Call for Member Comment on Draft SAA Code of Conduct

At its May 22-24 meeting, the SAA Council discussed a draft "code of conduct" for SAA meetings and online spaces. From the discussion paper: "The ability of SAA members to participate fully in the various events hosted by SAA is a key component in the Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Members who feel unwelcome, unsafe, constrained, or silenced are not able to participate fully in SAA.  A Code of Conduct is intended to provide one way for members to report harassment. It does not guarantee a harassment-free environment in SAA events and online spaces. However, a Code of Conduct does let members know that SAA is creating a culture of concern and establishing a place where members can participate freely in professional and social interaction, knowing that harassment is not part of that culture and will be opposed by all members of the SAA community."

The Council seeks broad member comment on the draft "SAA Code of Conduct" below. To comment on this draft: Log in and post comments publicly to the website, or send your comments via email with the subject line, "Code of Conduct," to saahq@archivists.org. Deadline: June 22, 2014, 5:00 pm Central time.

* * *

DRAFT SAA Code of Conduct*

SAA does not tolerate harassment in any form. In keeping with the core principles stated in its “Code of Ethics for Archivists” ** and “Equal Opportunity/Non-Discrimination Policy,” the Society of American Archivists is committed to providing a harassment-free environment for its members and others who participate in its conferences, events, meetings, and online spaces, regardless of age, color, creed, disability, family relationship, gender identity/expression, individual life style, marital status, national origin, physical appearance, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Harassment may include abusive verbal comments and/or discriminatory images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Conference, event, meeting, and online participants who are asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.  Those who violate these rules may be expelled from the conference, event, or meeting at the discretion of the organizers or denied access to the online space at the discretion of the administrator.

If you feel that you are in immediate danger at any time during an SAA Annual Meeting or event, contact law enforcement (by dialing 911) or the facility front desk without delay.  If you are not in immediate danger but feel that you are being harassed or that someone else is being harassed, or if you have other concerns, please contact the SAA Executive Director immediately.

At the SAA Annual Meeting:  Go to the Onsite Registration Desk and ask the SAA staff member there to contact the Executive Director.  You may be asked for a cell phone number at which the Executive Director can reach you.

At Other SAA Events/Meetings:  Discuss your concerns with the presiding officer or instructor and/or contact the SAA Executive Director at 866-722-7858 or nbeaumont@archivists.org.

In SAA Online Spaces:  Contact the administrator or the SAA Executive Director.

Content presented at SAA conferences or meetings or online may at times deal with sensitive subject matter, ranging from visually sensitive historical material (such as images related to acts of genocide) to sexually explicit language or images (such as in archival letters, nude photographs, or film or audio recordings). This policy is not intended to constrain scholarly or professional presentation, discourse, or debate, as long as these exchanges are conducted in a respectful manner.

 

* This draft policy is based on US OpenGLAM Friendly Space Policy (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/US_OpenGLAM_Launch/Friendly_space_policy), which in turn is based on the Geek Feminism Wiki sample policy (http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment_policy).

** See particularly “Archivists cooperate and collaborate with other archivists, and respect them and their institutions’ missions and collecting policies.  In their professional relationships with donors, records creators, users, and colleagues, archivists are honest, fair, collegial, and equitable.”

27 Comment(s) to the "Call for Member Comment on Draft SAA Code of Conduct"
MyNameIs says:
Omphaloskepsis

At this point I think SAA has been shamed into doing this.  I think the Council should go ahead and check the box that we've done this, just to make sure we are on the good side with other organizations that have such a policy.  Without it, some may not come to meetings, which would be a poor business decision.  Minimal discussion and move on quietly to other issues.  No reason for us to take more time to examine this deeply.  If you have concerns about this based on expression, legal ramifications, or whatnot, just stand down.  Do not let yourself be declared a part of the boorish minority.  Go along to get along. I mean, if ALA did it, why shouldn't we?

SamWinn says:
A good start

I think this is a vitally important effort. Having a clear Code of Conduct allows SAA to anticipate, preempt, and quickly address incidents of harassment and marginalization within our professional spaces. We are relatively small compared with other information organizations, but we are growing. I am grateful that SAA has chosen to proactively tackle these issues.

In contrast to other commenters, I appreciate how this document cites specific policy precedents. I recommend preserving the references to the Code of Ethics and EO/ND policy; these represent positive models of behavior. Additionally, the "immediate danger" caveat helps to distinguish what kinds of concerns should be brought to the Executive Director and meeting staff; for the sake of mitigating liability, it makes sense to keep this caveat in place. 

