities.

RATIONALE: Only one of the 12 anonymous feedback responses received during our three week feedback collection period was shared with the CoCc. We want to make it clear that the Code of Conduct Committee wants to hear all kinds of incidents, regardless of severity. Additionally, we acknowledge the feedback of community members who are uncomfortable with expanding the scope of the Code of Conduct committee’s mandate. We also want the community to enjoy basic procedural transparency - for example sharing the outcome and findings of any investigation, and inviting subsequent discussions.

Recommendation 3: Ombudspersons

This task force is aware that The Carpentries makes use of an Ombudsperson, however, we recommend socialising, training and empowering more people to act as counselors (ombudspersons) for community members who might want to discuss potential incidents before reporting them to the CoCc. These ombudpersons can complement Code of Conduct facilitators. The ombudspersons will not be part of the Code of Conduct Committee that rules on reported cases. At least one ombudsperson group should be external to the Carpentries community. We also recommend that the Carpentries identify a conflict resolution expert to hire on retainer to help resolve issues in cases of mediation, restorative justice, etc.

RATIONALE: Only one of the 12 anonymous feedback responses received during our three week feedback collection period dealt with an incident that was shared with the CoCc. It could thus be argued that there might be many unreported incidents that simply go unnoticed. The objective of the Code of Conduct, and the mandate of the CoC committee as its enforcer, should be not only to enforce punishments for violations, but to provide a safe space where everyone can share her/his perceived abuse. Filtering of incidents in light of CoC guidelines would then identify which incidents constitute violations of the CoC. To this end the ombudspersons, external to the CoC committee, would: favor sharing incidents by separating hearing and counseling (ombudsperson) versus evaluation and enforcement (CoC Committee); and provide a filtering stage that would prevent overloading the CoC committee.

Recommendation 4: Responding to non-Reported Incidents

This task force has determined that many potential incidents are not shared with the Code of Conduct Committee. The community’s expectation is for The Carpentries to 1) acknowledge these incidents when the organisation is made aware of them, and 2) provide meaningful information about the outcomes of investigations and factual findings. We recommend that Code of Conduct facilitators flag potential incidents, whether shared with the CoCc or not, and share those incidents with the ombudspersons and Executive Council. The Executive Council should then decide on a course of action.

This task force is aware that the Chair of the Code of Conduct committee and the Executive Council liaison to the CoCc are mandated to produce a quarterly Transparency Report. We recommend that the report include potential incidents flagged by the CoCc/Code of Conduct facilitators, and that the report include the number of incidents, potential incidents, and the geographic locations as compared to the demographics of our community. We also recommend consolidating the reporting, the results of investigation and the public commentary in one dynamic resource that is updated in real time as matters are resolved. Additionally, we recommend that a mechanism be put in place for community members to discuss the published decisions in the transparency reports. These transparent sources of information will help to decipher potential abuses in certain geographies or among persons of a specific demographic. This also serves as a way for the organisation to put its methods on public view and contribute data sets. All of this information can be a part of the baseline curriculum for future Carpentries work, as information is one means to ensure fairness and equity.

RATIONALE: The Carpentries wants to be in the vanguard of digital educators. Knowing that learning is likely to be asynchronous, we want the physical and virtual spaces associated with Carpentries activities to be the safest spaces in the world. Responding to any concern that comes to the attention of leadership makes our spaces the best place in which to learn foundational coding and data science skills essential to researchers worldwide.

Additionally, given the prevalence of illegal and harmful content online, and the level of public concern about online harms worldwide, we believe that the digital space urgently needs our attention. In physical spaces too, it is impossible to separate our activities from the social values and concerns in the various venues we conduct our workshops and other gatherings. The willingness to treat everyone equally, and give support to concerns arising anywhere will sustain public confidence and set clear expectations of the Carpentries communities, allowing our instructors and learners to enjoy more safely the benefits that our approach offers.

Recommendation 5: Instructor Selection for Workshops

This task force is aware of the current instructor selection process for workshops used by The Carpentries Workshop Administration Team and Regional Coordinators, however, the instructor selection process is a core concern, and one that is central to the policies and values we discussed. Statistics on those not selected to teach Carpentries workshops are as important as those who are. We recommend these statistics be transparent and monitored monthly, and that a formal rubric be designed and made available to instructors signing up to teach workshops.

RATIONALE: The instructor selection process has been perceived as unfair and opaque. We understand that the selection process requires a significant investment of time and effort, and that the perceived lack of fairness or transparency is due to issues of practicality and agility in workshop organisation. However, the instructor selection process, as part of workshop organisation, is one of The Carpentries core activities, and one of the direct interactions between host sites and community members. Perceptions of unfairness or opaqueness would harm the basis of the mutual fiducial relationship between volunteer instructors and The Carpentries community, and would be detrimental to the enthusiasm with which instructors volunteer to teach in workshops. Thus, we believe that improving communication and transparency of the instructor selection process is paramount.

Recommendation 6: Instructor Training Refresher Course

This task force is recommending an Instructor Training refresher course be developed and utilised as one of the resolutions of reported incidents. The course would include the following Instructor Training modules:

The course might also include documented issues reported to the Code of Conduct committee. The objective of this course would be to remind instructors about the importance of: freedom of expression in physical and virtual spaces; creating an environment where everyone takes effective steps to keep each other safe, and where criminal, hostile, unwelcome and objectionable activity is not left to contaminate our spaces; rules and norms that discourage harmful behaviour; framing the Carpentries as a thriving digital community, with a prosperous ecosystem of partners developing innovation; alignment with a global coalition of similar organisations dedicated to coordinated steps to keep their communities safe; and sustained or renewed public confidence and trust in the Carpentries mission and vision. If a community member is asked to go through the course, their involvement should be placed on hold until they successfully complete the course. The task force believes that an online examination to accompany this course is an appropriate mechanism for re-certifying instructors found to have breached community norms.

RATIONALE: Our vision is to create free, open, and secure spaces to learn foundational coding and data science skills. Instructors have an asymmetrically greater role in setting the tone and in ensuring that vision is a reality. This is so because they have received training in our communal values and should have the confidence to see the vision is respected and substantive. Revisiting our core values is therefore a suitable resolution for certain Code of Conduct incidents.

Summary

The Carpentries’ values are the strength of our community and what differentiates our community from others. We are mindful that historically, and in different cultural and institutional settings, the free exchange of ideas and recognition and appreciation for our differences has sometimes fallen short of the mark. The Code of Conduct and activities of the Code of Conduct Committee are core to sustaining those values. As an organisation we need to do more to enact and maintain these values. The recommendations that are presented here have been designed to enable the Carpentries to do just that. They will empower the community to raise any concerns, provide greater transparency in reporting and ensure that the Carpentries enacts our values in our interactions with partner organisations.

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