Balticon 56 Chair Will Lead Investigaton of Events

Yakira Heistand, chair of Balticon 56, has asked for this statement to be posted:

My name is Yakira Heistand and, as many of you know, I was the chair of Balticon 56. As Con Chair and as a fellow human, my heart is breaking for everyone hurt through our actions. While I wish I had a time machine and could go back and catch the issues before they became problems, I don’t. However, I do believe everyone is owed an explanation as to the events at Balticon 56. 

As a community we need to understand what happened and why. And, as a community we need to be able to do better. With that goal I, Yakira Heistand, will be leading the investigations surrounding the events that happened at Balticon 56. I am committed to conducting these investigations with as much transparency as I can manage without causing more harm to those involved.

I am painfully aware, as a white-presenting Jewish woman, there are things I don’t know and can’t speak to. I have been authorized by the Board of Directors to hire a Diversity/Sensitivity Specialist who is familiar with fandom. Because of many issues of identity and marginalization that are layered into the concerns brought up on all sides of these upsetting events, the members of the committee will include people who can comment from within the communities of concern, as representatives of affected communities. As a community effort, we are gathering information from all involved – panelists, audience members, and also from the community at large – as well as examining the context of policy and procedure that preceded the events that have caused so much concern. Ultimately we will be taking this input and creating an action plan to recommend to the Board of Directors. 

I realize that this is a sensitive issue, and I understand that delay in resolving this is causing pain, but to minimize the probability of further harm, we will aim to be responsive rather than reactive. I will be posting progress reports as we have concrete things to share. The ultimate goal of this process is to be able to publish a new protocol as to how these things are handled in the future for our convention and our members.

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21 thoughts on “Balticon 56 Chair Will Lead Investigaton of Events

  1. The chair who presumably heads the board of directors will investigate “the events” — no names, please! — and then report to the board of which, again, she is presumably the head?

    Perhaps if this hadn’t been written so dispassionately as to sound like a caricature of corporate doublespeak I’d be more convinced.

  2. Find it kinda ironic that Stephanie Burke is a representative of the affected communities of concern. Several of them in fact. We will see if her voice is heard…

  3. Why bother with a new protocol. Balticon never bothered to follow the old one.

  4. The only appropriate response to this entire situation is a very public and direct apology to Ms. Burke. Then the individual who confronted Ms. Burke so egregiously should be immediately removed from any association with the convention, and told that if said individual ever set foot in a future Balticon, she would be arrested for trespassing.

    This has less to do with poor treatment and marginalization and far more to do with incivility and verbal assault and harassment.

  5. The fact that a week later you still don’t know what happened does not engender confidence in Balticon’s administration. This should have been resolved the same day the complaint was made, not waiting a full week to simply launch a proper investigation. You had the other panelists on site, the moderator, you had audience members you could have reached out to. Instead, we get this half-assed investigation.

    The additional fact that the staffer who created this fallout and has admitted they behaved in a manner that was wildly unprofessional and downright disgusting has not been removed and barred from future Balticon participation further reduces confidence. That was the first, easiest, and most logical step you could have taken to rebuild community trust. I am sure they are very sorry. I’m also sure they need to be held accountable, as we all do when we screw up and behave like that.

    I get it. You’re all volunteers, doing this for love of the genre. You’re also all adults, many of whom work in professional office settings and who have dealt with HR issues and understand how to behave. Balticon is too big now to fall back on the excuse that we are just amateurs doing our best and figuring it out. You’ve had decades to put systems in place and build on them. It’s beyond unreasonable that this remains unresolved.

    As a Maryland resident, I expect more of what I perceive as the biggest and most important writers’ event in the state every year. Clearly I expect too much.

  6. This had better not be just a “fire the intern”.

    Earl Tower has said everything else I think needs to be done.

  7. The fox will lead the investigation of the henhouse. Balticon’s concom has taken a severe hit in its reputation, and it wouldn’t be that hard to bring in some reputable SMOFs from outside to look objectively into the matter. Investigating itself will prove nothing.

  8. The fact that a week later you still don’t know what happened does not engender confidence in Balticon’s administration.

    Instead of solving the problem they want to define a bigger problem they can spend months talking about amongst themselves.

    It shouldn’t be necessary for Stephanie Burke to wait for Balticon to hire a diversity/sensitivity specialist, form a committee including members from communities of concern, examine the “context of policy and procedure that preceded the events” and present an action plan to the board of directors.

    Just ask the people at the panel what was said and if the complaint against Burke had no basis, apologize again and make a public statement to clear her name.

    When that’s done Balticon can make things as complicated as it wants as it strives to turn itself into an organization that doesn’t do this to people.

  9. Truly fascinating to see how fast the turn-around from (paraphrasing wildly) ‘excluding people from being on panels is the worst thing to do, ever, and is a terrible and disproportionate punishment’ to ‘the Person Responsible should be run out of town on a rail’ has been.

    Is ostracisation a disproportionate punishment that has no place in fandom or isn’t it?

  10. Meredith: I think it’s mostly different people.

    I still think a reasonable response to an accusation does start with “we had some complaints about you on a prior panel. While we talk to some other people on that panel (including any character witnesses you choose to name and all the other panelists), are you willing to skip your next couple of panels and stay at a location where you can be easily found and can’t be seen as trying to influence people about your case, like here in ops, or in your hotel room? We can tell the other panels you were unavoidably called away until we render a verdict; this way if we find no issue, you can resume without concerns.”

    But this was inevitably read as almost as punitive as what actually happened (with a public walk of shame and an actual ops member actively spreading {mis}information about the accusations.) Except by a few people who seemed to already think that an accusation was enough to remove a person.

    As to what actually happened: while a quick investigation on site would have worked then, I think that now a process that involves a serious look and a multi pronged committee is better than a quick resolution. I do know some con-chairs I would trust to run such a thing investigating their own, and some I absolutely wouldn’t. And they weren’t differentiated by which ones SAID they could be objective. So I don’t know if I trust this person due to their ties, but I also don’t immediately presume they will fail.

  11. I appreciate that you cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, but it’s rather difficult to believe any investigation is happening at all when the moderator of the panel still hadn’t been contacted days after the convention was over, and she recently posted that she had to reach out to the ConComm on her own initiative.

    Balticon has amplified the fear that any disgruntled individual can get any program participant thrown off their panels and character-assassinated with an unsubstantiated accusation. I will echo Cat Rambo, a past President of SFWA, in asking, What are you going to do to prevent this happening again?

  12. Bonnie on June 4, 2022 at 9:55 am said:

    I will echo Cat Rambo, a past President of SFWA, in asking, What are you going to do to prevent this happening again?

    The larger question is what do other cons do to prevent this?

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