Anti-harassment policy at various scientific/technical conferences

I’ve seen this policy announcement at a conference of an association for computer memory and at one for the vision science society. The second adapted the first’s. It ends with strong wording:

Anti-Harassment Policy
The open exchange of ideas and the freedom of thought and expression are central to ACM’s aims and goals. These require an environment that recognizes the inherent worth of every person and group, that fosters dignity, understanding, and mutual respect, and that embraces diversity. For these reasons, ACM is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for participants at our events and in our programs.

Harassment is unwelcome or hostile behavior, including speech that intimidates, creates discomfort, or interferes with a person’s participation or opportunity for participation, in a conference, event or program. Harassment in any form, including but not limited to harassment based on alienage or citizenship, age, color, creed, disability, marital status, military status, national origin, pregnancy, childbirth- and pregnancy-related medical conditions, race, religion, sex, gender, veteran status, or any other status protected by laws in which the conference or program is being held, will not be tolerated.

Harassment includes the use of abusive or degrading language, intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. A response that the participant was “just joking,” or “teasing,” or being “playful,” will not be accepted.

Individuals violating these standards may be sanctioned or excluded from further participation at the discretion of the organizers or responsible committee.

It is the last sentence that may be especially interesting to philosophers who were concerned about the APA’s reference to legal liability.** We probably should remind ourselves that actions do not necessarily follow words. For example, it may be that a complaint has to meet a very high standard of proof before any sanctioning occurs.

**(That is in fact a concern I share since I have seen how easily one can end up with costs over $100,000, and in fact for that reason declined to pursue fully my own interests in a case I initiated.)

7 thoughts on “Anti-harassment policy at various scientific/technical conferences

  1. It doesn’t seem like a high standard of proof if harassment is “speech that intimidates or creates discomfort”! Surely this is absurd.
    If I tell you, however nicely, that there is a fallacy in your argument, that will surely create discomfort. Are we to ban saying “here is the fallacy in your argument” at Philosophy Conferences? Or fear saying so for fear of creating discomfort and being tagged as a harasser? If I get frustrated by the constant interruptor and say firmly “Could you stop interrupting me?”, that will surely create discomfort.

    Beware of definitions of harassment. They serve only those in power. Because only those in power have the power to enforce them.

  2. AM, by “standard of proof” I wasn’t referring to the content of the complaint. Rather, I meant to refer to whether the claim had to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or just be something meeting the preponderance of evidence, or indeed just be more likely than not.

    I think that your concerns about power are often in place, but really not always. It is, however, not good for the underrepresented that they are underrepresented!

  3. Adele Mercier, I believe that you are taking that statement a bit out of context. The “discomfort” is with respect to “a person’s participation or opportunity for participation, in a conference, event or program.” So your example of pointing out a fallacy would not seem to fall under the definition, which actually appears to be of hostile behavior, not harassment. With respect to your second example, an individual who keeps interrupting you could (maybe) be engaging in hostile behavior under this definition (I don’t know). However you telling them to let you speak would presumably not.

  4. “I meant to refer to whether the claim had to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or just be something meeting the preponderance of evidence, or indeed just be more likely than not.”

    That is also something that serves only those in power. Because only those in power have the power to decide which of these “whether’s” counts in any particular instance.

    RE: “your concerns about power are often in place, but really not always”

    HA-HA-HA-HA-HA… “but really not always” HI-HI-HI-HI-HI… (Seriously: show me one single instance)

    Sorry. I’m sure I’ve created some discomfort.

  5. And YES! It is not good for (or just as importantly that) the underrepresented that they are unrepresented!

    My comment was rather of the nature: Beware what you wish for.

  6. JBR: My comments apply to your “would not seem to fall” (PS read the article: hostile behaviour IS harassment, by the def) and your “presumably”.

  7. AM, Your comments about those in power go too far. There are laws, rules of procedure and the powerful can lose their power. Not everything in the US, for example, proceeds just as those in power wish.

    One example of the powerful being judged and losing is the censuring the AAUP does.

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