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Code of Conduct & Harassment at OpenCon #10

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lorrainechu3n opened this Issue Jul 11, 2017 · 9 comments

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@lorrainechu3n
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lorrainechu3n commented Jul 11, 2017

We've already gotten some feedback around sexual harassment at OpenCon. This is an upsetting and serious concern...as both a woman and staff member, I want our team to work harder on creating a space that doesn't perpetuate this kind of behaviour and doesn't silence people who are harassed and/or assaulted.

There are some key actions that we detailed in the report (based on the OpenCon 2016 feedback form we sent out last November), but moving forward, I think we need to be more explicit and intentional re: having a conversation about this as an organizing committee. Here are some things I think we should talk about / implement for OpenCon 2017:

Posting this on Github to allow others to participate/contribute:

(1) We need to create a clear definition of what "asked to leave the community" looks like and include this in the code of conduct. Moving forward, I (personally) think that anyone who is reported for sexual harassment will need to leave the conference immediately once we find out about this. They absolutely cannot be invited to future OpenCon events. They will be asked not to participate in community calls, and will not be permitted to host satellite events. We should make sure to make this really clear when announcing the Code of Conduct.

(2) We need to create a channel for anonymous reporting and make it clear that anonymous reports will be dealt with the same level of seriousness and attention — it's scary to report sexual harassment and assault (and many cases often go unreported!). This is feedback that has been provided by community members too. This could look like a google doc or something similar.

(3) I think we need to also think about how to best support those who experience harassment/assault at the meeting (including after hours), if it happens. This might look like having a conversation with the person who files the report — asking them what measures we can take to help them feel safe(r) for the rest of their conference/community experience. This might be trickier for anonymous reports, but could look like a question in the reporting form (e.g. "What can we do to make the rest of your conference experience feel safer?")

(4) We need to make it extremely clear that the code of conduct and anti-harassment policy extends to all aspects of the meeting — including at social events and "after hours". And we need to follow through with enforcing it (and come to an agreement amongst the organizing committee and staff on exactly how enforcement is handled).

(5) Finally, I think we need to better educate ourselves on how to handle these scenarios and create a safer space for our participants. Maybe we can look into finding training for our own staff members on this before OpenCon 2017?

Welcome feedback (you will need to create a Github account to comment on this issue) — or please email me directly at lorraine(at)sparcopen.org

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MikeTaylor Jul 12, 2017

"... I (personally) think that anyone who is reported for sexual harassment ..."

Presumably this doesn't really mean just "reported", but that the accusation is found to be supported to some reasonable level of confidence. Otherwise we have a mechanism that is wide open to abuse.

But presumably other conferences have faced the same issue, and already come up with a good form of words that can be adopted?

MikeTaylor commented Jul 12, 2017

"... I (personally) think that anyone who is reported for sexual harassment ..."

Presumably this doesn't really mean just "reported", but that the accusation is found to be supported to some reasonable level of confidence. Otherwise we have a mechanism that is wide open to abuse.

But presumably other conferences have faced the same issue, and already come up with a good form of words that can be adopted?

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lorrainechu3n Jul 13, 2017

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@MikeTaylor, I would be really careful of this kind of mentality: it sounds like what you’re asking for is evidence to back up sexual assault/harassment reports—evidence that is often impossible to procure. This type of thinking (especially when put into practice/writing - for instance, in a code of conduct) is what encourages silencing of sexual assault survivors. Imagine being harassed or assaulted (which often happens in private, with nobody else around), summoning up the courage to report it, and then being told that you won’t be believed unless you have some sort of evidence so people can be “confident” of your claim. Victims of sexual assault are frequently told that they don’t have enough proof, are told that they “could be lying” and that they are “abusing the system”. Most sexual assault cases go unreported - and this type of norm further discourages people to report and gives the assaulter the benefit of the doubt.