I do have some concerns about the reporting process. Will the Executive Director have any assistance in fielding these complaints? Hopefully they will be rare, but I understand that this position is already quite busy. What happens to the reports/complaints after they are submitted? Will they be documented for a specific period of time? Will they be reviewed by another administrator? Will the reporter's information be kept confidential?

Finally, I agree that it would be helpful if someone could clarify whether this Code of Conduct will supersede existing Terms of Participation for online spaces. I certainly hope it does. 

jjfloyd says:
In Support

I am writing in support of the Code of Conduct as outlined. It is a concise and powerful statement because it outlines our expectations for our membership and those that participate in our events and online spaces. It also gives clear guidelines for individuals who feel those expectations are not met, empowering them to raise their concerns to the highest levels within our organizations. This allows the code of conduct, if adopted, to act both as a preemptive statement of values, reiterating our commitment to diversity and openness across our membership, as well as a clear articulation of a method of redress when those values are not upheld.

Like many who have commented here, I am fortunate to have not personally experienced the type of harassment mentioned in the code. However, I would not want to be affiliated with an organization for which the standard for addressing a concern is whether or not some portion of its members have a personal experience with the issue. The very fact that the concern is raised within the membership should be sufficient cause for the organization to take steps to evaluate and resolve them. This Code of Conduct is a valuable step towards ensuring our organization becomes a space everyone can come to without fear of harassment.

- Jeremy Floyd

schmengels says:
Agree with SKelly

I see no harm in having this new code of conduct with the changes proposed by SKelly. It's a bit heavy-handed in its language and open to too much interpretation, imo. Clear up those issues and it appears fine to me.

I will say that in my 13 years as an archivist I have never experienced or witnessed at a SAA event any of the behavior the code refers to, but if it is out there I hope that this will help deter it from happening.

I have witnessed and experienced harassment and bullying in the workplace so I know the anger and helpless feelings it can generate. I don't want any member of SAA (or anyone anywhere) to ever feel that way.

jwbrett says:
In Support of the Code of Conduct

I'm wrtiting in support of the Draft Code of Conduct as presented on the SAA website. It's wonderfully simple and direct, and strongly reaffirms what should be our committment as an organization, to decent, mature and respectful personal and professional conduct.

Now, it's true that I, for one, have never been harrassed or bothered at any SAA event, but I can't say that of everybody in the membership. Who can? We can't know everybody's experiences, and I worry that some people may have felt harassed, intimidated, or otherwise threatened in the course of an Annual Meeting or other event, but kept silent about it. If it happens, even once, that's one too many times and we as a professional organization should not tolerate it.

This Code is a good step forward in creating a welcoming atmosphere for all. And I know there will likely be some members who will say "why do we need this?" "This kind of thing has never happened." "What good does it do?" To those, I would say, it's called being *proactive*. Let's create workable tools and policies before an incident occurs, shall we? Have you never had to put together a disaster plan before?

jmdooley says:
In support of an SAA CoC

It may be unfortunate that we live in a world where professional organizations feel compelled to enact codes mandating mutually respectful behavior, but alas, we do. I see the CoC as an act of consciousness raising: some of our members have experienced the types of behavior covered in the statement, while others aren't aware that a problem exists. It reminds me of the climate 20+ years ago when it became recognized that we didn't all understand how to respect diversity (in all its many forms). One heard people say things such as "I'm not prejudiced or racist. Diversity statements and training are unnecessary/stupid." A CoC is one more step toward mutual understanding.

Skelly says:
A few sticky points of order need to be defined...

I'm still on the fence about SAA needing a Code of Conduct when the Code of Ethics and EEOC policy is in place. In reviewing the Code of Conduct as written, the first sentence appears extraneous and unnecessary. The document can begin with the sentence "In keeping with the core principles..."  The policy states that its purpose is that the organization is committed to providing a harassement-free environment.  I am a bit unclear what is considered a "discriminatory image in public space"?  Particularly when the last paragraph gives a warning about sensitive subject matter during content being presented.  IMO, the last paragraph should be moved up to be the third paragraph so it connects this disclaimer with the previous description. Likewise, the current third paragraph about participants complying should be moved down below the process for reporting harassment so it appears in the proper process order.

I recommend striking the words "during an SAA Annual Meeting or event," and "or the facility front desk without delay."  If you are in immediate danger, you should dial 911 directly, and then (if possible) notify the facility manager (so they can direct the response team.)  This sentence is a stand alone and not inherent upon being in an SAA sponsored event space. 

