How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports

How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports

By Valerie Aurora
Book Description

This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory

  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report

  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics

  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 8 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits. For more information on code of conduct training and consulting, click here.

“As part of co-chairing an international conference which did not have a code of conduct in its earlier editions, I have to write a principled and precise code of conduct as well as respond to reports. This book was an invaluable help, as I had no previous training in this area. This book is an important contribution to making academia a safer and more welcoming place. I recommended it to many of my colleagues.” —Vincent Lostanlen, postdoctoral fellow at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“I highly recommend Val Aurora’s new book on code of conduct enforcement. Until reading it I had no idea how unprepared I’d been to deal with a code of conduct violation at the Tech Intersections conference. It was also interesting to read.” —Ellen Spertus, computer science professor at Mills College

“Valerie helped us write and adopt a code of conduct that could be a model for our industry as well as a guide for our firm. She is deeply experienced and gave nuanced, direct advice and we look forward to using her book to train our staff.” —Samantha Wong, partner at Blackbird Ventures

“Val was a trusted adviser to us as we planned and practiced responses to Code of Conduct incidents that might arise at conferences or in our open source communities. Her advice was practical and paired with a diverse set of potential scenarios to build confidence, and with it we felt prepared to act in a responsible and orderly way.” —Brandon Philips, co-founder and CTO of CoreOS

“Valerie advised us when creating the code of conduct in Wikimedia’s technical spaces. Her input was invaluable in navigating the challenge of creating a code of conduct that was co-created by our community. Her advice was practical, flexible, and informative, and empowered us to produce a code that represents our communities’ values, has a framework for updates and improvements, and continues to improve the experience of our technical contributors all over the world.” —Moriel Schottlender, Senior Software Engineer, Wikimedia Foundation

Table of Contents
  • Title Page
  • Introduction
  • If you are in a hurry
  • How to use this guide
  • About the authors
  • Terminology
  • Chapter 1: Code of conduct theory
  • Purpose of a code of conduct
  • What a code of conduct should contain
  • How a code of conduct works
  • Education
  • Norm-following
  • Attraction and repulsion
  • Deterrence
  • Boundary setting
  • The Paradox of Tolerance
  • What a code of conduct can't do
  • Codes of conduct govern community spaces
  • Violations must have meaningful consequences
  • Codes of conduct must apply to powerful people
  • Visible enforcement is required
  • Summary
  • Chapter 2: Preparing to enforce a code of conduct
  • Publicizing the code of conduct
  • Identifying community members
  • The code of conduct committee
  • Choosing code of conduct committee members
  • Communicating with each other and the public
  • Choosing a decision method
  • Adopting an incident response guide
  • Record-keeping
  • Training the committee
  • Training report-takers
  • Avoiding or mitigating higher-risk activities
  • Make arrangements for legal advice
  • Updating code of conduct materials
  • Summary
  • Chapter 3: Responding to a report
  • Start the response deadline clock
  • Check to see if everyone is safe
  • Write down the report if necessary
  • Make a preliminary announcement if appropriate
  • Ask for recusals
  • Organize a committee meeting
  • Do additional research
  • Meet as a committee
  • Choose a response
  • Take any actions necessary to implement the response
  • Inform the target and harasser of the response
  • Communicate the response to others
  • Respond to criticism
  • Summary
  • Chapter 4: Discussion
  • What does not belong in a code of conduct
  • List of unacceptable behaviors
  • Transformative justice and codes of conduct
  • Recusing committee members
  • When individual safety conflicts with community safety
  • Protecting the community's reputation
  • Safety is more important than privacy and confidentiality
  • Responses not to use
  • Do not ask for apologies or forgiveness
  • Do not ask the target to decide the response
  • Do not mediate
  • Do not guard the harasser or the victim
  • Do not ask the harasser to stay away from the target
  • Holding powerful people accountable
  • Putting legal concerns into context
  • Responding to incomplete or late reports
  • Investigating the incident
  • Impact is more important than intent
  • Distinguishing good intent from bad intent
  • DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender
  • Judging competing claims of marginalization
  • Social awkwardness and harassment
  • Mental health and harassment
  • Children, caregivers, and harassment
  • Sexual behavior and communities
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Choosing a proportional response
  • If a harasser refuses to follow the code of conduct
  • Responding to protest from the alleged harasser
  • Communicating the response to others
  • Responding to criticism
  • Dealing with attacks on the committee or community
  • Summary
  • Chapter 5: Examples of responding to reports
  • Wikimania 2012 sexualized presentation
  • DjangoCon EU 2017 transparency report
  • Denial of validity of code of conduct
  • Harmful question during a talk
  • Sexist comment on clothing
  • Photographer creates awkward situation
  • Write the Docs EU 2016 transparency report
  • Attendee uses derogatory term
  • Inappropriate joke in talk
  • PyGotham 2017 transparency report
  • Self-report of an ambiguous joke
  • Attendee denies making off-color joke
  • Volunteer overwhelmed by requests
  • Attendee makes unwelcome advance
  • Bad-faith code of conduct report
  • Racist comments at a conference
  • Oppressive comments in online chat
  • Anonymized conference transparency report
  • Attendee invites women to hotel room under pretext
  • Inappropriate touch reported after conference ended
  • Unwanted sexual advance
  • Inappropriate touch
  • Inappropriate pulling on clothing
  • Drupal community incident
  • Background
  • Precipitating incident
  • Response
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Summary
  • Learn more
  • Acknowledgements
  • Appendix 1: Additional resources
  • Appendix 2: Report-taking form
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