Arisia Bans Rosenberg, Authorizes Membership Refunds

The Arisia, Inc. Executive Board announced today that Noel Rosenberg, removed as President yesterday, has been permanently banned from the convention.

The action came on the heels of revelations in Crystal Huff’s post “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” charging the convention with failing to enforce its code of conduct in situations where she had been the victim.

And the Arisia committee has continued to be rocked by statements from people inspired by Huff’s post to go public with their own criticism of Arisia’s handling of incidents they reported.

…This year (2018) was my first Arisia. I knew it was a stretch for me to go, but because Arisia is an important event to my partners I wanted to give it a try. While playing in a Dungeons & Dragons game, one of the other players repeatedly and intentionally misgendered me. When I corrected him, he rolled his eyes at me. This game had a sign up sheet, and was part of a three part series. Given that we were using character names, I don’t remember the name of the person who had done this.

…After the report was filed I was told that staff would find and follow up with the person who had aggressively misgendered me and then be in touch. I received two emails, both of which felt formulaic and left me with a sense that my hurt wasn’t important to Arisia….

… In June 2013, J and I had to recap the events in detail because Morgon wanted to get back on staff. In response to our reiterated complaints, Arisia finally banned him from being on staff—though not from attending—and gave him a wide path to reinstatement: “After Arisia 2014, he is welcome to ask the EBoard to change this decision if: he apologizes for his actions at Arisia 2011, he has a position lined up and agreed to pre-con by the area-head responsible, and he presents a letter from a doctor saying he is capable of volunteering for that position.”

This is why I haven’t attended Arisia since 2011. I didn’t and don’t give a shit about whether serial harassers get teachable moments. (I also don’t feel it’s the place of a convention to request any kind of medical documentation of, presumably, a person’s mental health.) I felt absolutely unsupported by Arisia’s executive team at the time and after.

As these reports have come out, Arisia has been losing staff and volunteers:

Mark Amidon

I have just notified the head of Programming and my track’s Head that I will not be attending Arisia 2019. I will not be a guest, panelist, moderator, nor Assistant Track Head.

Tamar Amidon

I am withdrawing from attending and staffing Arisia 2019. Maura’s report on her treatment, the results of that, and then putting the predator back onto staff as an ADH enraged me, Finding out that one of my kids had issues with that predator, when she was 14, around the same time, makes it impossible for me to even be in the same room as some of those involved with the extremely bad decisions made all over that case.

Today’s Arisia Eboard statement makes membership refunds available, and tells fans the next open-to-the-public corporate meeting will happen November 11.

Update from the Eboard: 10/28

We are announcing that Noel Rosenberg is banned from attending Arisia and Arisia functions permanently. This decision will be reported to the corporate membership at the next corporate meeting. Per policy, this decision may be overturned by the corporate membership, or revisited by a future Eboard if new information comes to light.

We are also examining some of our previous IR decisions in light of new information.

We understand that some people will still not want to attend Arisia 2019 or feel unsafe doing so. Although normally Arisia memberships are non-refundable (but are transferable) the board has authorized refunds to people who request them. Email reg@arisia.org so we can help with this request.

The Eboard is continuing to discuss and explore further options and will continue to share updates.

The next Corporate Meeting will be at 2PM on 11/11/18 at Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville and is open to the public. Information on public transit and parking available here: http://artsatthearmory.org/about/getting-here/

As before, please send further questions about this situation, our Code of Conduct, or disciplinary policy in any capacity to incidents@arisia.org. This email address goes to the Incident Response Team Heads, Conchair team, and Executive Board. We are working on additional steps that we will announce in the coming weeks.

Signed,
The Arisia Executive Board

32 thoughts on “Arisia Bans Rosenberg, Authorizes Membership Refunds

  1. Arisia Board: “We are also examining some of our previous IR decisions in light of new  information we previously chose to ignore.”

    There, Arisia, FTFY.  🙁

  2. It’s good that this is happening–but it’s infuriating that only the uproar over Crystal Huff’s post got the ball rolling. Had she not spoken out, that predator would still be on staff. Nothing about that is remotely acceptable.

  3. So “permanently” means “for the next two weeks”?

    If whoever made that announcement doesn’t have the authority to ban Rosenberg, why didn’t they say something that doesn’t make me want to quote The Princess Bride and send them a link to m-w.com? Something like “based on the recent discussions, we think Rosenberg should be banned permanently, and will ask the corporate membership to do so at their next meeting, on November 11th”?

    (Hmm. The relevant buses are infrequent on Sundays, but I could just walk up there….)

  4. The Eboard is continuing to discuss and explore further options…

    I sincerely hope one of the options they’re discussing is a mass resignation.