The first action step in the COC process would be to report any harassing behavior to the SAA Executive Director, and the COC lists various methods. The last item "In SAA Online Spaces" should also include the Administrator email or SAA Executive Director email (as it does above) for consistency.

The next step in the process isn't fully defined. I presume it would be information gathering by the Executive Director or administrator in order to make a determination of whether harassment did, in fact, occur before taking punitive measures. Does SAA have a Complaint Reporting Policy/Process? If so, this COC should refer to that document as the official investigative process. If not, the process should be defined here.

When the complaint is made regarding behavior within an online space, (ie: one of the email distribution lists) would this COC policy only apply to a public or private email discussion list that does not currently have a posted and Council approved Terms of Participation that includes due process for punitive action? Or would the COC supersede the Terms of Participation due process?  That needs to be clarified before Council approves this document.

Otherwise, we then move to the part of the process where the offending participant is asked to stop, is expected to comply immediately, and may be expelled from the meeting.  Why is this expulsion at the discretion of the organizers - and not based on the decision of the Executive Director, to whom the harassing behavior has been reported?  With regard to being denied access to the online space at the discretion of the administrator, is this the additional public/private email lists or will this supersede the A&A Terms of Participation which states that punitive action requires the approval of Council?

In conclusion, I would not be too hasty in approving the COC as written, but take the time to resolve a few of these conflicts to ensure Council adopts a Code that will not put the organization at risk. 

elawrimo says:
I support the CoC

I support the development of the Code of Conduct. There are many positives that would come from this Code -- many of which have been outlined by others below. Most importantly, it demonstrates a commitment to diversity and respect for all SAA members/event attendees. Even if no harassment has ever occurred in an SAA space, ever (which I doubt is true -- others are likely just lucky in that it has never impacted them), I fail to understand others' objections to the Code. You can't simply dismiss the entire idea of a Code of Conduct by saying "I demand examples of past harassment" or, even worse, blaming "relative newcomers" for wanting a "cultural change."

For me, this is akin to disaster planning. I personally have never worked in an archives that has suffered a major disaster. Yet I recognize the real possibility of a disaster striking. So I  have a disaster plan that outlines the steps to be taken in case of disaster, and I make sure that my staff and other affiliates understand the plan and its application. We're all on the same page *in case* something  happens. I don't demand evidence of past disaster before planning. I might look at other organizations to see what disasters they've encountered, and use this to inform my planning. But I don't wait for disaster to strike before I plan.

Kate Bowers says:
Support

I support the code of conduct. It forms a strong foundation for the Society's goal of fostering a welcoming community of professionals that encourages the participation of all.

It does this in three ways.  First, it communicates clearly that this is a Society that expects its members to treat others with respect.  Second, gives members an unequivocal reason to expect professional and respectful interactions.  Third, it provides a clear path to follow if a member encounters unwelcome behavior.

I applaud the care that has gone into constructing the CoC and thank the members who have worked so hard on it.

paulscott says:
I thank terryx and the others

I thank terryx and the others who posted links explaining the background of this initiative. I see the problem, but it is not with the Society of American Archivists, nor our allied organizations. It is with less mature occupations and their events. None of the incidents posted on the geekfeminism site had anything to do with us.

 

There is a strong connection between those who have posted comments here in favor of the Code and those who a week or so ago advocated a major cultural change to the Archives & Archivists ListServe.  There, they made claimsof people leaving the List because of a “hostile” environment.  They failed to provide any evidence of their allegations despite being asked to do so.  Telling.

 

It appears that many of those advocating change are relative newcomers. I appreciate their desire to make profession better, but suggest that they look for real shortcomings rather than projecting the faults of others onto us.

 

I hope Council will follow its initial instincts and let this matter drop as a solution in search of a problem that does not exist.

SamWinn says:
Examples of Codes of Conduct in other organizations

I am curious what some would consider an appropriate threshold for taking action. The fact that SAA members have expressed concerns about these issues merits a serious discussion. Several of our peer organizations among the LIS professions have instituted anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct. These were not predicated on a specific incident (although anecdotal incidents have been reported for years), but emerged as a response to dialogue about how to improve their organization. Here are some examples within the U.S.

American Library Association: http://ala14.ala.org/statement-of-appropriate-conduct

The Digital Library Federation: http://www.diglib.org/about/code-of-conduct/

Code4Lib: http://bit.ly/coc4lib

Special Libraries Association: http://www.sla.org/attend/2014-annual-conference/general-info/anti-harassment-policy/

sbennett says:
Drawbacks?

paulscott, it's not entirely clear to me what you think the drawbacks will be to instituting a CoC. I understand your concerns that SAA should focus on "real issues," but since this has been put on the table - ie, others have made this a real issue for SAA to work on - I'm not sure what the remaining concerns might be. Could you (or others who are not in favor of this CoC) explain more?

