Re: Code of Conduct at events

From: Ian Jackson <ijackson(at)chiark(dot)greenend(dot)org(dot)uk>
To: spi-general(at)lists(dot)spi-inc(dot)org
Subject: Re: Code of Conduct at events
Date: 2010-11-11 13:56:55
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Adrian Bunk writes ("Re: Code of Conduct at events"):
> 2. Formally defining what is correct and what is not is hard.

We don't need a complete list of everything which is acceptable or
unacceptable. It suffices to mention the things which cause trouble.

> People from many different cultures meet at conferences, and if things
> like hugs that are normal for some people are considered inappropriate
> for others you need to inform people, not implement rules for passing
> information about a cultural misunderstanding forever to future
> conference organisers.

If someone nonconsensually hugs me at a conference I will be very
angry. (And I speak of someone who is often amenable to a hug.)

The point of having a written down policy and printing in the README
is so that the innocent cultural misunderstandings can be avoided. In
practice no-one is going to take an isolated minor incident, without
any aggravating factors, to the conference organisers.

I would expect that if someone oversteps the mark they'll be told it's
not OK, referred to the policy in the README, and then they will
apologise to the aggrieved and that will be the end of it. If such a
thing does get to the organisers they need do no more than make sure
that the misunderstanding is now resolved.

If the apology isn't forthcoming, or inappropriate behaviour
continues, I would hope that the organisers, if they are told, would
explain clearly to the perpetrator that they must stop. In which case
the next conference obviously need to be told that this has happened
so that the conrunning community isn't memoryless.

> 1. What if the code of conduct conflicts with the law?
> Sounds strange, but Ian's proposal says "homophobia ... will not be
> tolerated".
> What happens if a conference is in a country like Singapore or
> Saudi Arabia where sex between men is illegal?
> You cannot punish someone for reporting a major crime [1] to the police.

Have you ever been at a party where people smoked cannabis ? [*]
If I were at such a party and decided that I ought to call the police,
I would expect that the host would throw me out and never invite me
back. I think no-one who heard about it would invite me at all any

> [1] according to the local law, e.g. capital punishment in Saudi Arabia

So, you are supposing a conference in Singapore, where two same-sex
attendees who had been getting it on in their hotel room were reported
to the police by another attendee and possibly executed ?

I very much hope that this would result in the police's informant
being completely ostracised from our community. I would find it
impossible to be civil to such a person.

Luckily this is all hypothetical.


[*] I have no idea whether that would be illegal in your jurisdiction,
so feel free to answer hypothetically. Simply attending such a party
is not a crime in Britain.


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