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CODE4LIB  February 2016

CODE4LIB February 2016

Subject:

Re: [code4libcon] Proposed Duty Officer

From:

Julie Swierczek <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 Feb 2016 10:30:05 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (13 lines)

I want to respond to this discussion.  Please note that I quote Kyle here, but I am taking his comments as representative of what many people might be thinking.  I am not trying to single out anyone, but these happen to be the words at hand. 

Kyle said: " For clarity, am I correct in understanding we are collecting feedback only on those volunteering to become duty officers, and not on those who compile/manage harassment information nor on those responsible for determining what actions to take in response to incidents of harassment?"

Does it really matter what kind of feedback people provide? The point of the feedback is to allow people to comment on the proposed duty officers, but if people want to comment privately or anonymously about anything related to duty officers, harassment, etc., they should feel free to do so.  I don't think it makes sense to try to restrict that by very narrowly defining what sort of feedback people are supposed to provide.  Also, I don't think we need to worry about the possibility that proposed duty officers who are not among the final group of duty officers implies that those candidates were reported as harassers.  It may mean they have scheduling conflicts.  It may mean that they have philosophical differences with code4lib's expectations for duty officers.  It might mean they just changed their minds. I don't think we will all leap to the conclusion that candidates that are not selected are harassers.

I also want to respond to some other comments.  Kyle said, "It's unfortunate people feel a need to move discussions offline -- I interpret this as meaning some people are afraid of repercussions for respectfully sharing thoughts on an issue that affects everyone."  It would be nice if we lived in a world where we could all speak openly about all issues.  That is not the case.  Some of us are silenced because of what we have said publicly, or we silence ourselves because we area afraid of what might happen if we respond publicly. (I had those exact concerns before writing this response.  I thought of staying quiet because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers.)  I think this is especially so for this topic.  We're not debating the best software here; we're talking about being attacked (verbally or physically) as a human being.  Some people need a cushion of anonymity or private discussion to feel secure enough to participate in these conversations. 

What some attendees might not understand is that some of us have to use gender-neutral account names in life just so that we can participate in the same way that they can.  We are very much afraid of repercussions for respectfully sharing our thoughts, even on something that seems value neutral like a pull request. 

code4lib is very inclusive and supportive, but that does not guarantee that everyone who attends the conference is going to be on his or her best behavior.  Kyle wrote, "My concern is that while harassment and assault are real issues, they have taken a life of their own and divert too much focus from helping people and improving everyone's skills to protecting people from attack." I worry about diverted focus too, but what I really worry about are how people who are harassed have their focus diverted from full and easy participation in a professional conference.  

I regret to say that people who have experienced harassment or assault will most likely be relieved at the idea of duty officers.  The people who think that duty officers are unnecessary or that they divert attention away from other efforts are most likely not speaking from experience of harassment or assault. (Here's another layer of privilege we can all consider: the privilege of not having been the victim of harassment or assault.)  I suggest that people who have not experienced harassment or assault give the other people the sense of support that having duty officers provide.  I am all in favor of improving everyone's skills, but, as Eric said, that is not mutually exclusive with having duty officers.  We try to teach people to behave appropriately in society at large, but we still have police officers.  Parachutists - even highly experienced ones - jump with a second parachute.  I don't want there to be a world of harassment and assault, and I strongly favor more education to help prevent it.  But that does not mean we should perform this stunt without a net.  We should not say, "We should strive to live in a world where there is no harassment and assault at conferences, therefore we should provide no support for that possibility." Some attendees will sleep more peacefully knowing that there are points of contact in case something terrible happens.  This is especially useful in an unfamiliar city when you're living at a hotel.  You don't want to be worried about details like who to call or what will happen to your stuff in your room while you are dealing with the consequences of someone else's terrible choices. 

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