Pragmatism in the real world

Codes of conduct

As my mind turns towards the conferences that I’m attending this autumn, I came across Why you want a code of conduct & how we made one by Erin Kissane. I highly recommend that you read it and the links within it.

The part that struck me most was the thoughts on a plan of action. It’s all very well to have a code of conduct, but if the event’s organisers haven’t got a plan on how to deal with reports and actual enforce the code, then it’s a waste of time and doesn’t help anyone.

I can imagine that reporting, in particular, can be more complicated than initial thoughts would imply. “Just talk to a member of staff” doesn’t work very well for everyone as they always seem busy.If they aren’t busy, then they are usually surrounded by people; not everyone is confident enough to interrupt and say “can I have word, privately”. I can see why the really good codes of conduct have a telephone number on them. One code of conduct I read says that the report should preferably be in writing. That may be useful legally, but I’m not sure that that sends the right message.

Similarly, I wonder if the organisers with a code of conduct have a plan of action and know what they will do in advance if a report is made. Have the organisers discussed how they will react if it’s a close friend that’s caused the problem? Have they talked about what actions will result in a warning & which will require the attendee to leave the conference? Most importantly is it clear how any such decisions will be made and who will actually talk to the harassing attendee? I really hope so as it’s incredibly hard to sort these things out during an actual incident.

I think the visibility of any code of conduct says a lot about how important inclusiveness is to the conference organisers. A conference I attended recently called out the code of conduct right at the start of the introduction. I liked this a lot.

Inclusiveness is important to me. Going forwards, this will be a factor I take into account when deciding to attend a conference. The conference organisers set the tone they expect and then it is for us, the attendees, to call out any unacceptable behaviour we see before it becomes an incident needing to be reported.