Clarification on 2019 Perl Conference SoC Incident

2 Comments

There has been much discussion about the Perl Conference's Standards of Conduct (SoC) Committee's decision to delist a video from the 2019 Perl Conference videos. We would like to provide some additional context to help explain this decision.

This incident has been new to us from the beginning because it happened after the Perl Conference concluded. Most of our focus on SoC policy has been on handling incidents that might happen during a conference and our SoC committees typically were scoped to the days around the conference.

Now that conference videos remain available online, it's possible for us to receive an SoC report at any time, as happened in this case. This required our committee volunteers to work around existing commitments to find time to respond to the issue, which they tried to do as quickly as possible.

As part of the response, a public announcement was made regarding the circumstances of the incident, and some have asked why this was done. Links to the video in question had already been shared in several places before the report, so delisting the video was likely to break existing links. If this seemed to happen "secretly" it gives the impression that we may be trying to hide some activity. As an organization, we generally lean toward transparency as much as possible and did so in this case. This is consistent with public notifications in other communities as well.

However, we did not handle the content of the announcement as we should have. In an effort to explain the delisting and identify the video impacted, we also identified the speaker. Although it would have been possible to deduce which video had been delisted after-the-fact, we still should have kept the details out of the announcement. We acknowledge that this was not done properly, the post was updated, and we will evaluate our reporting policy going forward.

There are also some questions regarding the incident itself. Again, typically individual incidents, like an issue during a conference, are handled privately because it may involve only a few individuals. In this case a public video was the subject in question. The content of the presentation isn't in question since it's on the video. Rather the question is in the interpretation and whether the SoC was violated.

The assessment from the SoC committee is available in the original posting. Some might respond to this, "I'm not offended by that. I don't think it's an SoC violation." But in a global community such as ours, we must celebrate a diversity of cultures, ideas, and beliefs. There are issues that some people find problematic while others don't. The goal of the SoC is to provide "a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin." Achieving the goal of keeping our events open and welcoming to all requires everyone to stretch a bit and understand that if some portion of the audience believes some content to be "demeaning, discriminatory or harassing" then we need to review it with an open mind.

The decision was to delist the video and that is the current state. Given the amount of discussion this has generated, the board of directors is currently reviewing the process and we will have more to report after that review.

Our goal is to have all conference participants better understand the SoC and in doing so make all attendees feel comfortable and welcome. We hope we can continue to educate participants about expectations when attending conferences. And we hope to encourage speakers and audience alike to apply Postel's law in their conduct: "be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send." While we may disagree with each other from time to time, The Perl Foundation hopes that these incidents do not fracture our whole community, thereby damaging Perl itself.

2 Comments

Pursuant to https://perlconference.us/tpc-2018-slc/handling-standards-of-conduct-incidents/

Can you please clarify how TPF's response is in line with its stated policy as follows:

"Presentations or similar events should not be stopped for one-time gaffes or minor problems, although an event organizer or a volunteer should speak to the presenter afterward. However, organizers and volunteers should take immediate action to politely and calmly stop any presentation or event that repeatedly or seriously violates the anti-harassment policy. For example, simply say "I’m sorry, this presentation cannot be continued at the present time" and provide no further explanation."

Further, could you elaborate on how subsequent action in denying speaking roles is in line with the "general guidelines" quoted below:

"Expulsion

An event participant may be expelled by the decision of SoC Event Committee for whatever reasons they deem sufficient. However, here are some general guidelines for when a participant should be expelled:

A second offense resulting in a warning.
Continuing to harass after any “no” or “stop” instruction.
A pattern of harassing behavior with or without warnings.
A single serious offense, e.g., groping someone or a physical assault.
A single obviously intentional and extreme offense."

It seems that TPF has failed to follow its own policy guidelines.

Can people trust TPF if the SoC isn't applied as written?

Hi Perler,

As discussed here [1], we have reviewed this matter and we will make further analysis. We will incorporate the points you mentioned in the analysis. Thank you.

[1] http://news.perlfoundation.org/2019/07/board-response-to-soc-incident.html

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Brandt published on July 12, 2019 5:00 PM.

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