Loscon Statement from Isabel Schechter

[Since LASFS distributed a statement by Gregory Benford as its determination about the code of conduct issues at Loscon 45, published here as part of a report about the incident, I have agreed to host Isabel Schechter’s statement about the outcome as well.]

By Isabel Schechter: It is unfortunate that I have to make a statement regarding the incident that happened last week at LosCon 45, but there has been lack of information, misinformation, and deliberately incomplete information being put out, and given Loscon’s lack of communication, I feel I need to set the record straight on some things.

The comments made by Dr. Benford at the “New Masters of SF” panel have been discussed elsewhere, and I will not address them or the reasons for my report of them further. However, the actions of the convention and the LASFS board, and my connection or lack thereof, to those actions have been confusing, and that is what needs to be made clear.

To begin, right after the panel, there were several people who spoke with the Programming department head, Justine Reynolds, about Dr. Benford’s comments. After that, various concom staff members sought me out regarding this incident. First, Justine followed up with me to let me know that Dr. Benford had been asked to not be on programming for the rest of the convention. Later, the con chairs sought me out to tell me that they had removed Dr. Benford from the convention. The third time I was approached, it was by Ops to ask me to make an official report of the incident. Each time concom staff sought me out, I thought that was the end of it.

Apparently, that was not the end of it. It was only after the convention that I found out that Dr. Benford’s removal from the convention had been reversed. It was only after reading social media posts about the incident that I found out that Dr. Benford’s removal from the convention was not actually because of my or anyone else’s report of his comments on the panel, but rather because he didn’t follow the concom’s directions, used foul language, and referred to one of the con chairs as “honey.”

I was not informed that the con would be issuing a statement about the incident on social media, nor was I informed that they would be publicizing Dr. Benford’s statement or asked if I would like the opportunity to do the same. In addition, contrary to what at least one concom member stated, Dr. Benford and I did not have contact of any kind after the panel.

In my on-site interactions with Loscon staff, I felt that they took their Code of Conduct seriously and wanted to ensure that this kind of incident was handled appropriately. Sadly, as I have now found out from other sources more about how Loscon did not follow their own procedures and has still, one week later, not communicated any of this to me directly, I am now extremely disappointed with their disorganization and unprofessionalism.

While I appreciate that the con chairs had good intentions in taking swift action against Dr. Benford, I need to make it absolutely clear that at no point did I request, pressure, insist, or demand that Loscon bypass their policies or procedures, or to remove Dr. Benford from the convention. I was never asked by Loscon for my input or opinion regarding any actions the con took toward Dr. Benford. His removal was a decision made by the con chairs without my knowledge and only communicated to me after it was already done.

I take CoC’s very seriously and believe it is imperative that all conventions not only have a strong CoC, but to also consistently follow policies and procedures to ensure all incidents are handled in an appropriate manner. I reported Dr. Benford’s comments and spoke to File 770 about what happened at the convention because I initially trusted Loscon would properly implement their CoC rules. Unfortunately that trust was misplaced, putting me at risk. When conventions bypass their own CoC policies and procedures, misinformation and confusions result. CoC policies and procedures exist to not only protect the convention, but also to protect attendees, including those who report problems to the convention. Failure to follow procedure can often lead to those who made reports leaves them vulnerable as targets for retaliation and threats, including some I have seen encouraging physical violence against me that have made because of the unclear and conflicting statements and actions taken by Loscon. Convention attendees need to feel safe enough to report incidents, and when failures like this occur, they can discourage other attendees from reporting issues because they don’t want to expose themselves to harassment and threats for doing the right thing.

Loscon did not handle this incident well to begin with, and has made it worse with their lack of communication. I hope that they will learn from this incident and do better going forward, and that other conventions will take note and strengthen their own procedures to prevent a similar situation from occurring.

Update 12/02/2018: The formal address in this post has been corrected to Dr. Benford. Isabel Schecter explains: “I was unaware the he was Dr., and would have used the proper address if I had known. I apologize for my error.”