Arisia Inc. Posts Apology and Announces More Bans and Restrictions

In an Apology To The Arisia Community posted November 23, the corporation broadly apologized for a large number of enumerated failings, and also announced that it has banned three people and restricted the participation of eight others, with more action possible once other incident reports are fully processed.

To our community:

We, the Executive Board (Eboard), apologize unreservedly on behalf of Arisia Incorporated to every individual who has come forward with mishandled incident reports, some of whom have asked not to be named, and to every individual who has had reason to hesitate in coming forward or has felt unsafe doing so. As an organization, Arisia has failed you. We must do better by everyone who seeks our aid. Prior to posting this statement, we extended private apologies to multiple individuals. As time passes, and we as a board develop a better understanding of the mistakes we have made, we expect to extend further apologies.

We also apologize without condition to the entire Arisia community. You trusted us as an organization to prioritize community safety. Many of you have brought forward incident reports, trusting in the process to see justice done and safety concerns addressed. Some of you, in the face of inaction or errors in judgment, have turned your back on Arisia entirely. In all of these ways, we failed you as well.

We do not expect these apologies to be accepted as a matter of course. We are not owed the forgiveness of those we have wronged. We cannot demand the trust of those who have seen that trust broken. We hold no ill will toward anyone who has had to step back from Arisia as a result of these events. All we can do is acknowledge the harm that we have done, make amends to the best of our ability, and strive to do better. We must earn your trust back through actions, not words.

As an Executive Board, we have been working to determine and articulate our actions going forward. The public process of acknowledging our errors, making apologies, and making amends begins now. In this letter, where “we” is used unqualified, it refers to the Eboard. Where “we as an organization” is used, it refers to the Arisia organization as a whole.

Over a span of years, we as an organization have mishandled multiple incident reports, putting the safety of the entire community into question, and causing grave harm to several individuals. Whatever mistakes have been made by individual officers or staff, the wider problem stems from failures in our process and our culture. Recent accounts have brought some of these errors to light. In the wake of these revelations our community – including attendees as well as volunteers, staff, and corporate members – has been widely hurt and justifiably angry. We recognize the anger of veteran Arisians, who have seen Arisia withhold vital information and allow important details to slip off the radar, leaving these individuals oblivious to and unwittingly complicit in our organization’s failures. We recognize also the anger of the community, who may not have been directly involved but now question Arisia’s worth, as well as its commitment to the safety of everyone involved in the convention.

On November 11th, following the resignation of five members of the Eboard, the membership of Arisia, Inc elected new officers. That same day saw the induction of over 100 new voting corporate members, more than tripling the overall size of the corporate body. These new corporate members, together with veteran members, staff, and volunteers, are now working to make Arisia safer, to make amends to those injured by the organization’s actions, and to regain public trust. The current members of the Eboard have the specific mandate to drive this change.

In accordance with this mandate, we have taken multiple actions, with a particular focus on community safety at Arisia 2019. A brief note: when we speak of banning someone from Arisia, this means that they are banned from the convention as well as Arisia, Inc. sponsored events, and that they are not allowed to staff or volunteer in any capacity, including pre-con work, post-con work, and remote work.

– In addition to Noel Rosenberg, two other individuals have been notified of permanent bans from Arisia, through our existing incident process. One of these individuals has been the subject of multiple incident reports, both new and reopened.
– Five additional individuals have been the subject of serious incident reports that we cannot fully investigate in the time remaining before Arisia 2019. Due to the nature of the reports and the information we have received so far, we have decided that we will not allow these individuals to attend, staff, or volunteer with Arisia 2019, to allow time for further investigation.
– Three other individuals will be restricted this year, again allowing time for a full investigation into their reported behavior. These individuals will be restricted from participating in any capacity beyond that of a standard attendee, including staff or volunteering for the convention.
– There are additional reports on which action requested by the reporter and/or the target of the behavior has been taken, and still more reports that are under investigation.

In all cases of disciplinary action, we reserve the possibility of further measures in accordance with our published Disciplinary Processes (https://corp.arisia.org/DisciplinaryProcessInformation).

