Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
Given recent circumstances, now that CoNZealand has (officially) closed we feel that a well-though-out response is merited to questions asked of us over the last few days. We have chosen this format to try and respond in full; to quote a mutual friend, you can't tweet nuance.
The easiest question to answer is whether or not we intend to run Retro Hugo Awards: No, we do not. While we understand that some family members very much appreciate getting Hugos for the work their parents (or grandparents) did, the reaction to the Retros has been increasingly mixed. On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being.
Secondly, there have been a lot of questions about "What do you intend to do to make marginalized people comfortable at your convention?" This is a somewhat more complicated answer, and why we've written this post instead of attempting a chain of tweets:
- We already have a Bid Code of Conduct. We have had this in place for quite some time, because we realize its necessity for both our volunteers AND the people with whom they will interact. Our convention Code of Conduct will look similar to the bid Code of Conduct, albeit with added nuances to deal with the conduct expected of convention staff, major guests and speakers, "regular" panelists, and attendees.
- There's a saying that "poor communication kills", and having a wonderful Code of Conduct is useless if it is not conveyed to all parties involved. We intend to ensure that our staff and panelists are briefed on the Code of Conduct and that it is made clear to guests. Most importantly, for major speakers and guests (e.g., ToastPerson for the Hugos, and Guests of Honor), we intend to have a serious discussion with them well in advance of their events to ensure that they are comfortable with the Code of Conduct and that any questions are answered. We will do our best to vet any remarks which are to be delivered at major convention events in advance.
More to the point, if we cannot come to an understanding with a guest or speaker regarding the Code of Conduct, then we will not put that guest in a position where they feel they cannot comply with it. If we are sent an advance recording of non-compliant remarks, we will either edit them, or we simply won't run the remarks.
- As to "live" material, we obviously cannot exercise absolute control over what guests are going to say/do at a panel. We can and will make expectations clear, but we also realize that sometimes these expectations will not be met. While we intend to be proactive (see above), we know that the odds are good that we will have to respond. So we intend to communicate the consequences for breaking the Code of Conduct as well. These may include, depending on the exact circumstances (i.e. seriousness of the breach, whether it was or seems to be premeditated, etc.), anything from a reprimand, to the premature termination of a speaking opportunity, to removal from programming and/or the convention.
- We are expecting to have several teams at the convention, along the lines of recent IRT/Listener teams. We are studying best practices for these teams, and have not yet determined what we want to put in place to ensure that reporters feel comfortable and safe reporting anything that might happen, to ensure that responses can be taken quickly and at an appropriate level, and to make it very clear that no one at the convention is 'above the law' in this respect, including committee members and the IRT itself.
- We intend to be as proactive and attentive as we can be regarding the makeup of panels and making sure that panelists are not "miscast" out of the blue or placed with people they know they do not get along with. We will also do our best to ensure that a broad range of topics are covered, and to work with various marginalized groups to ensure that their views are represented.
- Finally, we know that despite our best efforts, we will slip up somewhere along the line. We're human beings, after all. This is an "unknown unknown" for us, so if and when we fail to achieve our objectives along the road, we intend to own up to it, apologize (and we do mean apologize), and make it as right as possible, as soon as possible.
We welcome input and feedback on our plans, and are actively recruiting staff to work on these issues. Our hope is that very few of the clear, comprehensive apologies we've promised have to be issued, and that no one will be able to accuse us of not learning from our predecessors.
– Kate Secor and Cliff Dunn, Memphis in 2023 Bid Chairs