“At the intersection of tech and human rights, there’s been real progress,” says Lex Gill, Citizen Lab research fellow and legal researcher at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “People are starting to realize that questions about gender, identity, and inclusion can’t be treated as side projects but need to be woven into the fabric of our organizations and events.”
It’s this philosophy of creating a safe environment that fosters creativity, compassion, and cohesion that drove the planning of the Citizen Lab Summer Institute (CLSI), including the implementation of a Code of Conduct for all attendees.
“Part of having a Code of Conduct is about giving language to behaviour we want to encourage and behaviour that we want to discourage in our collective spaces,” says Gill.
Gill was part of the Citizen Lab team who drafted the document and is quick to highlight that it would not have been possible without borrowing from an ever-growing library of amazing community resources, including: xvzf Code of Conduct, the Contributor Covenant, the Django Code of Conduct, and the Reporting Guide, with guidance from the Ada Initiative.
Among other items, the Code explicitly states that attendees:
- not engage in homophobic, racist, transphobic, ageist, ableist, sexist, or otherwise exclusionary behaviour
- must respect the online and offline privacy of others, including respecting their wishes to not have their photograph taken or any of their personal information shared
- should respect that attendees come from all over the world and in many cases speak English as a second (or third! or fourth!) language
- have an obligation to report any inappropriate conduct they observe, at the conference or at subsequent social events
The Code also highlights the process for making a complaint of a fellow attendee who is in violation of the outlined rules. This was intended to encourage participants to feel more comfortable coming forward by outlining how individuals can make claims, how they’ll be protected, which specific Citizen Lab staff members they could speak with, and the potential outcomes for those for found in violation of the Code.
As Gill sees it, events like CLSI allow organizations to put their guiding principles and philosophies into action, having direct consequences on the community at large.
“In bringing people together, we have an opportunity to have a conversation not just about the world we currently live in but also the kind of world we want to live in. And we can ask ourselves: how do we move a little bit closer to embedding those values in the way we organize ourselves?”
Think your next event might benefit from incorporating a similar document? Feel free to use ours as a template and/or review any of the resources cited.
Citizen Lab Summer Institute Code of Conduct
The Citizen Lab Summer Institute (CLSI) is an inclusive event where people should feel comfortable sharing their work, opinions, and perspectives. All of us commit to engaging with each other mindfully to ensure an environment that promotes shared learning and collaboration.
CLSI participants are expected to comply with the policies that govern all activities and behaviour at the University of Toronto, and to note particularly the Policy of Sexual Violence and Harassment, the Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment, and the Policy on the Temporary Use of Space at the University of Toronto.
In addition, we expect all CLSI participants to abide by the following parameters:
- Be respectful to others. Do not engage in homophobic, racist, transphobic, ageist, ableist, sexist, or otherwise exclusionary behavior.
- Use welcoming and inclusive language. Exclusionary comments or jokes, threats or violent language are not acceptable at CLSI. Do not address others in an angry, intimidating, or demeaning manner. Be considerate of the ways the words you choose may impact others. Be patient and respectful of the fact that English is a second (or third or fourth!) language for many CLSI participants.
- Do not harass people. Harassment includes unwanted physical contact, sexual attention, or repeated social contact. Know that consent is explicit, conscious and continuous—not implied. If you are unsure whether your behaviour towards another person is welcome, ask them. If someone tells you to stop, do so.
- Respect the privacy and safety of others. Do not take photographs of others without their permission. Note that posting (or threatening to post) personally identifying information of others without their consent (“doxing”) is a form of harassment.
- Be considerate of others’ participation, including use of conference time. Everyone should have an opportunity to be heard. In group sessions, please keep comments succinct so as to allow maximum engagement by all participants. Do not interrupt others on the basis of disagreement; hold such comments until they have finished speaking.
- Don’t be a bystander. If you see something inappropriate happening, speak up. If you don’t feel comfortable intervening but feel someone should, please feel free to ask a member of the Code of Conduct response team for support.
- As an overriding general rule, please be intentional in your actions and humble in your mistakes.
When does the Code of Conduct apply?
This Code of Conduct governs participation at the Citizen Lab Summer Institute conference. It applies to all CLSI participants at all sessions, as well as to all CLSI participants at after-hours social events.
The internet is real life! This Code of Conduct applies in all digital spaces connected to CLSI (e.g., group chat channels, mailing lists, collaborative documents) as well as physical ones.
Participants who have violated this Code may be excluded from this and future CLSIs, and may be asked not to attend after-hour events.
How do I report an issue related to the Code of Conduct?
This year, the Code of Conduct response team is:
- Ron Deibert — r.deibert at utoronto.ca — PGP
- Irene Poetranto — irene.poetranto at utoronto.ca — PGP
- Etienne Maynier — etienne at citizenlab.ca — PGP
- Lex Gill — lex at citizenlab.ca — PGP
Please speak to us if you encounter an issue—whether related to a specific situation or to a more general aspect of the Citizen Lab Summer Institute. The members of the Code of Conduct response team can contacted as a group (codeofconduct at citizenlab.ca) or individually, in person or by email.
You can also report issues to the Code of Conduct response team anonymously1 — but please use an email address where you’ll be able to receive replies.