  5. This stuff is hard. I went through Frenkelfail with WisCon, and we all watched Readercon fail before that. People with good heart and best intentions can screw these things up. It is incredibly painful on all sides, and trying to fix things late never entirely fixes the damage caused to the incident reporters or to attendees, or to concom members, either. It is still better to fix it. I believe Arisia has started to do that.

    One of the important things to learn is that, in a con context, thinking judicially (for instance, being fair to all parties, considering rehabilitation, etc.) is inappropriate. One needs instead to think of the safety of the incident reporter and of other con members. It’s more like being a bouncer than a judge.

    Banning the accused does not mean they lose their job and can’t pay their bills, or that they go to jail. It means they can’t attend your con. That may be very hard on them, but it is not a judicial-level punishment.

  6. JJ, that is of course from Thursday, and Noel by now is already out and banned. I don’t know how that will change Kate’s decision.

    I am actually pleased with the EBoard’s responses so far, and hope they continue to take this seriously, and to do better in the future.

  7. @Tasha Turner: That’s not the right question. The right question is how far ahead we are of the society around us in dealing with systemic harassment?

    Because the reason it looks this bad is not because fandom is more unsafe than other areas of life or that we are worse at dealing with the problem, but because we have managed to talk and deal with it as a group—however imperfectly—for several years now.

  8. @Lenore Jones 100% agreed.

    It makes me nuts to see people twisting themselves into pretzels to be “fair” to the accused in these situations, with little to no consideration of what the victims go through. And the incidents of people asking the victims to “avoid drama” or “just avoid them” is enraging without any of the other egregious stuff.

    There needs to be a LOT more education of staff and board members about harassment, abuse, and assault and how it all works. It’s insidious and sneaky and flies below the radar unless you are watching for it — that’s why people get away with it.

    At the same time, I do have concerns that there are bad-faith actors out there who will take advantage of strict, zero-tolerance, believe-the-victim-no-matter-what policies to wreak their own havoc. Whether due to anger in the heat of the moment or plain evil intent, there are bound to be people out there who will, at some point, try to make a report that is false in order to get an ex or an enemy tossed out or banned from a convention.

    There is also the matter of the people out there who see themselves as anti-SJW crusaders who seem to be all over fandom at the moment, who will try to weaponize these policies for their own ends, as with James Gunn (whether you feel that his offenses merited what happened, it’s a fact that the instigator, C**novich, didn’t give a shit about anything Gunn had said back then, it was just a way to get back at him for political disagreements in the here and now). Or the way various nasty people on Twitter attack and attack people personally, and then report to the Twitter police when the person lashes back, and the victim ends up getting the suspension.

    Whether someone decides to wreak personal vengeance on someone or just “prank” the con to prove some political point about how awful the SJWs are,
    I feel sure that that WILL happen at some point and committees need to have anticipated and discussed it beforehand.

    They need to figure out what to do in that kind of situation because the safety policies themselves are so necessary and so important. People are just beginning to grasp the extent to which women have to assume risk and be on their guard in just about every space out there (I was going to say public space, but way too many women don’t feel entirely safe in their private spaces like their homes, too) and that it isn’t fair to require them to assume so much of the physical and emotional burden of ensuring their safety.

    Conventions are special, and everyone (everyone who knows how to behave at any rate) should feel welcome and safe there. Being on a con committee right now has to be a headache and a half, and I respect the people who are willing to get in there and struggle with the issues. It’s stressful and exhausting work, but I believe that the community as a whole will come out better for it on the other side.

  9. cmm: What they need to do is simple, and it’s the same thing we want in all cases anyhow. Believe the accuser enough to investigate promptly and thoroughly. If the accused is in a position of power, and there are concerns, have them take a break from the role for the duration, to resume once cleared. If their name is genuinely cleared, but rumours have started, make sure to make some move to counteract rumour and make the conclusion clear. The only time this is insufficient is if the con has a reputation of clearing everyone with no or delayed investigation, per Arisia right now.

    Prompt and thorough investigations are the correct answer for both taking real accusations seriously and for filtering out false accusations.

    The number of people who think that “Believe the victim” seems to mean “act on their word with no investigation” seem to be legion, but the number of people who actually mean that are minuscule. We just want things bloody INVESTIGATED.

    (Sorry about some residual grumpiness; I have had the “but whatabout false accusations” conversation WAY TOO OFTEN THANK YOU. And even knowing there is some – SOME – legitimacy to the concern, it comes up in severe disproportion, and it’s also often actively and intentionally used as a derailment.)

