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wshaffer
World Fantasy Convention 2015 Harassment Policy 
27th-Oct-2015 10:01 am
ace
Being someone who helps run a convention, I think a lot about harassment at conventions. Every time a convention hits the news for something harassment related, I think "What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What can we learn from this?" Sometimes I think, "Oh, please God, don't let that ever be us!"

I kind of assume that all other conrunners do the same. Except that I can't really imagine how the folks running World Fantasy this year would have come up with this harassment policy if they had.
(I recommend you go and read the linked post, but here's the policy in an image.)


I have too much going on at work this morning to write as well-reasoned a post as I would like, so let me just say this: everything of what I've witnessed of harassment issues at conventions I've attended and helped to run suggests to me that if your policy says, "If you report harassment, the police will get involved," very few people will report harassment. And while I recognize the convention's need to take into account the legal definition of harassment under New York state law and protect themselves from a possible libel suit, they could have done that while still doing way more to keep their guests safe.
Comments 
27th-Oct-2015 07:55 pm (UTC)
The entire "libel" thing is bogus. As numerous people have pointed out, this is a private event with paid attendance. They can set whatever code of conduct they like and enforce it; unless that code itself violates local non-discrimination law, anybody who tries to sue them will be laughed out of court.
27th-Oct-2015 09:31 pm (UTC)
I can understand the argument that if New York state has a precise legal definition of harassment, and you penalize someone under your convention's harassment policy, that that could be construed as a false accusation of a crime, and therefore libel. I doubt it would hold up in court, but since even an unsuccessful lawsuit could break a convention financially, I can understand taking some precautions to avoid that even if I thought it unlikely.

What I can't understand is why the precaution wasn't simply to replace the words "Harassment Policy" with "Conduct Policy" (or similar) and to carry on doing the right thing to protect one's members.
27th-Oct-2015 09:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, they could call it a Code of Conduct or whatever if they're so afraid. But they don't have to: the legal definition of "harassment" only matters if you're accusing someone of a crime. The con would indeed be in trouble if they issued a public statement saying "Attendee X has engaged in illegal conduct" -- but they're perfectly free to say "We have concluded that Attendee X's behavior is in violation of our anti-harassment policy." The word is allowed to mean different things depending on context; in fact, it already does (beginning with the fact that civil harassment law and criminal harassment law differ from one another).
27th-Oct-2015 10:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, and never mind that the vast majority of harassment-type issues that occur at cons get resolved without anybody issuing a public statement of any kind, as far as I can tell.

I would like to believe that they just got some really bad legal advice, because I would like to believe in the concom's good faith here. How they react going forward will say a lot about whether any of that belief is justified.
27th-Oct-2015 11:16 pm (UTC)
I've seen legal types in other places say this is bad enough advice that they wonder how the lawyer in question ever passed the bar. Me, I'm assuming their "legal advice" consisted of looking stuff up on Wikipedia.
28th-Oct-2015 06:08 am (UTC)
Yes. However, as was pointed out on Scalzi's blog, the offhand statements that they are making about "there is no risk to attendees" and such are far more plausible as a thing that they could get sued for saying, and they seem to have no fear of saying those.

So they're not even being consistent. They've apparently decided that this item is a thing to worry about, and the other statements not, before having reviewed any evidence at all.
29th-Oct-2015 12:05 am (UTC)
They retracted this today, or at least they added last year's policy to this, with a pretty reasonable cover note.
29th-Oct-2015 12:28 am (UTC)
Yes, I was quite pleased to see that.
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