[Lingtyp] ALT: code of conduct

Kristine Hildebrandt khildeb at siue.edu
Mon Nov 20 18:02:35 UTC 2017

I respectfully disagree with Martin, although his comments (and David's)
regarding unclarity do resonate with me. And this response comes from me
personally, as an ALT member, and not as an Officer.

As an employee of a U.S./North American university, I'm obliged to go
through mandatory annual trainings and periodic refreshers on what
constitutes harassment/assault (sexual or other), how to "not do it", how
to spot it when it might be happening to me/a colleague/a student, and what
to do about that if I do suspect it (as a faculty member in the U.S. I'm
actually under a legal obligation to *not* do *nothing*). I've found that
there are so many definitions (often constructed as examples), so many
nuances, so many lines that may or may not be crossed, that the whole
experience can be somewhat dizzying and mind-numbing. But: I also feel from
a woman's perspective, and this moves me beyond U.S. bounds--and I've also
lived and worked in enough places now to be able to say this--that this
very vagueness in *just what harassment is*, and the resulting
back-stepping from dealing with it (even via symbolic language), is one
reason why harassment/assault/discriminatory and predatory practice has
managed to go on for so long and perpetuate, evolve, and expand in such
insidious ways. As if to say: "If we can't pinpoint it, we can't deal with
it". That's unacceptable to me.

I do also (again respectfully) disagree somewhat with David's observation
that "most of us are good people who sometimes make mistakes...a few are
rotten apples". I engage in no finger pointing, here. In my own personal
encounters as a professional, I've only ever encountered the good people.
But my world of professional interaction is only a very small subset, and
I've heard enough accounts from other reliable colleagues from many
backgrounds to know that they could have benefited from the presence of
such codes, even if largely symbolic in power. It matters. I have been
pleased to see codes of conduct slowly making their appearance in other
Associations, even if their language does raise discussion about
interpretation and application.

The challenge of vague terminology and cross-cultural variations in
interpretations should not prevent this code from becoming a part of the
ALT statues. Vagueness in terms of consequences, for example, can easily be
fleshed out by the organizing committees and institutions putting together
the meeting. In the U.S. we can turn to the policies held at the university
level for guidance, for example.

*I recommend a 'yes' vote.* If a 'no' vote does prevail, then I hope it is
simply because the language here needs refinement and people are open to
that process. I do urge ALT members *not* to simply assume that this
Association (or any other) gets to 'opt out' of this issue, so I would
welcome some discussion on this towards crafting revised language, either
online or during a special session, language that *can* eventually be
adopted formally.

And finally, I especially disagree with Martin that this ballot item and
vote distracts from other (equally/more) important issues before ALT. I
think we can take on/discuss/take action on any number of issues, even
simultaneously. A code of conduct statement has nothing to do (in my mind)
with a failure to take other steps to make other participants feel welcome
within the Association and related events. I just don't see how this step
precludes other discussions on other matters aimed at making ALT a more
inclusive organization. Granted, my history here is shallow, and I don't
always get to attend the meetings or be in all of the discussion loops.
Perhaps there have been failed initiatives in the past and I'm oblivious to
these, but with successive officer/EC/membership changes through time, we
can (and should) revisit them. So it will perhaps be with this vote!

Thanks for hearing me, and I do appreciate all positions and perspectives
on this important issue.

On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 8:09 AM, Martin Haspelmath <haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>