While we recognize that it may be difficult to trust Arisia as an organization with incident reports at this time, we ask that you report unwanted or unwelcome behavior at or outside of con – including but not limited to Code of Conduct violations – to incidents@arisia.org. We will do our best to respond and investigate as swiftly as we can.

Lastly, we can announce that the Convention Committee has created a dedicated programming track at Arisia 2019 that will provide opportunities for reconciliation, discussion, and community healing. The Eboard is actively encouraging and consulting on this task under the leadership of the Arisia 2019 Programming Division.

We will announce more changes and further actions in the weeks to come. We look forward to working with our corporate members and engaging the wider community to drive policy and process changes which will make Arisia safer and more welcoming as a whole. If you are willing to help in this process, we welcome your participation. Please contact us directly at eboard@arisia.org, or via the anonymous feedback form at https://www.arisia.org/feedback.

Humbly and sincerely,
The Arisia, Inc. Executive Board
– Nicholas “phi” Shectman, President
– Alan Wexelblat, Vice President
– Kris Pelletier, Treasurer
– Sol Houser, Clerk
– Cassandra Lease, Member-at-Large
– Andy Rosequist, Member-at-Large
– RaShawn Seams, Member-at-Large

posted to https://corp.arisia.org/News November 23, 2018

14 thoughts on “Arisia Inc. Posts Apology and Announces More Bans and Restrictions

  1. I am hopeful that Arisia will be able to rise like a phoenix from the flames, and return as a better, happier, and healthier convention for all of its attendees.

  2. Well, it seems like Arisia is quickly turning into Wiscon East or Readercon’. If that is what you want, so be in. But if you want a general purpose SF convention like Balticon or NorWesCon, you are likely to be disappointed. And it seems that at Arisia, the person who speaks first is getting believed. Not quite as bad as how when Readercon was giving “Code of Conduct” examples, all the antagonists were male and all the protagonists were female, but close.

  3. Sandy Hutnick: Well, it seems like Arisia is quickly turning into Wiscon East or Readercon’. If that is what you want, so be in.

    Yes, it’s such a shame that cons where people can harass others with impunity are so rapidly disappearing, isn’t it?

    Wherever are the harassers supposed to go, if they want to have fun at a convention? It’s just not fair.

  4. I notice that several people have been banned, either permanently or for the upcoming con, but only Rosenberg is named here. I hope that the eboard has notified the people who complained to Arisia about those banned individuals that they have been banned, and nobody is left wondering whether the person who harassed them will be allowed to attend Arisia 2019.

    A statement that people have been notified could be made without including names. Yes, if complainants have been notified of decisions — X has been banned permanently, Y is banned from Arisia 2019, Z is restricted from volunteering while we investigate — Arisia doesn’t control whether the information gets out: With notification, someone who complained might now tell friends they’ve decided to attend, because Y won’t be there, or decided not to attend, because Z will be allowed to attend. However, if the complainants aren’t notified, they’re likely to tell people they won’t be there because Z might attend. That may be better for Z (who hypothetically might be cleared later) but it would be worse for the complainant and, I think, Arisia. We’ve had quite enough of prioritizing the interests of known and accused harassers over those of everyone else.

    It’s certainly possible that the board has notified the complainants but for some reason didn’t mention it in this announcement; if so, that should be easy to remedy. But I’m particularly concerned about the individual who “has been the subject of multiple incident reports, both new and reopened.” If there’s one report about someone, that might be the only incident. If there are several, it’s extremely likely that there are other incidents that weren’t reported, meaning people who Arisia won’t [be able to] notify that the person who harassed them won’t be allowed back, unless they post that information publicly.

    [I tried posting this yesterday but it seems to have gotten lost in moderation.]

  5. There is evidence that many or at least some of the IRs the current Arisia Eboard is acting on happened outside of the Arisia AND MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ACTIONABLE, but the current Eboard decided to ban people anyway until it could get around to investigating. It has also been pointed out that the Arisia Code of Conduct does not mention anything about actions outside of Arisia Events. However as someone else said, the current Arisia Eboard has decided to become policeperson to the world.

