Readercon Committee’s Latest Statement

Readercon has made series of decisions to stem the controversy over its handling of harassment complaints and to heal its community.

You could always click through and read their full statement. And really, isn’t that the best plan?

The Readercon convention committee apologized to Genevieve Valentine and Kate Kligman “for not taking appropriate action based on their reports of being harassed by René Walling.”

They also apologized for failing to apply Readercon’s lifetime ban policy:

The conversation about the value of zero-tolerance policies and lifetime bans is ongoing, but the issue of the moment is this: Readercon’s program participants, attendees, and volunteers came together with the understanding that a particular policy was in place, and that Readercon’s concom and board would not hesitate to implement it; and yet, when a complaint was made, we failed to address it appropriately and in accordance with our own rules.

Renè Walling’s membership ban has been made permanent. All five of the con’s board of directors, which made the original decision about a short-term ban, have resigned. Refunds of memberships in next year’s Readercon are available.

Readercon plans to update its anti-harassment policy “to better reflect the reality of how harassment happens at conventions,” and will make other changes to facilitate reports of harassment, including an updated code of conduct “to encourage behavior that contributes to a safe and comfortable atmosphere, and to clearly describe the types of behaviors that are not welcome at Readercon.”

[Thanks to Christopher Rowe and Dan Goodman for the story.]

10 thoughts on “Readercon Committee’s Latest Statement

  1. Seems like as with Wiscon, death of another good con, upcoming…lose the founding staff and try to recover.

  2. Repeating myself here a bit from another comment thread, but Wiscon is still going strong as far as I know. And the vast majority of the folks who’ve put on the last few Readercons are still in place–in fact, I’ve only heard tell of one person removing themselves from the Readercon convention altogether. As I read the indications, Readercon will come through this safer and stronger.

  3. @Christopher: Safer I can see in terms of policies and committee training — What do you think we can look at to measure whether it comes back stronger?

  4. @Mike, oh just a general sense from various committee members that this has been a tempering trial by fire, and that maybe some people who’ve held power too long within the organization no longer have quite the sway they once did. The ultimate effect of all this on the convention remains to be seen, but I will say–and this is obviously a purely anecdotal data point–that my wife and I now plan to attend next year where it’s been off our radar for several years (haven’t attended since 2008).

  5. Color me baffled on this “death of WisCon” idea. My friends who are WisCon regulars all had a blast this year.

    I’m assuming that’s a Moondoggle reference? In the end, it appears to have had little long-term impact on either WisCon’s attendance or Moon’s sales, much to the chagrin of activists on both sides.

  6. Were there activists hoping for a drop-off in Elizabeth Moon’s book sales numbers? I was under the impression they just didn’t want her to be Guest of Honor at a convention that has such a clear and proud overall political stance, not that they wished her or her career any ill-will. I say this, admittedly, as someone who didn’t monitor that situation that closely but who was definitely surprised that they asked her in the first place.

  7. I’ve asked this elsewhere without success, but could someone explain to me Readercon’s administrative structure? It appears that there’s three levels: 1) the concom that just reversed and overruled the board’s decision, 2) the board that issued the two-year suspension, 3) the concom that actually ran this year’s convention. Because, as it appears, the concom (3) referred the matter to the board, which was then overruled by the concom (1). What? I’m missing something here.

  8. As far as I can tell, Readercon is what I’d call a “membership” organization, where “membership” = “concom” for this purpose. The Membership is sovereign and it thus the court of last resort. The Membership elects a Board and delegates to it specific administrative tasks, but the Board is subservient to the Membership and can be overridden by it.

    This is very different from the nonprofit governing structures with which I’m most familiar, where the Board is the is highest body and end of the line within the organization. For example, the “membership” of SFSFC Inc., for legal purposes, is the eleven members of the Board of Directors. (As I recall, SCIFI has a similar structure, but more directors.)

    In a structure such as Readercon’s, the Board is not allowed to make new policy except where authorized, and is restricted to carrying out policy established by the senior body. It would be as if the eleven-member SFSFC Board created an Executive Committee of, say, five people charged to carry out the Board’s instructions between Board meetings. The Exec would be bound by any instructions from the Board and couldn’t go beyond them without reference back to the senior body.

    I’m not certain, but it seems to me that in Readercon’s case, the “concom” (=Membership) referred the issue to its Board to ascertain facts and mete out judgment based on policies established by the Membership, and when the Board went beyond those policies, the Membership (concom) hauled them back into line, since the Membership is senior in this case.

    People accuse me of obsessing over boring administrative detail, but cases like this show why it is so important to have the actual lines of authority clearly delineated.

  9. Christopher: I heard both “Recinding Moon’s invitation to Wiscon is the death of feminism and Wiscon!” and “Damage to her career will make Moon rethink her bigotry!” during the argument over her removal as a guest.

    Neither the death of Wiscon nor significant damage to Moon’s career have happened, and I think remembering both is important, particularly in discussions like this.

    Kevin: I liken Readercon to a homeowners’ association. The committee “owns” the convention and delegates the business needed to maintain the corporation to the board.

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