image: protestors at nightholding signs in front of a statue, the largest banner reading “STOP RAPE CULTURE.” source

A Conference Sexual Harassment Policy

The National Society of Black Physicists hosted a meeting last weekend, and a board member asked me to put together a policy to regarding appropriate behavior and sexual misconduct. My lawyer husband did a lot of the work, and I helped with the language around responsibilities of senior people, regarding alcohol, and a couple of other bits. I’m sharing it in case this language is useful to anyone else. If you use our version, please give credit. Non-minority organizations should have a policy that addresses racist harassment. For obvious reasons, we did not focus on this for NSBP. But racist harassment is just as significant a problem as sexual harassment, but far less likely to be addressed in needed ways.

NOTE: Best practices in conference anti-sexual harassment statements recommend that there is both an announced statement at the conference opening, as well as a formal written policy, so that both staff and attendees have something to reference in the case that an incident is reported. This document is based on model policies online, such as https://adainitiative.org/continue-our-work/conference-policies/ and http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy

NSBP is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks. We expect participants to follow these rules at all event venues and event-related social activities, as well as outside of event activities during the conference.

Faculty members and postdocs should be particularly aware of the power dynamics between themselves and students. Please take special care to ensure that more junior attendees experience a harassment-free conference and are treated respectfully and first and foremost as colleagues and fellow physicists. Remember the significant role that you can play as a mentor in the life of a junior researcher. If a student approaches you or agrees to socialize with you, please keep your interactions in the spirit of mentorship.

Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference at the discretion of the conference organizers.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to [emphasize]:

  • Verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination
  • Comments that are lewd, lascivious, demeaning or derogatory
  • Unwelcome discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Sexual images in public spaces
  • Deliberate intimidation, stalking, or following
  • Harassing photography or recording
  • Sustained disruption of talks or other events
  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Unwelcome sexual attention, including any specific activity for which affirmative consent was not requested and given
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviour

Alcohol consumption or use of other intoxicating substances is neither an excuse nor an invitation for harassment.

If someone makes you or anyone else feel unsafe or unwelcome, you are not required to but you are encouraged to report potential incidents and conference staff will take seriously all concerns brought to them. [Conference staff can be identified by t-shirts/special badges/head sets.] Harassment reduces the value of our conference for everyone. We want you to be happy at our conference.

You can make a report either personally or anonymously. [Provide info on where to find information on how to report a violation, e.g. Program insert and/or website. See sample of Reporting Procedures on this page: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassment/Policy]

Our anti-harassment policy can be found at: [Include Link to Website and/or reference Program insert]