The Code of Conduct response team is also able to provide information and assistance with regard to relevant University of Toronto services, such as referrals to the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office and the Tri-Campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre or an explanation of the procedure for initiating a formal report pursuant to the University’s Policy of Sexual Violence and Harassment.
What happens when I report an issue?
All reports will be heard, read, reviewed and investigated by the Code of Conduct response team. You can learn about how to report an issue and find the process we follow under Code of Conduct Report and Response Process below.
If you are unsure whether an incident is a violation of the Code of Conduct, or whether the space where it happened is covered by this Code of Conduct, we encourage you to still report it. We would much rather have a few extra reports where we decide to take no action, rather than miss a report we’re equipped to address. We do not look negatively on you if we find the incident is not a violation. Knowing about incidents which happened outside of our spaces or that were not direct violations of our Code but still made you feel uncomfortable can also help us to improve CLSI and the Code of Conduct for everyone2.
We also welcome general feedback or suggestions about how to make CLSI a more inclusive event. To share your thoughts, please write to us at codeofconduct at citizenlab.ca.
The Code of Conduct Report and Response Process
All reports will be heard, read, reviewed and investigated by the Code of Conduct response team. The process we follow when an issue report is made is detailed below.
The Initial Response
- The Code of Conduct response team member will read or listen carefully, compassionately, and respectfully to the issue. If the issue is reported by email, an initial response to confirm receipt will be provided without delay.
- Individuals who have reported an issue may withdraw their report and participation at any time, for any reason.
The Issue Summary
- If reporting an issue by email, please describe:
- The nature of the issue, complaint, or concern;
- A description of the incident(s) that occured (please be as specific as possible);
- The individual(s) involved in and (if applicable) witness to the incident(s);
- Whether you believe the incident(s) is ongoing;
- The kind of resolution, information or support you’re seeking;
- Whether you believe any member(s) of the Code of Conduct response team might be in a conflict by responding to your issue.
- If reporting an issue in person the member of the Code of Conduct response team you speak to will seek your permission to write a brief issue summary that includes the information listed above. The person reporting the issue is welcome (but not obligated) to participate in this process.
- The purpose of the issue summary is to provide a consistent framework for gathering information, to ensure that experiences are understood accurately and consistently by issue responders, and to minimize the burden on those making a report to retell their account. When new information arises, the issue summary can be updated accordingly. Drafting an issue summary is not required in order to access guidance, information, referrals or support.
Conflicts of Interest
- If the issue, complaint or concern involves a member of the the Code of Conduct response team, that person will be removed from the issue response process and will not have access to documentation related to the issue.
Based on the nature of the issue, the Code of Conduct response team will propose a course of action to the individual who made the report, and work with them to determine whether that proposal is an appropriate response before acting.
An appropriate response is one which:
- Seeks to ensure the safety, dignity and security of all CLSI participants;
- Respects the autonomy, experience and judgment of those who decide to report an issue;
- Aims to provide a resolution that is meaningful and fair to all participants affected;
- Encourages accountability, responsibility, cooperation, honesty, personal growth and respect on the part of all participants affected;
- Is context-specific and aims to “make things right,” repairing specific harms to affected individuals;
- Works toward greater inclusiveness at CLSI;
- Is in accordance with all relevant University of Toronto policies.
Here are some examples of responses that could be appropriate, depending on the context and nature of the issue:
- A mediated conversation or agreement between the impacted CLSI participants;
- A request for a verbal or written apology, public or private, from a CLSI participant;
- A public announcement clarifying participant responsibilities under the Code of Conduct;
- Nothing, if the issue reported is not a violation or outside of the scope of this Code of Conduct;
- CLSI-wide policy changes to avoid repeating harmful incidents;
- An agreement that two or more individuals be kept separate for the duration of CLSI;
- A written warning to a CLSI participant and/or conditions on their future participation;
- The temporary or permanent removal of a CLSI participant from CLSI, with or without warning.
In all cases, accompaniment, information and other support is available to individuals who would like to seek access to recourse under the University of Toronto’s policy framework or who wish to make a report to local law enforcement.
- Information shared with the Code of Conduct response team with be treated in a confidential manner and will not be retained following the close of CLSI 2017.
- In some cases, information will need to be shared for the purposes of implementing a response under this Code of Conduct. For example, if an individual reporting an issue is seeking an apology from another CLSI participant, fairness requires that the other participant is made aware of the issue which has been reported and the identity of the individual making the report. However, information will never be shared with other CLSI participants without an individual’s knowledge and consent.
- Information cannot be kept confidential where the safety of other CLSI participants is at risk, or where there is a legal obligation to report (for example, in certain situations involving minors).
Attribution and Improvement
Parts of this Code are based on the xvzf Code of Conduct, the Contributor Covenant, the Django Code of Conduct and Reporting Guide. We are also grateful for this guidance from Ada Initiative.
This Code of Conduct is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada (CC BY 2.5 CA) license.
This Code of Conduct and issue response process is a work in progress. Please send feedback or concerns to email@example.com.
1Always use Tor to log in to this new email address, use the address exclusively for the purpose of your report, and never provide information that would personally identify you—to either the email service provider or to us.
2 Credits to the Django Project for most of this paragraph.