Statement from Ariel Franklin-Hudson, WisCon 38/39 Head of Safety
WisCon Safety: Procedures, History, Explanations, and Apologies
I took over as Head of Safety this year. In practice, this position began just in advance of WisCon 38, since WisCon Head of Safety has, until now, been an at-con job only.
During WisCon 37, and for many previous WisCons, WisCon Safety maintained a notebook in which Safety volunteers on duty during the convention recorded incidents as they happened — anything from loose plastic on the 6th floor party hall to a report of harassment. This informal log book was WisCon Safety’s only form of record keeping, and WisCon had no official procedure or system in place to convert those notes into a formal written record. I want to stress that the notes, and the log book for WisCon 37, were never lost or mislaid; but because they are notes only, WisCon does not have a formal written record of Elise Matthesen’s report. Reports made to Safety were transferred through the log book, and orally from Safety volunteer to Head of Safety; in large part, this was because of volunteer informality, and Safety’s traditionally minor role at WisCon, but confidentiality was also an important consideration.
Everyone in WisCon Safety and WisCon leadership from WisCon 37 through WisCon 39 understands that Elise made a formal report; this has never been in doubt. Her report was treated with extreme seriousness at the time, including follow-ups by Co-Chairs with both Elise and with Jim Frenkel. These follow-ups have some email trail, and the WisCon 37 Co-Chairs — Jackie Lee, Kafryn Lieder, and Gretchen Treu — have now created a formal report based on the log book notes, the email trail, and their memories. In addition, the log book notes of Elise’s report from WisCon 37 have now been entered into a formal WisCon Safety Incident Report Form; I initiated these Incident Report Forms for WisCon 38.
When I took over as Head of Safety, one of my first priorities was to immediately create and implement an Incident Report Form, in order to improve the consistency and formality of our records. This form was used by Safety volunteers throughout WisCon 38, and we intend to continue to use it going forward. WisCon’s Application Development team is also currently developing a secure database for all Safety reports — both harassment and otherwise — so that we will have a place to keep our records from year to year, regardless of who takes on the jobs of Safety and Con Chairs in the future, and will be able to improve our institutional memory. I am in the process of collating the at-con reports and the reports that have come in by email since WisCon 38, and will be filing them in the Safety database once it is built.
Lauren Jankowski’s initial report was a casualty of the informal processes we had until now, and the chaos that occurs in the changeover from one WisCon ConCom to the next. WisCon did receive it, and it was reviewed by the Safety Chairs of WisCon 37, who then made a report to the Co-Chairs of WisCon 38; but no one took responsibility for responding to Lauren, or for taking action based on her report. Lauren’s report also came in during a period when WisCon had put out a call for reports without building a clear procedure for receiving, responding to, or recording them. This was a very bad mistake, and I join with others in apologizing for it, and apologizing to Lauren for the fact that her report was, functionally, lost in the system until she brought it to our attention during WisCon 38.
Because of the existence of formal Safety Incident Report Forms, the new position of Member Advocate (which is formally a 12-month position), and the progress on the database, we believe these problems will not reoccur.
Rose Lemberg’s harassment report had a different failure pattern, which is also attributable to the gap in responsibility between conventions, and is WisCon’s fault. As I note here, we believe that problem has been addressed for the future, and the incident itself is being addressed as described in the Member Advocate public statement on the WisCon website.
None of this is intended to be an excuse — there is no excuse for these mistakes, oversights, and failures. The only things we — and I — know how to do, however, are to fix the problems going forward, and be as honest and candid as possible with the WisCon membership, and with everyone who files a report. I am happy to answer questions, and to provide further detail where I can. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; I may not be able to answer immediately, but I will answer.
WisCon 38/39 Head of Safety
Statement from Monica Youngman & Victor Raymond, Safety Co-Chairs for WisCon 37
To Elise, Lauren, and Rose and to the WisCon membership,
As the Safety Co-Chairs for WisCon37 we would like to apology for not having taken steps before and after WisCon 37 to set up a formal system to collect and maintain reports and act upon them between conventions. In retrospect such a system would have significantly aided WisCon in properly dealing with issues of harassment. It is important to us that WisCon be a safe, secure and welcoming environment, which is why it is so important for this system to be created for the convention committee to do its work effectively. We are firmly behind and support the efforts of the current Safety and Member Advocate to devise such a system; we believe this is a necessary element to support membership safety before, during, and after the convention. For our part in not having devised that system earlier we apologize.
Monica Youngman & Victor Raymond