> Thanks to the EC for its efforts, but I would strongly urge all ALT
> members to vote AGAINST the code of conduct.
> Such codes of conduct may be needed, but the present formulation is
> incompatible with free science.
> There is no definition of "harrassment" (just some examples of what
> harrassment is), and the formulation "offensive comments related to aspects
> of identity" is terribly vague.
> On the basis of such a code of conduct, almost anything that is
> controversial could be construed as violating the code, so anyone could be
> expelled from the conference, even though they are trying to make a serious
> contribution to science.
> It's completely unclear who has the authority to "find conference
> participants in violation", and how participants could defend themselves if
> wrongly accused. I would not want to attend a conference with such rules,
> as I would not feel safe to express my (potentially controversial)
> scientific ideas.
> So the present formulation is completely counterproductive and dangerous
> for ALT.
> I am aware that in Anglo-American culture, such codes of conduct are more
> and more widespread, but there are big cultural differences. In most parts
> of the world, precarious employment and restrictions on travel are much
> more urgent problems that are worth thinking about. I suggest that ALT's EC
> consider also other options to make people feel welcome at ALT conferences,
> e.g. to increase the participation fees for participants from rich
> countries substantially, in order to alleviate the outrageous obstacles to
> conference participation that many (potential) ALT members face.
> I'm all for addressing the problem of harrassment, but only if it clear
> what exactly consitutes harrassment, and if there is no threat of expelling
> participants from ALT conferences. (Or if there is such a  threat, then
> there should be a due process, as we're used to in free societies, rather
> than an arbitrary decision by some unspecified authority.) Maybe there
> should be a larger discussion at the ALT conference, or on the LINGTYP List.
> Best wishes,
> Martin
> On 20.11.17 14:24, Kristine Hildebrandt wrote:
> Dear ALT members:
> We have two important items up for vote. Both items are contained in a
> single electronic ballot, which can be found here:
> https://siue.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6id2p5qEU7W3tzf
> This link allows you to vote exactly once, and the origin of the vote is
> untraceable (ie. the vote is anonymous to me when I collect the results).
> Item 1:
> Of the six current Executive Committee members, three are rotating off,
> and need to be replaced (Felix Ameka, Isabelle Bril, Keren Rice). Three
> continue for another term: Silvia Luraghi, Stepehen Matthews, Felicity
> Meakins.
> The ALT nominating committee identified and consulted with three nominees
> for the EC: Mark Dingemanse, Rachel Nordlinger, and Ljuba Veselinova.
> When you go the e-ballot, you will see brief bio-sketches of the three
> nominees. You can vote for all three together, or for any individual. And
> even if you do not vote for any nominee, you can still vote on Item #2
> (below).
> We are grateful to both the outgoing EC members, and to the Nominating
> Committee (Nick Enfield, Nina Dobrushina, Martin Haspelmath, and Claire
> Bowern) for their work for ALT.
> Item 2:
> The ALT Officers (Jeff Good, Dmitry Idiatov, and me), in consultation with
> the EC have drawn up a code of conduct statement to be added to the ALT
> statutes. Please vote either for or against the adoption of this code.
> *Voting is now open as of this email. The deadline to vote is Tuesday
> December 5 at 5pm Central Standard Time.*
> Thank you!
> --
> Orche
> ('Thanks' in Manange)
> *Kristine A. Hildebrandt*
> *Associate Professor, Department of English Language & Literature
> <http://www.siue.edu/artsandsciences/english/>*
> *Secretary, Association for Linguistic Typology
> <http://www.linguistic-typology.org/> *
> *Editor, Himalayan Linguistics
> <http://escholarship.org/uc/himalayanlinguistics>*
> Check out our Manang Languages <https://mananglanguages.isg.siue.edu/> project
> page!
> *Southern Illinois University Edwardsville*
> *Box 1431 Edwardsville, IL 62026 U.S.A. 618-650-3991 <(618)%20650-3991>
> (department voicemail)*
> *khildeb at siue.edu <khildeb at siue.edu> http://www.siue.edu/~khildeb
> <http://www.siue.edu/%7Ekhildeb>*
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing listLingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.orghttp://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp
> --
> Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
> Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
> Kahlaische Strasse 10	
> D-07745 Jena
> &
> Leipzig University
> IPF 141199
> Nikolaistrasse 6-10
> D-04109 Leipzig
> _______________________________________________
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> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

('Thanks' in Manange)

*Kristine A. Hildebrandt*
*Associate Professor, Department of English Language & Literature

*Secretary, Association for Linguistic Typology
*Editor, Himalayan Linguistics
Check out our Manang Languages <https://mananglanguages.isg.siue.edu/> project
*Southern Illinois University Edwardsville*

*Box 1431Edwardsville, IL 62026 U.S.A.618-650-3991 (department voicemail)*

*khildeb at siue.edu <khildeb at siue.edu>http://www.siue.edu/~khildeb
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