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lorrainechu3n commented Jul 13, 2017

@MikeTaylor, I would be really careful of this kind of mentality: it sounds like what you’re asking for is evidence to back up sexual assault/harassment reports—evidence that is often impossible to procure. This type of thinking (especially when put into practice/writing - for instance, in a code of conduct) is what encourages silencing of sexual assault survivors. Imagine being harassed or assaulted (which often happens in private, with nobody else around), summoning up the courage to report it, and then being told that you won’t be believed unless you have some sort of evidence so people can be “confident” of your claim. Victims of sexual assault are frequently told that they don’t have enough proof, are told that they “could be lying” and that they are “abusing the system”. Most sexual assault cases go unreported - and this type of norm further discourages people to report and gives the assaulter the benefit of the doubt.

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MikeTaylor Jul 13, 2017

Everything you say is true, of course. Nevertheless, some standard of evidence or corroboration seems necessary, otherwise an accusation is a conviction. Do we really want a conference where anyone who doesn't like someone else can get that person immediately and permanently banned, no questions asked, by accusing them?

But again: surely other conferences have already thought through these issues and come up with formulations that capture the points both of us are making, and reconcile them appropriately? We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

MikeTaylor commented Jul 13, 2017

Everything you say is true, of course. Nevertheless, some standard of evidence or corroboration seems necessary, otherwise an accusation is a conviction. Do we really want a conference where anyone who doesn't like someone else can get that person immediately and permanently banned, no questions asked, by accusing them?

But again: surely other conferences have already thought through these issues and come up with formulations that capture the points both of us are making, and reconcile them appropriately? We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

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bradyyano Jul 13, 2017

Thanks both for your insight! I think it would be great if we could all try to reach out to other conference organizers to see if there are any best practices in place. I think the spirit behind Lorraine's sentiments is safety, and this is something that the OpenCon organizers intend to improve. I have full confidence that implementing a strict policy would be a solution. Having been to the past three OpenCon's, I have full faith that such a policy would not be abused by attendees at the in-person meeting.

bradyyano commented Jul 13, 2017

Thanks both for your insight! I think it would be great if we could all try to reach out to other conference organizers to see if there are any best practices in place. I think the spirit behind Lorraine's sentiments is safety, and this is something that the OpenCon organizers intend to improve. I have full confidence that implementing a strict policy would be a solution. Having been to the past three OpenCon's, I have full faith that such a policy would not be abused by attendees at the in-person meeting.

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gedankenstuecke Jul 13, 2017

We did have a strict anti-harassment policy for the utopian-political conferences that I used to organize (link in german, english google translate version on the end), to make it a safe space for all participants ( ~150 people).

We had a clearly appointed and visible "anti-harassment team" and in addition we used Creeper Move Cards that were handed out to all participants, to visually signal actions that crossed boundaries without the need to speak up (which is a barrier for people).

We never had any serious incidents after we adopted the policy, only minor issues which could be solved without banning anyone from the premises. Additionally, I want to point out that we never had any incidents of people making false accusations, as all reported incidents happened in front of large numbers of witnesses (i.e. during talks/panels etc.)

My flat-mate here happened to be the team-leader for the anti-harassment team at this conference (and at many others), if there's any interest I can put you in touch.

The openmind conference is committed to providing a harassment-free conference experience for all people, regardless of gender, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, physical disability, body size, skin color or religion, a person attending the conference.

We do not tolerate any harassment against our visitors.

Participants who violate these rules can be excluded from further conference participation. Harassment includes offensive comments against the above-mentioned points, but also acts such as intimidation, stalking, offensive pursuit, unwanted picture or sound recordings, ongoing interruption of lectures or other events during the conference, inappropriate physical contact and sexual harassment.

We expect attendees who are asked to cease any harassing behavior, that they immediately comply with this call. If participants participate in harassing behavior, the conference organizer will choose any means up to the exclusion from the conference in order to sanction this behavior. Ticket prices are non-refundable.

The organizers are recognizable at the orgashirts.

