As the newly appointed (last month) member advocate for WisCon, I am charged with, among other things, appointing subcommittees where necessary to deal with reported incidents of harassment. The subcommittees make a policy decision, which the chair (now Jim Leinweber, the upcoming chair of WisCon 39) then carries out. If consequences are imposed on a member, that member has the right to appeal to the board of SF3, WisCon’s governing body.
It is WisCon’s general intention not to publicize specific incidents of harassment but to deal with them privately; however, one incident from WisCon 36 and a group of incidents reported during and after WisCon 37 have been publicly discussed (and sometimes linked) on the Internet, and revisited frequently since WisCon 38 last month, so we would like to update our members on progress with those incidents.
The subcommittee considering the incidents involving Jim Frenkel is working now. As the first such subcommittee, its members have decided that we have to address not only policy but also process. We are moving efficiently and continuously, but we may take some time to come to a conclusion; figuring out due process is necessarily slow and careful.
I am also in the process of convening a subcommittee to address the issues raised by Rose Lemberg about FJ Bergmann, and vice versa. That subcommittee (which will have few, if any, overlapping members) will begin its work when the Jim Frenkel subcommittee is done, so that it can take advantage of the process decisions made by the Jim Frenkel subcommittee.
I am very aware that many people would like decisions and announcements _now_ and I am sorry that we cannot provide them. But I also believe this slower approach will serve WisCon, and the greater community, better in the long run. I thank you for your patience, and I also thank you for your passion, which helps keep us moving and reminds us of why we do this work.
The WisCon Committee is aware of the substantial online discussion of past reported harassment incidents at WisCon, and how they were handled. We know that we have failed very significantly in how we followed up on a couple of incident reports from WisCon 36 and WisCon 37. We could talk about how these reports fell through the cracks, and why we are dissatisfied with penalties in situations where penalties were imposed, but we would rather simply apologize to the people involved, and the entire membership. Every harassment report made should be responded to quickly, clearly, and with prompt follow-up actions. After the WisCon 37 problems we began building systems that we believe will improve this in the future, but we cannot change the past. Changes prior to the recently concluded Wiscon 38 included establishing a member advocate position as an ongoing liaison for the reporters, making the safety chair a year-round function to avoid losing track of reports which arrive just after a con during the transition to new chairs and a new committee, and setting up a standing harassment policy subcommittee to improve both our published policies and our internal procedures. For WisCon 38 there was a new first responder’s guide which we distributed to all committee members and the entire at-con safety team. Prior to WisCon 39 we expect to radically improve our ability to impose meaningful penalties. Until we can consult an attorney, we are not going to make public comments on particular people or incidents. We are in the process of arranging that consultation now. We will say, however, that when additional information comes to light about an accused harasser, that information is essential in making appropriate clear decisions for following years. We are collecting information (and responding to reporters promptly) so that we can make better decisions going forward. WisCon’s Harassment Policy Committee is a large and geographically disparate group, and there are limits to how fast it can act. Please have patience with this protracted process, and know that we take your concerns seriously and are working hard on these problems. The member advocate for 2014-2015 is Debbie Notkin (email@example.com). The safety chair is Ariel Franklin-Hudson (firstname.lastname@example.org). The convention chair for WisCon 39 is Jim Leinweber (email@example.com). Reports, questions, and comments can be sent to Ariel and Debbie through the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
The ConCom is aware of concerns about Jim Frenkel’s presence this year. We very much regret that members were made to feel unsafe. We take the concerns of our community very seriously, are reviewing the matter, and will make a detailed statement soon. The ConCom volunteers live and work in many different time zones, and some are still in transit. We are working to respond to concerns ASAP. Please email email@example.com if you have concerns about harassment or other matters at WisCon38.
The first WisCon 36 committee meeting will take place tomorrow, Sunday, October 16 at 11:30 am Central time at the Madison Concourse Hotel, 1 W Dayton St., Madison, WI 53703. The room will be posted on the hotel’s conference message board in the lobby.
We are extending a special invitation to potential new volunteers who are interested in joining the concom: please attend! We need your help to make WisCon happen!
The agenda includes:
– A review of concom vacancies and volunteer opportunities (department heads, please let the co-chairs know about any vacancies/volunteer opportunities)
– Committee reports (if you have a report, please email your report in advance of the meeting to help keep the meeting moving)
– Procedures and deadlines
– General concom news.
If you cannot attend in person, please join the meeting via conference call: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on joining the call.