How do I know this? Dave Silverman just told me so on a conference call. “I want people to have sex at our conferences.” This was also the conference call on which he said, “I am emphatically intolerant of harassment.”
I endorse both these statements, and I think American Atheists have done a great job of putting together a policy that is, as Dave described it, “sex-positive and harassment-negative”.
Dave was one of the first people to commit to getting a policy in place. He volunteered the information that AA would be adopting a policy within hours of the suggestion being made and without being specifically contacted on the topic. As he explained on the call, AA had already been looking at policies because there was a report of a problem at the end of the last conference. There wasn’t a process in place then to deal with it, and Dave didn’t want to be caught unprepared again. I offer big kudos to him and to AA for being proactive about this.
The majority of the call was handled by Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ Administrative Director. She’s also a lawyer, so she was prepared to respond to questions and suggestions on the spot, which she did.
The result is a document that is an excellent starting place. It is based on the policies from the Geek Feminism Wiki, the OpenSF conference, the National Organization of Women, and the ACLU. These documents were used because AA liked their positive policy statements. This is what we expect. These are the people we want to feel welcome. This is what will happen if someone does not respect your limits at our conference.
This policy also goes well beyond dealing with sexual harassment. It deals with the accomodations AA makes for people with disabilities. It commits to making these conferences family friendly. It reminds people to turn off their cell phones. It is, in fact, a comprehensive code of conduct for an open, welcoming conference. It should go a long way toward Dave’s goal of making AA’s conferences “happy, safe, and informative”.
It is meant to be a living document, with updates made as AA has conferences. It will be adjusted as necessary after the regional conference here in Minnesota in August. It will be adjusted as necessary after the regional conference in October (which location I missed and can’t immediately find). It will be adjusted as necessary after the national conference in March.
This document will be easy to find. It will be:
- Posted on the AA website today.
- Touted by press release in the next day or two.
- Posted on each individual conference website.
- Sent to speakers. (I presume this will apply to vendors as well, though I didn’t think to confirm it on the call.)
- Printed in the program in at least a condensed form with a link to the full online version.
- Discussed in the opening of each conference.
There will also be training that goes with this policy. AA staff will receive training on sexual harassment from the same people who train government employees. This training will be adapted for conference volunteers, and Amanda herself will train them. She will also be the person responsible for collecting reports of harassment, although Dave will have the ultimate call on what happens with any individual reports. Additionally, AA is working to identify ways to have victim advocates available to the participants at any individual conference.
I will update this post to link to the policy once it’s in place, but for now, you can see it at Jason’s. He also has some excellent news on progress on the TAM harassment policy. It’s very good to see JREF both taking this seriously and communicating about that publicly. Kudos to D.J.
Update: The policy is posted!