An ad-hoc committee on sexual harassment and more
From Yuval Rabani
Recently, many theoreticians have become aware of issues, stories, and rumors concerning sexual harassment within our community, in other CS communities, and more broadly in science.
A number of initiatives, most notably the mushrooming codes of conduct at theory conferences, are already being put into practice.
In consultation among some of the main organizations running theory venues (IEEE TCMF/FOCS, ACM SIGACT/STOC+JACM, EATCS/ICALP, SIAM/SODA+SICOMP) we’ve decided to appoint a joint committee to discuss and propose coordinated policies, procedures, and institutions to deal with harassment and related ethical issues which cut across organizational boundaries. Sandy Irani will chair the committee. Its charter is stated as follows:
“We are setting an ad-hoc committee to draft a proposal for joint ToC measures to combat discrimination, harassment, bullying, and retaliation, and all matters of ethics that might relate to that. Proposed measures may include, but are not restricted to, coordinating policies and guidelines, and setting community-wide institutions for reporting and oversight. The primary goal should be a determination to deter and root out such behavior in the theory community. The issues of false reporting and due process should be taken into account. The committee is expected to conduct the necessary research on existing practices. The committee will submit a report to the appointing organizations by September 30, 2018.”
If you wish an organization be included in the loop, please contact me. If you wish to convey to the committee ideas and thoughts, please contact Sandy or other members as they’ll be announced.
In the meantime, while we are waiting for the committee’s more thoughtful suggestions, here are a couple of simple and potentially effective steps, off the top of my head:
1. If you are harassing someone, please stop.
2. If you are not harassing anyone, please don’t start.
I will gladly contribute to a lively open discussion and react to comments, especially if they occasionally reach my awareness by relaying their existence to my email feed. (Regrettably, I don’t spend all my waking hours monitoring theory blogs.)
I would like to suggest an additional simple step:
3. If you see someone who is harassing someone else, say something.
At times very simple interventions work: like pointing out to the harasser that his/her actions can be perceived as harassment.
Yes, of course, I agree.
Since witnesses seem rare, I would add to this:
4. If someone confides in you about harassment they’ve just experienced, please don’t offer just sympathy, but also sound advise on some action of redress, however small it might seem.