I haven't been following the discussion slowly till someone proposed
violence as a response to unspecified harassment. Now I'm worried.
The policy which Ian quotes is based on the idea that no one must be
offended, which is a deadly opposite to academic freedom and open
discussion. What is "offensive"? With a policy like that, people must
weigh every word they say against the possibility that someone somewhere
might feel offended by it.
For example, I don't think there is any good evidence for the existence
of a deity. My saying just that could offend a lot of religious people.
If I follow the policy, I must not express that view in any public space
or online forum, including this one. I am already in violation of the
policy; kick me out.
"Non-verbal expressions" are included. Even a disapproving look could be
There can't be any free give and take of ideas without the possibility
that someone will be offended. Too many people, especially in the
academic world, prefer a nice quiet environment where no one says
anything troubling to a free and open exchange of ideas. It isn't far
from there to banning "offensive" books from libraries.
On 1/25/13 9:23 AM, Ian Walls wrote:
> My concern over the anti-harassment policy is part of the definition of
> "harassment", particularly:
> "It includes offensive verbal comments or non-verbal expressions related to
> gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability,
> physical appearance, body size, race, age, religious beliefs, sexual or
> discriminatory images in public spaces (including online)".
> I'm sure that no one in the community would intentionally "threaten another
> person or group, or produce an unsafe environment", but the policy does not
> seem to be oriented around intent, but rather the reaction of the person or
> group who feels offended. People can be offended by all variety of
> material, and there is no universal, objective consensus as to what is and
> is not offensive. This translates roughly to:
> "I am offended by something you said, therefore you harassed me".
> This makes me uncomfortable, because even though I can control my own
> behavior and treat others with respect, I cannot anticipate the reactions of
> others with sufficient accuracy to compensate for the risk of the sanction.
> Therefore for any interaction in Code4Lib under this policy, I have the
> wonder if something I've said may be misinterpreted or read into in such a
> way as to produce offense. Very stressful, and a deterrent to participating
> in the community.
> Having a section of the policy to deal with misunderstandings and
> inadvertent offense would go a long way towards alleviating my fear of
> banned for what would appear to me as no reason.
Gary McGath, Professional Software Developer