  10. cmm says: “People are just beginning to grasp the extent to which women have to assume risk and be on their guard in just about every space out there (I was going to say public space, but way too many women don’t feel entirely safe in their private spaces like their homes, too) and that it isn’t fair to require them to assume so much of the physical and emotional burden of ensuring their safety.”

    When even well-meaning folks use “people” to mean “men”, that right there is a large part of the igly truth that underlies all this. (Because anyone who seriously thinks women don’t already know the extent to which we need to be on guard is really not paying attention. The only “people” to whom this can be news is “men”, specifically “men who have not been paying much attention to the work women have been doing to try to stay safe, literally forever”.)

  11. @SorchaRei: Another piece of the problem is that many people, not all of them male, don’t understand/believe that this is (a) important and (b) not an immutable, impersonal thing about life on Earth, like the sun rising in the east.

    Not all the people who were sweeping this under the cover, e.g. knowing that Rosenberg followed Huff around the con after being told to leave her alone, but thinking that was trivial, or at least below some never-clearly-defined level of “bad enough” that he shouldn’t be president of Arisia, are men.

  12. I agree that what I said is not nearly the only issue here. But it’s important to recognize the degree to which centering men as people vs treating all humans as people affects this. And not just on the parts of the Arisia staff. cmm is pretty clearly a person who wants things to be better, and yet we see the equation of “folks who were not aware that women navigate this stuff all the time” with “people”.

    All sorts of people are in the wrong here, and not all of them are men. But that doesn’t mean that the almost certainly unconscious othering of women we see in cmm’s comment is irrelevant. (That is, I do not believe for one second that cmm explicitly, consciously, or intentionally views women as “less than people”. On the other hand, the comment is what it is, and it’s reflecting something real and ugly.)

  13. And I’m quite sure that there are some people on the concom who had absolutely no idea that any of this was going on. Concoms are large and have lots of moving parts, and some departments don’t interact with other departments at all.

    Which is not to excuse those who DID know about it; just pointing out that not everyone running the convention would be in a position to know.

  14. SorchaRei: All sorts of people are in the wrong here, and not all of them are men. But that doesn’t mean that the almost certainly unconscious othering of women we see in cmm’s comment is irrelevant.

    cmm has been a regular commenter on File 770 in the past, and I know enough from the things they have said to be able to guarantee you that they are not doing any “unconscious othering”. They are making the very valid point that it’s not just limited to men, there are a significant number of women who have been complicit in enabling harassment and abuse, and who don’t recognize the work that women have to do to stay safe as anything other than “business as usual, that’s just how life works”.

    So much of what you say in your comments is good. Please don’t detract from that with patronizing comments like this one about cmm.

  15. @SorchRae I actually meant “people” in what I said, because at age 52, and quite used to navigating the world defensively, without thinking about it much as such, it STILL comes as a shock to me 1) how much time and energy (and sometimes money) it requires thatcould be spent on other things and 2) that the fact that women (and other vulnerable persons) have to do this isn’t just a thing of nature, but something that is the result of choices that everyone makes in terms of what they prioritise in everything from designing spaces to choosing laws or norms to enforce.

    So many of us were raised, trained, and trained ourselves, to reflexively take precautions, to the point where “some guys are dangerous and you gotta watch out for them, because if you have a bad run in, the world sees that as your problem, and likely your fault for being careless” isn’t even a concept one questions or examines much. Like shitty men in the world are like bears when you go camping, a dangerous thing in the wild that wanders around unpredictably doing what bears do, and it’s up to you to do your best to avoid them.

    So yeah, for me and for many other non-men, the recognition or re-recognition that 1) all this stuff is a load to carry that takes a toll that shouldn’t have to be paid to simply exist and live your life in the world and 2) Why the hell aren’t more people doing more to change it….this is something we can and should raise a lot more hell about… still a fairly paradigm shifting concept.

    And those of us—probably mostly older women, but not necessarily—have to also fight back against the impulse to say, hey, I have had to put up with this all my life, and it’s not THAT bad, and there are some sort of rewards in feeling tough and competent to handle the bullshit so does it really need to change? The same kind of resistance that I see in doctors who train residents that despite all the solid evidence showing that the gruelling pace and lack of sleep hurts them and endangers patients, they should still have to do it because “i did and it made me a better doctor” or the cops who don’t want to give up the tradition of hazing the rookies with pranks and doing things like driving them to a cemetery or the first day of field training and telling them that that’s where they’ll end up if they mess up.

