Originally posted as a comment to: Comments on Wiscon, the Frenkel Decision, and Harassment, by Antarcticlust
I'm on the Wiscon concom, and I'd like to say a few words about how this post by Antarcticlust
and the discussion in the comments has dramatically changed what's going on in the concom right now. The concom was initially presented with the Frenkel subcommittee's decision on July 15, with the following preface:"This statement has been sent to Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski, per their request. We are also circulating it to the concom for your information and advance notice; while we welcome your comments, this is the final document and it will not be changed at this point."
The concom has basically been schisming all weekend over the decision. Concom members have been asking repeatedly for clarification on the timeline of the provisional ban and on the subcommittee process which led to it. Why was such a large emphasis put on rehabilitating known serial harasser, and such a small emphasis on protecting the community from him?
As the clarifications seemed to only increase the confusion, a large number of the concom found ourselves unable to stand by the decision and questioning the motives of the subcommittee in making it. Some number of us have started drafting an open letter demanding the decision be revisited, we don't care how "final" it is supposed to be.
Wiscon itself was and is in danger this weekend, both as a concept and in practice. Various individuals from both sides are contemplating quitting the concom in sheer frustration, when the concom is already badly understaffed. A few of us are starting to think "burn it all down" makes sense. What's the point of a "feminist" convention if it can't listen to its own community and protect that community from harm?
This post by Antarcticlust and the comments on it have dramatically changed the concom discussion. While the information provided here has raised as many questions as it has answered, it has made clear to the rest of the concom how the subcommittee could have arrived at the decision it did: by consciously omitting most of the relevant information about Jim Frenkel's history in the SFF community, and by (apparently?) failing to discuss much of the information that was requested from Wiscon members for the purpose of making this decision.
Because Antarcticlust believes in and prioritzes transparency, and stuck her neck out and exposed her own and the subcommittee's ignorance to the scorching light of day, we now know some of how this happened. The discussion on the Wiscon concom has changed dramatically overnight. Several members of the Frenkel subcommittee (not all! -Ed.
) have stopped angrily defending their decision, and are now considering the possibility that they made a very bad mistake. People are calling for a vote to throw out the current decision.
We still need to come up with a new decision. The current policy is still obviously flawed. I'm pretty sure we're still going to lose several critical concom members in short order. The concom still doesn't have an adequate mechanism for giving enough weight to the community before it rams itself angrily down our twitter feed. Wiscon is still in danger, both as an abstract concept and as an event that continues to happen in future years.
But I'm a lot more optimistic today that Friday's decision will be thrown out, and that we'll find our way to one that prioritizes the safety of the community. What the hell else is a harassment policy for?Answers to a few questions I've seen here and elsewhere:How is it possible for the members of the Frenkel decision subcommittee to be so ignorant of his history?
Guys, I've been active in the SFF community since 2006, and on the Wiscon concom since 2010, and until two years ago, I didn't know about him as anything other than "an editor at Tor". This is what a missing stair is: a problematic individual in the community that is never discussed publicly, only via grapevine warnings. But the grapevine took 6 years to reach me, and I'm decently networked-in. Classic serial harassers rely on this lag time and lack of public disclosure to both maintain credibility within the community (with colleagues who have never had bad experiences with them, and dismiss the rumors if and when they do hear them) and to have access steady supply of unwitting victims (who haven't been in the community long enough to connect to the grapevine).
That is how much of the subcommittee could have been that ignorant. And that is also why a decision which prioritizes rehabilitating an accused serial harasser over community safety is no damn good, and needs to be thrown out.How is it possible for someone so ignorant of the harassment events at Readercon to be the head of the Wiscon Harassment Policy Committee?
Antarcticlust was the right person for the job because she understood the need for someone to do it, and she had a plan, and she was willing to spar with reluctant and established concom members to get it in place before W38. Antarcticlust is a career academic, and the plan was based on the well-established academic model for dealing with harassment cases. Of course, this model has known flaws, and (in hindsight) I think the subcommittee system failed in a pretty typical fashion.
I'm not sure why she says she was unfamiliar with the Readercon events--the Wiscon concom did pass around the new Readercon policy early this spring, and we did discuss it. I think what Antarcticlust means is that she wasn't familiar with the incident that led to Readercon revising its policy, and so she didn't pay close enough attention or understand the context of it.
Nonetheless, prior to W38, what Wiscon had was a decent code of conduct, and no system whatsoever for dealing with reports once they were filed. Antarcticlust understood this was a problem months before we started uncovering missing reports. Antarcticlust made sure we had a real policy in place before W38, that we had positions with continuity and redundancy so that reports couldn't continue to be lost, and that the work didn't get shoved under the table during the rush to actually put on the convention.
She's willing to be proven wrong and admit ignorance, and she prioritizes transparency. She's currently reading through the Readercon history; by tomorrow, she's likely to be our leading expert.
If she has to step down as head of the Harassment Policy Committee, I kind of hope there will be a way for her to stay on the committee. She gets shit done.
Wiscon Concom, Readings Dept. W35-W38
Harassment Policy Committee W38
DISCLAIMERS: I am not speaking for the Wiscon concom here, only my own experience on it. I am not even speaking for The Radical Splinter Group That Opposes the Frenkel Decision. This is all my own opinion and personal perspective.
Also, I have mild dysgraphia, and will fix typos when I see them. Sorry. I am a full-time student, and will respond when I can (likely before I fix the typos).