Romance Writers of America has disciplined author Courtney Milan in response to a pair of complaints after finding that she violated a section of its Code of Ethics by “Repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.”
(If Milan’s name rings a bell, earlier in 2019 File 770 covered Milan’s work to expose the #CopyPasteCris plagiarism case, see item #1 here.)
The RWA report summarized the complaints as follows:
Suzan Tisdale outlined the allegations in a letter to the RWA Board Members and Ethics Committee, received by the Executive Director, and supported the allegations with a stream of social media posts that disparaged Ms. Tisdale, her publishing company (Glenfinnan Publishing), and several of her acquiring editors. Most particularly, Ms. Tisdale and her associates were accused of being racists in derogatory terms….
The committee received a corollary complaint filed by member Kathryn Lynn Davis against fellow member Courtney Milan, alleging several violations of the RWA Code of Ethics, and alleging the consequence of which was the loss of a three-book contract.
The committee recommended that Milan —
a. Be censured by RWA
b. Be suspended from RWA membership for one year
c. Receive a lifetime ban on holding any position of leadership on the RWA National Board, or on an RWA Chapter Board.
Several more violations were raised by Tisdale and Davis largely having to do with social media comments by Milan, but the Board concluded it does not have jurisdiction over social media communications under the existing Code. And they expressed their frustration with that state of affairs by taking this fling at Milan: “However, the committee was also made aware that Ms. Milan served on the Board when this exception was approved, and very likely understood she would be able to act in the manner she did, without being in violation of the code.”
The documents containing the two complaints and supporting screenshots, the RWA Ethics Committee report, and the message communicating the decision to Milan, are available online:
- The formal complaint from Suzan Tisdale
- Part II of complaint
- Formal complaint from Kathryn Lynn Davis
- RWA’s Ethics Committee Report
- Result of RWA Board’s vote on the report
Milan’s response on Twitter starts here.
Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, wrote an informative post which ends —
… This decision is heinously wrong. Deeply awful, horrifying, and mind-numbingly bad on every level. It’s a slap and a 180-degree contradiction of every other effort made to make RWA more inclusive. The message seems to be, Confront your own bias. Recognize where you are wrong. But don’t call racism “racism” or point out anyone else’s bias, or you’ll be removed.
I am not so pleased about where else my dues are going, or my energy in judging and reading and supporting and even writing all these words right now. I’m deeply, painfully upset by the decision of the Ethics Committee, and the decision to ban and suspend Courtney Milan. I keep thinking I must be missing something because this decision makes no sense. It hurts.
The comments on Wendell’s post reveal a divide between those who support the Board’s decision, and others who strongly disagree with it.
Ironically, people are reporting that one of the places no one can discuss this decision is in RWA’s own forums.