WisCon and Harassment

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.
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June 1, 2014

Some background.

WisCon 38 happened the last weekend in May and one of the things that came out of the post-con reports was that Jim Frenkel was allowed to attend and not only that, he was allowed to volunteer in the consuite.

This is not okay.

Also not okay? The fact that WisCon’s con comm buried a report of harassment about one of the convention’s regular attendees for ten months. (ETA 6/12/14: screencap)

Rose Lemberg’s harasser, F.J. Bergmann, was allowed to volunteer as well. At the registration desk.

And then, Lauren M. Jankowski, who filed a report about Jim Frenkel last year found out that her report had been lost and she was told that the other person who reported had requested he not be banned, which turned out to be not true. And she blames herself for believing what the convention volunteer told her: “…a con safety volunteer told me that the harasser was back because the individual had requested he not be banned.”

Again. This is not okay.

WisCon, get it together. You’re allowing known harassers not only to attend your convention after reports have been filed, you’re allowing them to volunteer and interact with vulnerable members of the convention.  You’re losing reports of harassment for months on end and allowing serial harassers who just happen to be local to continue to attend. You’re lying to people who have been harassed and putting the blame for that misinformation on other people who have been harassed. You’re also not engaging directly with people who have raised concerns about their safety at your convention.

Not. Okay.

Here’s WisCon’s harassment policy (scroll down).

How nice to see that people accused of harassment have the right to appeal. What about the rights of those who have been harassed? Do they have the right to have their reports responded to in a reasonable length of time? Do they have the right to not be lied to about actions taken or not taken? Do they have the right to attend a convention and know that their harasser will not be there? Or if they are there, that they will not be allowed to volunteer in public-facing positions?

Whose side are you on, WisCon? From where I’m sitting, it looks like you’re privileging local attendees with a history of harassment and that is not okay.

This feels entirely too much like what happened with Readercon in 2012they went against their own policy in part because René Walling was (and still is) a SMOF; it took considerable public pressure to force them to reconsider their decision and rework their policy.

Where’s the public pressure on WisCon?

(Thanks go to AS, AJ, and SA for reading this for me before it went live. Much appreciated, gentlepersons.)

(Also note that I will be moderating the ever-loving fuck out of the comments.)

ETA: WisCon published an official statement last night after this post went up. I find it curiously unsatisfying as responses go.  The co-chairs for WisCon 38 were Joanna Lowenstein & Piglet Evans. Veronica Schanoes dug up this information; it was not anywhere on the WisCon website.  Great transparency there.

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