The next Readercon is a month away and its committee, striving to recover from last year’s seismic controversy, has issued a safety update: a revised Code of Conduct that will be in effect for Readercon 24, plus supporting policies and procedures.
Readercon’s Code of Conduct now addresses physical and social boundaries in a directive way with concrete examples.
The section on physical boundaries says in part:
Do not physically harm or endanger other people.
Do not touch people or their personal effects—including clothing, assistive devices, bags, and on-duty service animals—without an express invitation. If you want to invite physical contact, do so verbally or with a friendly gesture, such as holding out a hand for a handshake.
And says about social boundaries:
In all cases where someone has told you or demonstrated that they do not wish to interact with you, do not contact them in any fashion, including through an intermediary, unless and until they approach you of their own initiative.
Readercon thrives on vigorous debate, but it is not acceptable to verbally attack people. Do not use slurs or make derogatory comments about a person, group, or category of people. This includes comments based on characteristics such as (but not limited to) actual or perceived race, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, age, religion, ability, family or marital status, or socioeconomic class.
When interacting with other people, engage in active demonstrations of respect and empathy. For example: Obtain ongoing consent for your interaction. Respect the variety of ways in which people signal that continued contact is unwelcome. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal clues that the other party wishes to end the interaction; these clues can range from “Gosh, look at the time!” to the other person walking away from you. If you’re not certain the other person is enjoying your company, end the interaction yourself.
The Policies and Procedures describe fully the ways problems can be reported, what the committee’s immediate response will be, how it will assure members’ safety, what methods Readercon will follow while investigating problems, and the escalating range of responses.
The Policies contain an open-ended invitation to report difficulties:
What sort of problem can I report?
Any behavior or pattern of behavior that violates our code of conduct. If you feel someone’s behavior is dangerous or harmful to you or others, if someone’s behavior makes you feel afraid or very uncomfortable, or if someone is actively making it difficult for you or others to enjoy or fully participate in the convention, we would like to know about it.
Who can I make a report about?
Anyone whose behavior causes you concern. We will give all reports equal consideration. Our handling of reports will not be influenced by factors such as the social status or convention role of anyone involved in the situation.
The safety update is weighted toward reassuring members (and the community at large) who were upset about how the convention’s policies were enforced last year, however, the committee acknowledged the full spectrum of discussion by adding a statement about what happens to the accused —
If we believe that no violation occurred, you are welcome to go about the convention as usual. We will not attempt to mediate or carry messages between you and the person who made the report. If someone deliberately makes a false report about you, that is itself a code of conduct violation and we will take appropriate action in response.
The Procedures detail all the investigative steps that will be taken in response to reports and the crash-landings in store for those determined to have violated the Code of Conduct:
Sample actions and reactions
- If someone has been physically or verbally assaulted and wants to call the police, we will assist them in doing so by involving hotel security and waiting with them until the police arrive.
- If we determine to our satisfaction that someone has committed physical or verbal assault, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.
- If we suspect but are not certain that someone has committed physical or verbal assault, we will ask hotel security to monitor the individual’s behavior closely and alert us if there is any cause for concern. We will also inform the individual that hotel security will be watching them, and remind them that they are required to abide by Readercon’s code of conduct if they wish to remain at the convention.
- If we determine to our satisfaction that someone has misbehaved in a problematic but not egregious way, we will remind them that they are required to abide by Readercon’s code of conduct if they wish to remain at the convention.
- If a person’s behavior is acceptable except when they are around a specific other person, and if their misbehavior is not sufficient to justify immediate eviction, we will ask them to keep their distance, as follows:
- If the subject of the report is in convention space (including a program room, the bookshop, the hotel lobby, or an open-door party at the hotel) and they realize that the other person is in that space, the subject of the report must immediately leave the space.
- The subject of the report may not initiate interaction of any kind (including calls, texts, emails, and passing messages through third parties) with the other person while at the convention.
- If anyone about whom a report has been made declines to be interviewed, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.
- If we believe that an individual poses an active threat (physical or otherwise) to one or more people at the convention, we will revoke their membership and ban them from convention premises.
The Readercon safety update is signed by Con Chair Crystal Huff, Safety Chair Kim Riek, and Program Chair Rose Fox.