  6. Personally, if I knew that someone had assaulted or harassed anyone anywhere, I would not want them at my party. Why would you want them at yours?

  7. Sandy Hutnick: There is evidence that many or at least some of the IRs the current Arisia Eboard is acting on happened outside of the Arisia AND MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ACTIONABLE

    Unless you are, or have been on, Arisia’s Eboard or Incident Response Team, you don’t know what the evidence is, and are not in a position to say whether their actions are justified.

    The reports I saw publicly consisted of incidents which occurred at Arisia events; one of the people involved continued their harassment outside of Arisia events, but what they did just at Arisia events alone was enough to justify a permanent ban from the convention.

    Also “Sure, they harassed and/or assaulted people, but they didn’t actually do it at Arisia!” is a seriously weak-sauce argument for letting people off the hook for their actions, and saying it makes you look like you’re defending harassers and assaulters.

  8. Attempting to be as generous as possible… I suppose it might well be more difficult to swiftly investigate events that happened outside of Arisia, since you’d have less of an idea of context and potential witnesses, and whether you could trust the outcome of an investigation carried out at another convention would depend on the code of conduct and processes of that convention. But all of those things can be worked around by co-ordinating with and discussing the situation with the relevant parties. It might be slower, but it’s hardly impossible. And iirc Arisia does have a bit of text somewhere saying that volunteers and staff are held to Arisia standards even when they’re not at Arisia, so I’m actually glad they’re applying that.

    A temporary suspension while the investigation is in progress doesn’t seem too bizarre to me. The worst possible outcome is, what, someone misses a year while their name is cleared? It isn’t ideal (magical justice dragons that can sense guilt would be ideal) but I like that option more than “target of harassment is driven from the community because no-one protected them”, personally.

  9. “There is evidence that many or at least some of the IRs the current Arisia Eboard is acting on happened outside of the Arisia AND MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ACTIONABLE, but the current Eboard decided to ban people anyway until it could get around to investigating. “

    Yes. It is kind of sad that the previous board caused this problem by not conducting serious investigations. If they had been doing their job, then this would have already been investigated well before the con and this situation would never have happened.

  10. The previous Eboard did conduct serious investigations.

    The problem is that some of the things being reported now didn’t even happen at conventions.

    And frankly, if someone harassed someone 5 years ago and hasn’t had any issues since then and has lived with the decision that was reached 5 years ago, I’m willing to welcome them at my house or convention. Arisia just isn’t my convention any more.

    The current Arisia Eboard seems to have lost all nuance in the way it is dealing with things. This is something I know Arisia talked about in the past and it was specifically decided that you shouldn’t ban someone for life on the first minor / harassment offense.

    This is all especially “funny” because the previous Eboard banned someone for 3 years for a willful violation of the Code of Conduct including no contrition and the implication that the person would do it again (recording panels without permission). The Corporation overrode that and changed it to 2 years. It seems you just can’t win.

  11. Rick, I don’t think the current corporate membership would do that, do you?

    And how are you privy to anything that shows the current eboard lacks nuance? Aren’t you an ordinary member now? I certainly have not seen details like that.

    Also also, they’ve been in office for two weeks. I’m not sure why you think it appropriate to judge them so quickly, unless it’s that you’re still angry that you lost the election. Seriously, the previous eboard did a lot of good things and worked incredibly hard, including on incident reports, but anti-abuse work needs a shift in mindset that is hard for everybody. There is no shame in that.

  12. @Rick: There’s a difference between someone having “lived with the decision reached five years ago” when that means “they did something bad, a penalty was assessed and has been paid, and that should be enough” and when it means “they did something bad, we told them it was no big deal, and everything went on exactly as it would have if they hadn’t done the thing.”

    You’re saying “you just can’t win,” but who is “you” here? If you-Rick think the previous corporate decision was wrong because it was too lenient, what are you objecting to here?

  13. I stand by all the previous corporate decisions (given the information we had at the time) except Crystal/Noel. People were barred from staffing at certain levels and / or barred from attending. Now some new allegations have come to light about some of the people who were investigated in the past. But those allegations should have been investigated (as per the policies) rather than just a summary judgement issued. I do not believe that happened.

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