Code of Conduct at events [and 1 more messages]

Ian Jackson ijackson at
Wed Nov 10 17:10:58 UTC 2010

John Goerzen writes ("Re: Code of Conduct at events"):
> I'm still not sure that a "code of conduct" is really the right thing.

I'm not attached to the "Code of Conduct" phrase.  Another way to put
it would be "Policy on Behaviour at the Conference".

But I think it is very valuable that there is a written document which
sets out the standards of behaviour expected.  As community we come
from many different places, with different cultural expectations.
And, sadly speaking, in the wider societies of many of our homes
(including mine), of violence and sexual assault - particularly by men
against women - are not as culturally unacceptable as they are to me

A written policy does a number of things:

 * It clarifies to everyone what is and is not OK.  In particular, I
   feel strongly that we should explicitly state that nonconsensual
   touching is not OK.  In some cultures it is considered acceptable
   under some circumstances, but in general it can be very intrusive
   or even threatening particularly for people from a different

 * It clearly states that the conference organisers are prepared to
   take responsibility.

 * It gives the conference organisers clear guidelines for how they
   should act.  This is helpful both because conference organisers
   have a lot on their minds and don't want to be making difficult
   decisions in a vacuum, but also because it can otherwise be
   difficult for organisers to justify sufficiently strong action.  A
   written policy makes it much easier to take action, and is of
   course fairer because no-one can say they weren't told.

> I think that the more appropriate thing would be training for conference 
> organizers on how to deal with various situations.

That would be a nice ideal but in practice if we say "conference
organisers should have more training" nothing willl happen.

> I am in complete agreement that it should not be up to conference 
> organizers to attempt to adjudicate allegations.  They have the right to 
> ask someone to leave, but ought to do so without leveling allegations at 
> that person.  There will obviously be judgment involved in such cases. 
> But to attempt to declare someone's guilt or innocence opens one up to 
> serious potential for lawsuits, at least in the USA (libel, slander, 
> discrimination, etc.)  Plus, it's not something that tech conference 
> organizers are trained to do well.

I agree that conference organisers should not be passing public
judgement.  However, they must privately make a judgement about
allegations, so that they can decide what the appropriate response

Julien Danjou writes ("Re: Code of Conduct at events"):
> I can't see how it can be useful to say to people in a code of conduct
> what to do and not to do, like e.g. do not kill anyone.

Not put your hand on someone's breast without asking first, for
example ?  Some people apparently think that this is just fine!

Clearly stating that (a) it is not and (b) the conference organisers
will not tolerate it, will probably help a lot.

> Writing your own set of laws and make the organizers have judgement
> calls sounds like western.

Again, this is a bizarre idea.  When you hold a party, do you not hold
your guests to standards of behaviour that are stronger than those
which the police will enforce in a public bar ?

Conferences are not fundamentally different.  There is a serious
question about what our community's mores /are/ but to say that we
don't have any is absurd.


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