Thank you for participating in this conversation - debate and differing viewpoints are a good thing, in my experience.

bhouston says:
Strongly Support

This strikes me as a no-brainer. Far from being a solution in search of a problem, professional codes of conduct are responses to a problem that is insidious specifically because it is not immediately visible to all parties. Having a code in place for SAA will make the organization's events, workshops, and online spaces more welcoming to a broader set of archival professionals, actively furthering the diversity goal in the organization's strategic plan. I appreciate especially the discussion of consequences for violating the code-- too many of these documents lack teeth, and so their effectiveness is diminished.

Kudos to the drafters for their hard work and to council for recognizing the necessity of this document. At the same time, I hope SAA will not take the existence of this document as a definitive solution to the harassment problem-- it is a necessary but insufficient step on its own. Vigilance on the part of SAA and its members is still a vital component.

dwhartwig says:
kudos

I wholeheartedly support the SAA Code of Conduct and all such efforts to foster environments free from harassment of any kind. I thank those involved for showing leadership and encourage colleagues to advocate for codes of conduct at all related organizational conferences. In addition, I recommend that we advocate that our own institutions support conference anti-harassment policies as we have done at Stanford: http://library.stanford.edu/news/2013/07/sul-supports-conference-anti-harassment-policies.

Such codes of conduct are not just consistent with our professional Code of Ethics and Core Values, they inform our day-to-day work and the collections and history we help shape. 

Daniel Hartwig

lancestuch says:
Great Job

I support this statement as written, with the addition of a review mechanism. I believe the adoption of a Code of Conduct will only strengthen discourse at meetings and online spaces. One needs to only look around at other incidents at similar professional gatherings to see the need for something like this at SAA. While I have always felt welcome at SAA sponsored gatherings, I certainly do not take that as some sort of proof that harassment has never or will never happen, or that protections like this code are not warranted.

I applaud those who drafted this document and who pushed through the initial resistance experienced when this was first brought up at council. It is great that there are people within this organization that are working to address real problems and foster a positive environment for all attendees. Well done.

~ Lance Stuchell

elliotdwilliams says:
In favor

I support the Code of Conduct as written, and greatly appreciate the work of everyone who was involved in crafting it.  A statement like this is an important step in continuing to ensure that our professional spaces are open to all.  I hope that we can all agree that we have a responsibility to each other to ensure that our meetings and online spaces are safe for all.  Many of us already feel like they are, but that is not a universal experience.  This Code of Conduct will hopefully help more people feel like they can actively participate in SAA's work.

astrauss says:
Well done

Thank you for working to draft this Code of Conduct. I appreciate that it will be viewed as a "living document" and will continue to be revised as needed. 

In reading some of the comments on about this document and the Code of Conduct that ALA recently put in place, I am struck by the notion that some colleagues see these codes of conduct as limitations on free speech / intellectual freedom. In my view, their intent and affect is quite the contrary; these guidelines foster intellectual freedom because they help maintain a safe environment for all. I am glad that many people do not see the need for this Code of Conduct because it means that they likely have not experienced harassment at a conference. But, just because one has not personally experienced harassment at a conference does not mean it does not occur. I like to think of this code as evidence that we are a community that is banding together, explicitly stating what type of behavior is appropriate. If we prevent future harassement or create a safe space for those who have experienced it in the past, we will be all the richer as a professional cohort. 

terryx says:
a little background

For anyone interested in some background, there is a blog post up at Off The Record and the documentation from the January and May SAA Council meetings.

sammidown says:
I support the CoC as written.

I support the CoC as written. Thanks to those who worked on it for creating a well-worded and thoughtful policy that addresses several of the common concerns raised about such documents, without watering it down. I agree with the idea that the CoC should be reviewed regularly (I would say annually) and edited when necessary. 

Galva34703 says:
In Favor

No incident in particular need spur the development of a COC. It's preventative to have a mechanism in place for when incidents requiring a response occur. More speakers, researchers, and students will not attend conferences without a COC in place. 

This is not at all about free speech or intellectual freedom. This is about fostering a respectful environment. Sadly, incidents do happen. Your not hearing about them, or insisting you associate with people who "would never do such things!" does not erase the need for a COC. 

