Bess and Code4libbers,

I've only been to one c4l conference and it was a very positive experience for me, but I also feel that this is too valuable of a community for us to risk it getting itself into crisis mode over some unintended consequences or a "bad apple" incident. For that reason I would support the adoption of an anti-harassment policy in part for its consciousness-raising value. Ideally this would be not only about sexual harassment but would include general goals for inclusiveness and fair play within the community. And it would also serve as an acknowledgment that none of us is perfect, but we can deal with it.

For me the hardest thing is how one monitors and resolves issues that arise. As a group with no formal management, I suppose the conference organizers become the "deciders" if such a necessity arises. If it's elsewhere (email, IRC) -- that's a bit trickier. The Ada project's detailed guides should help, but if there is a policy it seems that there necessarily has to be some responsible "body" -- even if ad hoc.


On 11/26/12 2:16 PM, Bess Sadler wrote:
Dear Fellow Code4libbers,

I hope I am not about to get flamed. Please take as context that I have been a 
member of this community for almost a decade. I have contributed software, 
support, and volunteer labor to this community's events. I have also attended 
the majority of code4lib conferences, which have been amazing and 
life-changing, and have helped me do my job a lot better. But, and I've never 
really known how to talk about this, those conferences have also been 
problematic for me a couple of times. Nothing like what happened to Noirin 
Shirley at ApacheCon (see if you're 
unfamiliar with the incident I mean) but enough to concern me that even in a 
wonderful community where we mostly share the same values, not everyone has the 
same definitions of acceptable behavior.

I am watching the toxic fallout from the BritRuby conference cancellation with a heavy 
heart (go search for "britruby conference cancelled" if you want to catch up 
and/or get depressed). It has me wondering what more we could be doing to promote 
diversity and inclusiveness within code4lib. We have already had a couple of harassment 
incidents over the years, which I won't rehash here, which have driven away members of 
our community. We have also had other incidents that don't get talked about because 
sometimes one can feel that membership in a community is more important than one's 
personal boundaries or even safety. We should not be a community where people have to 
make that choice.

I would like for us to consider adopting an anti-harassment policy for code4lib 
conferences. This is emerging as a best practice in the larger open source 
software community, and we would be joining the ranks of many other 
conferences: The Ada 
Initiative has a great discussion of why adopting an Anti-Harrassment policy is 
a good choice for a conference to make, as well as some example policy 
statements, here: Here 
is a summary:

Why have an official anti-harassment policy for your conference? First, it is 
necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at conferences is incredibly common - for 
example, see this timeline 
( of sexist 
incidents in geek communities. Second, it sets expectations for behavior at the 
conference. Simply having an anti-harassment policy can prevent harassment all 
by itself. Third, it encourages people to attend who have had bad experiences 
at other conferences. Finally, it gives conference staff instructions on how to 
handle harassment quickly, with the minimum amount of disruption or bad press 
for your conference.
If the conference already has something like this in place, and I'm just 
uninformed, please educate me and let's do a better job publicizing it.

Thanks for considering this suggestion. If the answer is the usual code4lib answer (some 
variation on "Great idea! How are you going to make that happen?") then I 
hereby nominate myself as a member of the Anti-Harrassment Policy Adoption committee for 
the code4lib conference. Would anyone else like to join me?

Bess Sadler
Manager, Application Development
Digital Library Systems & Services
Stanford University Library

Karen Coyle
ph: 1-510-540-7596
m: 1-510-435-8234
skype: kcoylenet

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