[Lingtyp] ALT: code of conduct

Volker Gast volker.gast at uni-jena.de
Tue Nov 21 08:58:12 UTC 2017

I wonder what the best predictor for our voting behaviour ist: 
Sex/gender or place of residence.

My problem with this particular code is that it conveys a feeling of 
Western supremacism. Being written in English, it suggests that the 
evaluative adjectives ('offensive', 'inapproprtate', 'unwelcome') are to 
be interpreted according to the standards of the Anglo-Saxon world. More 
specifically, the code uses the style of American administration (just 
compare it to the friendly Australian version that Martin suggested; I 
wonder if there is a polite British version, too ;-) ), suggesting that 
it is the (puritan) American standards that are to be applied, and the 
examples given by Claire Bowern point in this direction. Asking women 
(plural) where they are staying -- did I get this right that this is 
supposed to be a reason for being expelled from the conference? (Note 
that I've never done this, and I'm not planning to do it.) Using 
examples where men beat women -- I was actually scheduled for a talk in 
the corpus-based typology workshop (can't attend for independent 
reasons) where I wanted to present my annotation work done on the basis 
of the 'Family Problems Picture Task', developed at the MPI Nijmegen, 
which (for good reasons) uses domestic violence as a stimulus. Would I 
have been allowed to present that work?

Frankly, I wasn't aware that sexual harassment at conferences is such a 
big problem. Of course I believe you that it is, as a man I just haven't 
noticed that. And I gather from Kristin's message that there is some 
pressure from your universities. But please don't forget that we are, in 
a positive sense, a global association, with many people from various 
cultures, with different standards with respect to body contact, verbal 
interaction, etc. (e.g. what's considered a "compliment" in some 
cultures counts as harassment in others; being German, I'm just another 
puritan in this respect, don't worry; but it's not just us Americans, 
Germans, Australians etc.).


On 20/11/17 19:02, Kristine Hildebrandt wrote:
> 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 <mailto:haspelmath at shh.mpg.de>> wrote:
>     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
>>     <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 <tel:%28618%29%20650-3991> (department voicemail)/
>>     /khildeb at siue.edu <mailto:khildeb at siue.edu>
>>     http://www.siue.edu/~khildeb <http://www.siue.edu/%7Ekhildeb>/
>>     _______________________________________________
>>     Lingtyp mailing list
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>>     <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp>
>     -- 
>     Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de <mailto: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
>     _______________________________________________
>     Lingtyp mailing list
>     Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
>     <mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
>     http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp
>     <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp>
> -- 
> 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 (department voicemail)/
> /khildeb at siue.edu <mailto:khildeb at siue.edu>
> http://www.siue.edu/~khildeb <http://www.siue.edu/%7Ekhildeb>/
> _______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp

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