Accessibility, Tech

F@*K Your Code of Conduct

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I have to be honest and say that I totally don’t get the trend around Code of Conduct declarations for tech conferences. Apparently, tech conferences need to declare a safe place for all attendees. People are serious about this, refusing to attend or speak at a conference unless there is an established Code of Conduct. I get it, some horrible things have happened in the past I absolutely agree that we should feel free from harassment when we attend these events, or in life. Period.

WTF, people? These are tech conferences! We are smartest people on Earth! Are you telling me we don’t know how to act in public? We don’t already know that we are not allowed to harass women, or support Donald Trump-type racist views? How are so enlightened and forward thinking, but lack so much common sense and respect. Did functional programmers miss this part of elementary school?

You want to know who doesn’t have/ need a Code of Conduct? Accessibility conferences. I just spent the last week at the 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, affectionally known as CSUN 2016. This is my third year attending, and I have never been so proud to be around such caring, respectable, helpful, and compassionate people. We don’t need a Code of Conduct because we have an empathy for humans, it’s what we do.

Everywhere you look, people are helping other people. Holding elevator doors so that guide dog’s tails don’t get caught. Assisting people find seats, maneuvering crowds of people. Amazing kindness and patience. It’s like nothing here.

The most beautiful moment was watching people with disabilities participate in karaoke the other night, complete with sign language interpreters for deaf people. We laughed, we sang, we danced, we embarrassed ourselves. Nobody felt unsafe, and this was with alcohol involved!

Do we need to make CS students attend anti-harassment training like professional sports? Do we need PSA’s before anime movies and video games?

Code of Conduct declarations for tech conferences are so bogus to me. I don’t think these people are worried about getting kicked out without a refund. The small little link at the bottom of your conference site is not helping anyone or preventing anything. Damage is done.

We need to do better, people…

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  1. >Code of Conduct declarations for tech conferences are so bogus to me. I don’t think these people are worried about getting kicked out without a refund. The small little link at the bottom of your conference site is not helping anyone or preventing anything. Damage is done.

    So what should a marginalized attendee do in the event of sexual (or other) harassment at a tech event, then? If there is no stated policy for dealing with uncomfortable situations, the harassed person might never come back to the event. But the harasser sure would, and the cycle would go on.

    It isn’t just about posting the policy, although that does explicitly set boundaries for how one should behave at an event. It’s also a framework for organizers for how to deal with the situation (communication, where the line is for appropriate behavior, what happens when someone violates it).

    I’m afraid your privilege as a white male is showing strong on this one. As a conference speaker and now organizer I DO require a Code of Conduct for any event I’m at, because what do you if someone harasses you? I wouldn’t know what to do at CSUN beyond bring it up to my employer, but not everyone attending has a big crew of people with them, with their own employee conduct policy (a privilege of mine, in this case). If the harassment was done by someone “important” at the conference I could see that going very badly without a clear policy and communication channel. That could mean nothing is done about the situation, and that’s a big problem for inclusivity and our industry in general.

    Maybe you personally don’t need the CoC because of your status. But to deny it for folks who need protection and support from harassment and simply hoping for the best is naive.

    Respectfully, I disagree with your post and I hope that CSUN adds a Code of Conduct for all of our sake.

    1. Hi Marcy, the spirit of the post was to espouse the good nature and morality/ ethics that we, as accessibility professionals, try to champion and evangelize every day. I remember at the time I wrote the post I was overwhelmed by the kindness, courtesy, and overall good spirits that I felt at CSUN, maybe the one of few times out of the year I am reminded that, even though we have a lot of work to do, there are still decent humans left in the world. However, occurring at the exact same time were some issues at other tech conferences, that did have a CoC, that showed me the stark difference that it’s PEOPLE that make the community, not a copy/ paste of a boilerplate set of guidelines.

      For the record, I am not denying or protesting the right for people to feel protected by a CoC. I am just pointing out that, as fully-grown adults/ humans, we should not NEED one. I find it very sad and disappointing that we do.

      Furthermore, we have never met in real life. I am not sure what led you to believe that I am a “white” male. Maybe I am too pessimistic but nothing about my life experiences, being born to immigrant parents of different ethnicities, allows me to see that I have any kind of status or privilege that you think I may have. I am humbled if you think I have any kind of status in this industry, I take that as a compliment, but I have worked very hard for every little bit I have achieved.

      Lastly, I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time to read anything I have written, and going so far as to comment and try to have a conversation about this. As a shameless plug/ plead, I hope that you had the opportunity to read some of my other accessibility-related posts.

    2. I won’t knock the motive of wanting to set certain expectations and standards, its commendable.But to think that fine print is guaranteed to protect you and/or keep an already twisted individual in line is a bit naive in itself.As a black woman that is not the reality of the world I live in. I’m trying to figure out how one would “require a CoC FOR any event you’re at,” but in the same notion feel it’s acceptable to assume this post writer is white and privileged in an effort to heighten your opinion. Code of conduct anyone? I believe the focal point of this article was to highlight the acts of kindness at accessibility conferences to which I’ve witnessed as well.So I second that emotion… we must hold ourselves accountable above all else and do better.

  2. I’m sorry if I got that wrong, and more importantly, if my comment crossed a line. I made a guess based on what I gathered from exploring the content of this website. I do think we’ve met, but that’s besides the point.

    I still feel that having a clear policy for how to deal with harassment would be helpful at CSUN–and this blog post is now being held up as an example of “why we don’t need one”. Codes of conduct also don’t mean you can’t state any form of criticism, or make simple mistakes. It’s about having a communication channel for people to deal with incidents that would prevent someone from coming back to a conference event. There has to be a threshold of in/acceptable behavior, and a dialogue when dealing with it. I personally don’t understand the binary decision of “f*ck it”, when a Code of Conduct is intended to act as a blueprint for conflict negotiation.

    Again, I’m sorry for the offense as I tried making my point. Codes of Conduct are a sensitive topic for many, and I hope that something more positive comes from this in the future.

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