    The idea that IT SHOULD NOT BE THIS WAY and WE CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE THIS is exhilarating and empowering but also a little shaming when one recognises that we coulda shoulda had this realisation 20 or 30 years ago. So yeah, “people” was a deliberate word choice.

    sorry, I’ve been writing all day and I’m a little fuzzy, but I hope I did manage to communicate my point somewhere in this verbal tangle,

    ETA, after reading the other comments: oops some other folks did make that point so apologies if I was repetitive, and also thanks @JJ for sticking up for me.

  16. I also do realise that the “ what if/what aboutting” stuff on false reports and bad actors is very commonly used as a malevolent derailing tactic or a way to throw the baby out with the bath water (throwing up hands and going, oh it’s all too hard) and I sure as hell don’t want to be THAT person. But it IS something that also has to be wrestled with, cuz it is gonna happen. And it’s not as simple as a “good thorough investigation” when you are dealing with stuff that happens, often intentionally, out of the view of others, and when you are dealing with the fact that different people have different calibrations for what makes them feel safe.

    cmm

  17. @Karl I’m tired of being told to look at society around me and ask if we in SFF are doing better or worse. Thanks for telling me what question I as a woman whose been raped, abused, and harassed should be asking about sexual harassment and abuse at conventions. Really really tired. Smaller communities should be able to do better than the larger societal community we live in as we can move faster if we want to. Being smaller we can move faster to implement and enforce changes which benefit our community and can learn from each other. We can reach out to each other for help in implementing and enforcing changes.

    @Cmm given the rate of false accusations is around 2-8% I don’t feel we need to spend much time on that question while we still don’t believe women and other minorities and we are doing such a piss poor job at making conventions safe for women, blacks, POC, LGBT+, disabled, and all other minorities.

  18. cmm: In what way is it *not* that simple? Any investigation which takes the accusation seriously should be able to unearth things that point to a false accusation – look what just happened with Mueller, or what happened when people tried to add a planted accusation to the credible ones against Ron Moore. The only thing I would add is education for the security team on what the majority of false accusations actually look like, because it isn’t the “vengeful ex” story most people assume it is. (in fact, to me, any “crazy/vengeful ex” story I hear leads me to suspect there IS something being covered up. Seen too much fire found where that particular smoke shows up.) There are studies on this.

    How you disseminate the results of a genuinely cleared investigation is dependant on how far the information has spread and how important it is to clear the air, but it needs to be clear and credible. Arisia’s attempt to declare Rosenberg cleared, for instance, was not credible because they did not have any evidence they actually investigated or contacted witnesses in a timely fashion, and did not keep people informed.

    FWIW, I am a direct witness of a false accusation against the minister of our church. She was suspended from her role for the duration, the accusers name was not released, but that she was accused of something (less than sexual assault but still actionable) was known to the regular churchgoers. The investigators were members of the greater church but not locals, they spoke to multiple witnesses including character witnesses (not me, I had nothing to say. To this day I don’t know the accuser), they moved timely but not so fast there was no doubt they could investigate, they kept people in the loop as to what stage things were in, and they announced their findings at a meeting to which all local congregation was invited. No shadow of doubt was left either that they would have been willing to take action on a credible complaint, or that our Minister was genuinely cleared. The information was given to those who needed it but not spread outside. No rumours follow her around either in our church or in any of the other positions she has taken elsewhere since.

    We start with “believe the victim enough to make a credible investigation.” We start with a baseline where we know investigations have been done on ALL cases, and when they found something credible, action was taken, so that when action is not taken, there’s a basis of trust.

    I also don’t see where “different people have different calibrations on what makes them feel safe” has to do with anything. That doesn’t lead to a false accusation, it leads to someone who either makes an accusation whose target was within the bounds of propriety, and investigation makes that clear, or it makes an accusation where people who were not the target have Opinions on how serious it isn’t, and unless they are investigating, their opinion need not be taken into account by anything but the reply “you do not have all the facts held by the investigating team”. In the case where the perpetrator doesn’t think they did wrong, but everyone else does, this is ONLY relevant in so far as ascertaining whether they can be educated on boundaries in future or not and only by peers who care about educating them, not by the target or the investigating team.

    And you’ll note, I have acknowledged the socially difficult aspects of reporting in the first place, of not reporting, of tolerating harassment or similar in social settings, of seeing it in a peer or being a bystander or knowing a person you cared about did a wrong thing, elsewhere. Emotionally, some of this navigation can be more complex than we like to admit when it comes to the bind of supporting a friend who was hurt or a friend who did hurting, or believing a person we don’t like much over a person we do.

    But the question of what actions for the ***people in charge of looking into matters*** to take such that people both believe you when you claim to support victims AND believe you when you say, “actually, this one was a nuisance suit”, things really aren’t that hard.

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