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents

sbennett says:
In favor

SAA is committed to diversity and professionalism, among other things. A code of conduct is an appropriate way to ensure that online and in-person community spaces remain collegial and welcoming, in keeping with our professional values. I found the points put forward recently in regard to ALA's Code of Conduct, some of which are cited in the Council's discussion item of our CoC, useful in understanding how simply having a policy can act as a sign that we are as committed to these values as we say we are; in effect, putting our money where our mouths are.

I will agree with Jordon that it would be nice to make it clear that we offer these guidelines as an extension of the values we already profess in our Code of Ethics.

Thanks to all who worked on this effort.

slate says:
background on the code

What brought this on? I think members need to know if there was an incident or incidents that spurred the drafting of this code. No one needs to know names or places, just if something happened that precipitated this. The code is pretty narrowly defined and doesn't really address the full catalog of unacceptable behaviors that should be called out. I am particularly troubled that there is no definition of "harrasment". Debate and dissent are an important part of the dialogues we have at SAA Annual Meeting, and I'd hate to discourage that.

Is there a code of conduct for SAA employees? I'd lead by example first.

paulscott says:
Would someone please explain

Would someone please explain why this proposed code is needed? I may well be oblivious, but I have not witnessed the type of conduct it purportedly addresses.

I have witnessed some pretty heated exchanges at annual meetings, but they were debates--disagreements over professional and social issues which should never be mistaken for harrassment. I also note that I fit a couple of the protected profiles, but I have never felt that I required any special consideration.

Like Jordon, I see no huge need for it, but unlike Jordon, if it is not needed I do object because it would be nothing but fluff and I believe that SAA should concentrate on real issues. One commenter said that it should be on the registration form. But, is the form not already long enough? Adding it would come a a cost--perhaps a minor cost--but, still, a cost.

If someone can point out to actual instances of stalking, harrassment, diruptive behavior, etc. I can get aboard. But first, show me the evidence.

zimmer6000 says:
I approve of this message...

I approve of this code as written. Well done to all involved. It's proactive and I really liked that you tied it to the code of ethics and the equal opportunity policy. This will help the regionals make a case for their own codes.  The fact that a draft was proposed helped the Northwest Archivists Board make a case and get member buy in (and approval) for our own CoC.

The only thing that I might add is a statement on the review process of this document.  Is it annual or as needed? It will change; it has to. I think the real benefit of codes such as this is that it can be nimble. Building in a way for that to occur could help. Also, who would I contact if I had language suggestions 2 years down the road, the executive director? That might be another useful addition.  The barrier between member and council can already seem like a brick wall.

josh z

jordon says:
Looks good; revise the opening

Hi, I frankly see no huge need to have such a policy (unless there's some legal reason), but I also have no objection to its existence.  Why not.  However I think the way it is currently written (or the fact that it is being written at all) suggests that this type of behavior is currently an issue at SAA meetings and so it needs to be corrected.  My impression is that this is not true, and I trust the authors would agree with me.  In this regard, creating such a code of conduct for our organization has a different intent than, say, similar ones that have come up in the tech community, where I have been alarmed to read about episodes of misogyny, sexual harrassment, and all around obnoxious macho posturing happening at meetings.  This is at odds with my impression attending SAA meetings, where I have found people to be unfailingly collegial and tolerant of all kinds of perspectives and orientations.

If you agree with the above, I would encourage you to revise your preface to include some language that makes explicit that this code of conduct is not meant to serve as a corrective to bad behavior, but, rather, codifies the spirit of tolerance and respect that SAA members have taken great effort to preserve.  You don't want to send the signal that this code of conduct is a solution in search of a problem.

I'll add that I think nothing about the way this is written will serve to silence differences of opinion.  I figure y'all thought a lot about that, so good job crafting the language in such a way. 

eiratansey says:
In support of the Code of Conduct

I support the current draft of the CoC as it is written. If/when it is adopted, I would appreciate if it appears on the registration form for the annual meeting.

mjgascoine says:
Code of Conduct draft - comments

Code of Ethics and Conduct? Perhaps the code of ethics should be changed to include guidance on professional conduct in an outside venu such as Annual Meeting or in public discourse as in the SAA listserves rather than drafting a seperate document. I feel intimidated just reading the draft! What if you are having a bad day and decide to voice an unpopular opinion that is heard by others? Does that mean you are publically reprimanded? I think we should be more tolerant of each other and that SAA should not be the primary voice of special interest groups. There are other places for that. I attend conferences and workshops to learn about my profession. However, I do agree we should all be able to do that without fear of harm or intimidation. I am just not sure this document will do it.