Code of Conduct at events

Barak A. Pearlmutter barak at
Thu Nov 11 13:51:56 UTC 2010

> ... sexual assault ... code of condut ...

This looks like a case of the following logic.

 1. A bad thing happened.

 2. It would be better if such a bad thing did not happen again.

 3. Something must be done.

 4. This (i.e., a code of conduct) is something!

 5. Therefore it must be done!!

I've been an organiser of a number of large conferences and workshops.
Many bad things have happened in their penumbra (unofficial parties,
on ski slopes, while people were crossing the street on their way to a
talk), including not just inappropriate boorish sexual behaviour, but
also very serious injuries.  Examples: a leg sliced open to the bone;
anaphalactic shock from hazelnut oil in the salad dressing at the
keynote dinner that almost killed someone; a guy inappropriately and
repeatedly kissing his ex who was wearing fishnet stockings and a
micro-mini-skirt at a workshop-associated party.

I don't see how, in the particular case under discussion here, or for
that matter any case of inappropriate conduct that I've heard of, or
any of the injuries of which I'm aware, a published "code of conduct"
would have made any difference whatsoever.

 - No one would read it.  ("Click-through workshop license, WTF?")

 - The people at the conference are adults; the organisers and their
   agents are not acting in loco parentis.

 - This alleged event occurred outside the conference, at a bar.  That
   is true of the vast majority of "inappropriate sexual behaviour"

 - The conference organisers have zero real power to tell people what
   they can or cannot do at a bar after hours, or at a party in
   someone's hotel room.

 - These sorts of events often involve alcohol or other substances
   known to impair judgement.

 - Conference organisers have no training or experience in evaluating
   such incidents, getting to the bottom of them, dealing
   appropriately with their aftermath, etc.

 - If the conference organisers were to actually sanction someone for
   alleged bad behaviour, they would open themselves up to legal

Summary: get a grip.

It is the job of the organisers, in their official capacity, to put on
a good conference.  It is the job of people hanging out at bars and
parties and ski slopes, not acting in any official capacity but rather
acting like responsible human beings, to notice bad (or dangerous)
behaviour in their group and help squelch it at the time.


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