All committee members should read this document and be familiar with its contents.
Be sure to have a good understanding of our Code of conduct. Also make sure you have a good understanding of what is expected from an attendee who reports a harassment incident. Such guidelines can be found .

First steps on receiving a complaint

Try to get as much of the incident in written form by the person reporting the incident. If you cannot, transcribe it yourself as it was told to you. The important information to gather includes the following:

  • Identifying information about the attendee doing the harassing
  • Details on the behaviour violating the code of conduct
  • Approximate time and location of the incident
  • Any surrounding circumstances
  • Other people involved in the incident

Prepare an initial response to the incident. Follow these guidelines depending on the severity of the incident reported:

  • If there is any general threat to any attendee or the safety of anyone is in doubt call security or the police
  • Offer the victim a private place to sit and calm (remember the Whitworth room is the breakout area)
  • Ask “is there any friend or trusted person who you would like to be with you or who you’d like us to contact?” (if the person is present get a volunteer to fetch this person)
  • Provide them with a list of emergency contacts should they need help later
  • If everyone is presently physically safe, involve law enforcement or security only at a victim’s request

Also as a general guideline DO NOT do the following as an initial response:

  • Do not overtly invite them to withdraw the complaint or mention that withdrawal is OK. This suggests that you want them to do so, and is therefore coercive. “If you’re OK with it [pursuing the complaint]” suggests that you are by default pursuing it and is not coercive.
  • Do not ask for their advice on how to deal with the complaint. This is a staff responsibility.
  • Do not offer them input into penalties. This is the committee’s responsibility.

Handling a complaint

Once you have received a harassment report, meet immediately with the conference chair and other committee members (aim to get hold of your diversity chairs). The main objective of this meeting should be to find out the following:

  • What happened?
  • Are we doing anything about it?
  • Who is the perpetrator?
  • When was that being done?

After this meeting and discussion, have a committee member (preferably the conference chair if available) communicate with the alleged harasser. Make sure to inform them of what has been reported about them.
Allow the alleged harasser to give their side of the story to the staff. After this point, if report stands, let them know what actions will be taken against them.

Some things you might want to consider when dealing with offenders:

  • Warn the harasser to stop their behaviour and that any further reports will result in sanctions
  • Ending a talk early that violates the conference policy
  • Not publishing the talk or video that violated the policy
  • Avoid any interaction between the harasser and the victim for the rest of the event
  • Require that the offender leaves the event
  • Immediately ending any event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the harasser holds
  • Banning the harasser from volunteering or presenting at any other RSE conference (permanently or for a period of time)

The way we as a committee deal with the incident publicly is very important. We need to make sure that everyone aware of the initial incident is also made aware that official action has been taken, while respecting the privacy of the attendees. When talking about the incident to those who are aware of it, but were not directly affected, the best approach is to leave the details out.

Depending on the incident the conference chair might decide on making a public announcement to the community via the channels the committee judges appropriate (e.g. before a keynote session, using the slack channel). No other member of the committee should make official announcements.