Our Code of Conduct is a statement of values. Ultimately, however, it is only as good as its enforcement procedures. This procedure documents actions to be taken by CAA leadership and events organizers in the event of a violation of the Code of Conduct. It can be difficult to respond to these situations, so this guidance is designed to ensure that CAA and events leadership respond responsibly and effectively.
All members of the CAA Governance Group must be available to take reports on Code of Conduct violations. Organizers of CAA events and communication spaces must also be available to take reports of violations in those spaces. Reports must be taken using the following procedures.
Upon receiving a report of a violation of the Code of Conduct or Community Agreements, ask the reporter if they would like to make a formal report. Let them know that you can’t make any promises about how it will be handled, but their safety and confidentiality will be a priority. Take a written report, or write down verbal reports as soon as possible. Reports of any length should be taken in a quiet, private space. If the following information is not volunteered in the written or verbal report, ask for it/include it, but do not pressure them.
- Identifying information (name if possible) of the participant violating the Code of Conduct
- Reporter’s name and contact information
- The approximate time and date of the behavior (if different than the time the report was made)
- Place of the incident
- What happened (try to collect as much information as possible to provide a clear understanding of what occured)
- Other people involved in the incident
Do not question the reporter’s truthfulness. It is your job to maintain a supportive environment and ensure that fair procedures are followed, not to conduct an investigation. Do not summon law enforcement unless there is a threat to physical safety, or at the request of the reporter (see Threats to physical safety and law enforcement section, below).
If the reporter is distressed and/or needs additional assistance, offer them a private space to be in, ask how you can help, and make sure they have local emergency contact information (included in the Code of Conduct). Ask if there is a trusted friend they would like you to get; if so, have someone bring that person.
If the incident was widely witnessed: Thank them for the report and tell them you will convene the members of the Governance Group.
If the incident was private: Thank them for the report and say you will convene the Governance Group if that is okay with them. Consent is critical. Be explicit with the reporter about with whom you intend to share the report.
- Pressure them to withdraw the report.
- Ask for their advice on handling the report or imposing penalties. This is the responsibility of project staff and facilitators.
- Share details of the incident with anyone, including CAA leadership, without the specific consent of the reporter.
Be aware that people who have experienced harassment and abuse may be re-traumatized if the details become public. In addition, abusers may recognize these details, even if they have been anonymized, become angry at the reporter, and enact further trauma. Again, confidentiality and consent are incredibly important.
Threats to physical safety and law enforcement
If you have any concerns as to anyone’s physical safety, contact venue security or local law enforcement immediately.
Do not involve law enforcement under any other circumstances except by request of the reporter. Remember that some participants will experience law enforcement as increasing, not diminishing, threats to their safety, so it is very important that they be in control of this choice.
If escalation leads to a harasser being required to leave an event, and they refuse to leave, it may be necessary to involve location staff, other employees, or law enforcement as a last resort.
Conflicts of interest may include relationships of the following nature with either party:
- Close friendships
- Business partnerships
- Romantic relationships
- Family relationships
- Hierarchical academic or business relationships
- Any other significant power relationship
- Significant personal conflict
- Involvement in the incident
If you think the nature of your relationship with either party is such that you would be significantly biased for or against them, or if you would be in a position to retaliate against or receive retaliation from either party depending on the outcome, you should recuse yourself. Additionally, if the nature of your relationship is such that outside people might reasonably perceive a conflict of interest, you should recuse yourself.
It is not necessary to recuse yourself on the basis of having been present at a public violation under discussion, or on the basis of the sort of general friendships and acquaintanceships which many people share in professional spaces.
Recusing yourself means you should stop influencing the decision in any way. Don’t participate in the discussion, and don’t discuss the decision with others (including other staff), read or write the documentation, etc. If there are email threads, group chats, etc., leave them if possible (and if you haven’t recused yourself, don’t include people who are recused in these group communications).
Responding to reports
Send the report immediately to the team of Code of Conduct responsible reporters using established private communication channels, and/or convene a meeting (physical or virtual) as soon as possible (within 2 hours if during an event, or within 1 business day if not at an event). Do let the alleged harasser know that a complaint has been lodged (reread the language above about confidentiality and consent first). CAA is not in a position to conduct exhaustive investigations, so don’t. It may be necessary and prudent to gather some additional information before reaching a decision, however.
At the meeting, discuss:
- What happened?
- Are you doing anything about it?
- If so, who is doing it?
- When will they do it?
Specific sanctions may include but are not limited to:
- warning the harasser to cease their behavior and that any further reports will result in other sanctions
- requiring that the harasser avoid any interaction with, and physical proximity to, the reporter(s) for the remainder of the event
- early termination of a presentation that violates the policy
- not publishing the video or slides of a presentation that violated the policy
- not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event
- immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the harasser holds requiring that the harasser not volunteer for future project events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
- requiring that the harasser immediately leave the event and not return
- banning the harasser from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
- publishing an account of the harassment
Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to require an apology. If a harasser would like to apologize, this may also be a bad idea. Do not include the reporter, the alleged harasser, or anyone with a conflict of interest at this meeting.
If there is no consensus in the group on a response, the coordinators will determine and communicate the course of action.
Violations that have been reported second hand, not by the target of the violation, should be handled on a case by case basis. Keep an eye on those involved in the report and, if need be, approach the affected parties.
The CAA Governance Group will determine whether private (not widely witnessed) incidents need to be addressed with the CAA membership. Widely witnessed incidents should be addressed to the broader membership community.
As soon as possible after the meeting, communicate your decision and any actions you are taking to involved parties.
When meeting with someone accused of harassment, follow the Rule of Two – have two volunteers in the room. Any more than two might be viewed as piling on the person, any less than two is a safety concern.
Remind individuals of the Community Agreements and point out any pertinent sections regarding the nature of the report. The Community Agreements serve to provide a structure for supportive, effective and inclusive collaboration.
The broader CAA membership community
First, reread the language above about confidentiality and consent, and consider this section in that light.
- Do respond quickly.
- Do keep individuals on both sides of an incident anonymous. (Potential exceptions: when a harasser is in the CAA leadership; when the incident was public and high-profile.)
- Do provide a general sense of the nature of the incident.
- Do say what you have done in response to the incident.
- You may briefly note any steps taken by harassers to remedy the situation (e.g. apology, leaving the conference). Don’t give them a cookie for it.
- Do provide multiple avenues for community feedback to CAA Governance Group. This feedback should be private. If you provide only one feedback mechanism, make sure it is accessible to everyone (e.g. email good, in-person conversations bad).
- Do reiterate the CAA’s values.
Your goal is to be transparent about your process and values while respecting the privacy of individuals involved. Keep it brief and clear. There will probably be upset community members who want to talk. Governance Group members should listen to them nonjudgmentally, take notes if needed, thank them for their feedback, and not flip into problem-solving or explaining mode. Apologize as needed; avoid defensiveness.
In creating this document, we were inspired by and made use of the Islandora Collaboration Group, Vox Product Team Code of Conduct, the DLF Code of Conduct, the DHSI Statement on Ethics and Inclusion, the Ansible Community Code of Conduct, the XFR Collective Code of Conduct, and the Recurse Center’s User’s Manual.
Procedures for Responding to Violations was adapted from the Lighting the Way Forum which was adapted from the Code4Lib Procedures for Reporting and Responding to Violations of the Code of Conduct.