On the spot there will be contact person (the Awareness team), you will get their contact details when you check in to the conference.

We wish all participants a good time on the openmind and are available for all questions.

gedankenstuecke commented Jul 13, 2017

We did have a strict anti-harassment policy for the utopian-political conferences that I used to organize (link in german, english google translate version on the end), to make it a safe space for all participants ( ~150 people).

We had a clearly appointed and visible "anti-harassment team" and in addition we used Creeper Move Cards that were handed out to all participants, to visually signal actions that crossed boundaries without the need to speak up (which is a barrier for people).

We never had any serious incidents after we adopted the policy, only minor issues which could be solved without banning anyone from the premises. Additionally, I want to point out that we never had any incidents of people making false accusations, as all reported incidents happened in front of large numbers of witnesses (i.e. during talks/panels etc.)

My flat-mate here happened to be the team-leader for the anti-harassment team at this conference (and at many others), if there's any interest I can put you in touch.

The openmind conference is committed to providing a harassment-free conference experience for all people, regardless of gender, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, physical disability, body size, skin color or religion, a person attending the conference.

We do not tolerate any harassment against our visitors.

Participants who violate these rules can be excluded from further conference participation. Harassment includes offensive comments against the above-mentioned points, but also acts such as intimidation, stalking, offensive pursuit, unwanted picture or sound recordings, ongoing interruption of lectures or other events during the conference, inappropriate physical contact and sexual harassment.

We expect attendees who are asked to cease any harassing behavior, that they immediately comply with this call. If participants participate in harassing behavior, the conference organizer will choose any means up to the exclusion from the conference in order to sanction this behavior. Ticket prices are non-refundable.

The organizers are recognizable at the orgashirts.

On the spot there will be contact person (the Awareness team), you will get their contact details when you check in to the conference.

We wish all participants a good time on the openmind and are available for all questions.

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JosephMcArthur Jul 16, 2017

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Just want to chime in and say I support Lorraine's assessment(s) here. I've tried to find examples of guides and not found a great deal (although there is a good chance I'm looking in the wrong places). A few resources I found helpful include:

Interestingly, many of them are from tech / open-source communities which leaves me wondering if
they're just good at getting these policies discoverable - rather than them actually being good policies.

EDIT: missed a resource:

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JosephMcArthur commented Jul 16, 2017

Just want to chime in and say I support Lorraine's assessment(s) here. I've tried to find examples of guides and not found a great deal (although there is a good chance I'm looking in the wrong places). A few resources I found helpful include:

Interestingly, many of them are from tech / open-source communities which leaves me wondering if
they're just good at getting these policies discoverable - rather than them actually being good policies.

EDIT: missed a resource:

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gedankenstuecke Jul 16, 2017

Two more potentially interesting resources:

They aren't exclusively about CoCs/Harassment, but both include relevant bits.

gedankenstuecke commented Jul 16, 2017

Two more potentially interesting resources:

They aren't exclusively about CoCs/Harassment, but both include relevant bits.

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lorrainechu3n Aug 25, 2017

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Updated CoC here, including more clear sanctions for dealing with the events: http://www.opencon2017.org/code_of_conduct

Also working on more documentation for internally handling CoC reports.

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lorrainechu3n commented Aug 25, 2017

Updated CoC here, including more clear sanctions for dealing with the events: http://www.opencon2017.org/code_of_conduct

Also working on more documentation for internally handling CoC reports.

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MikeTaylor Jan 4, 2018

@openjournalsystems Why are you tell me this, and what does it have to do with the a conference's code of conduct?

(BTW., you would be in a much stronger position if your company's name was not identical to that of the open-source software that you use.)

MikeTaylor commented Jan 4, 2018

@openjournalsystems Why are you tell me this, and what does it have to do with the a conference's code of conduct?

(BTW., you would be in a much stronger position if your company's name was not identical to that of the open-source software that you use.)

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