Safety, Transparency, and Harassment

At last year's Wiscon, the FOGcon head of Safety, Alan Bostick, participated on a panel called "Exclusion and Inclusion, or Kicking People Out: A How-To Guide," about dealing with harassment at cons. He spoke about his hope that harassers can be rehabilitated, as he has been; yes, 25 years ago, he treated fellow con-goers in a way that he now recognizes as harassment.

A FOGcon member recently emailed us about this situation. The member said having Alan in charge of safety would make her reluctant to report harassment.

We view this as a serious issue. FOGcon was founded on a basis of being safer space. We've spent the past couple of weeks thrashing out all the implications. At first, it seemed that it might be necessary for Alan to resign or be asked to resign.

To be clear: nobody, including the letter-writer, is accusing Alan of harassing anyone now. Alan has done an excellent job in safety at a number of places, including Wiscon, FOGcon, and Pride parades. When Elise Matthesen was harassed at Wiscon, Alan was the safety staff member on shift, and Elise has publicly discussed her satisfaction with how WisCon handled the incident.

This is not a case of our accepting Alan's word over a victim's. This is a case where Alan's word is the only reason we know this happened. Alan's willingness to look at his own past behavior and honestly name it for what it was indicate a commitment to not minimizing or concealing harassment.

It might be useful to explain how Safety works at FOGcon. Safety carries out many activities in addition to responding to harassment. The chief duties of the head of Safety at FOGcon are to recruit, coordinate, schedule, and train Safety volunteers. The Safety volunteers respond to emergencies, help the confused, find the lost, and de-escalate difficult situations. Furthermore, members can report a harassment incident to a number of different people, depending on
who they are most comfortable with. The possibilities include the Safety volunteer on duty, the Con chair and vice-chair, and a number of Safe Responders, in addition to the head of Safety. Once the report has been made, the Concom as a whole and ultimately the Con chair are responsible for deciding how a harassment incident should be handled. It has never been left up to Safety.

Not everyone would be comfortable reporting to Alan, that's true. But it's also true that for a number of different reasons, someone may prefer to report to someone of a particular age, race, gender, orientation, or even emotional style. They might be more comfortable reporting to a friend than a stranger, or vice versa. It's impossible to have one person who feels safe to everyone.

We also understand that the idea of rehabilitation makes many people uncomfortable. We want to emphasize that while many of us involved in FOGcon do believe that harassers should be allowed the opportunity to come back into the community, we don't believe that this should be a consideration at the time of a harassment incident, at the convention
where an incident occurs, or in any way that adversely affects anyone who has been a target of the harasser in question. Our priority is always stopping the harassment, giving the person harassed what they need, and ensuring the safety and comfort of convention attendees.

We're working to create safer space. We hope this information better enables our members to make choices based on their values and their needs.

Signed,

The FOGcon 4 ConCom

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