[Lingtyp] ALT: code of conduct

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm tamm at ling.su.se
Tue Nov 21 22:04:18 UTC 2017

Just a moment: was there anyone who said anything about being unsupportive of people from diverse backgrounds and communities? I thought this is exactly what has been pointed out in the discussion – the members of this list have very different background, we work with different languages and cultures and should therefore be aware of the differences in people’s understanding of what is appropriate, inappropriate and all that.

I don’t think people should judge the climate in the academic world the ALT represents by the email discussions on the list. These are miles away from both the conferences and from our normal activities and communication. As everyone on this list knows, most of the members hardly ever post anything on it, which does not mean that they lack any opinions -– either on a particular issue or in general. It’s not their cup of tea.

It’s not mine either by the way – even though I count myself to very active representatives of the field.


Prof. Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm
Dept. of linguistics, Stockholm university, 106 91, Stockholm, Sweden
tel.: +46-8-16 26 20 (office)
tamm at ling.su.se

On 21 Nov 2017, at 22:33, Andrew Garrett <garrett at berkeley.edu<mailto:garrett at berkeley.edu>> wrote:

hi all,

thank you for the question. Again, I emphasize my outsider status and express gratitude for being able to contribute to the conversation!

I would be surprised if anybody feels intimidated by the simple fact of an open conversation; hopefully everybody is in favor of that. And so many societies lack a meeting code of conduct that its absence may well not be driving people away. But the current lingtyp conversation is definitely being circulated (not by me), and observed, among linguists who are not ALT members. Many linguists — possibly even most linguists! — do not self-identify as primarily "typologists" but are interested in typology to a greater or lesser degree; such people may choose whether or not to join ALT and drift a little closer to the important academic world it represents. If they perceive the climate in that world to be unsympathetic to equity and inclusion, and unsupportive of people from diverse backgrounds and communities, they may choose to go to a different conference or join a different organization that seems friendlier to them.


On Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:12 PM, Giorgio Francesco Arcodia <giorgio.arcodia at unimib.it<mailto:giorgio.arcodia at unimib.it>> wrote:
Dear Andrew, dear all,

This is what I read in your e-mail (my emphasis):

"Clarity in this area, and an expressed position along the lines of the excellent ACL policy circulated by Emily Bender, would probably also help draw people into ALT who are currently on the outside and (in some cases, I think) find themselves discouraged by some of the tenor of the current conversation."

English is obviously not my mother tongue, hence I might be misinterpreting your words, but what I understand is: there are people who would join (/participate in) ALT, but who are currently discouraged to do so by the fact that we are discussing the merits and demerits of a proposed Code of Conduct.

If this is what you meant, I have to admit that, honestly, this is incomprehensible to me. Should we refrain from discussing in an open forum because otherwise people who are probably not even in this mailing list might feel intimidated? Above all, are there really cases of people who stay away from ALT because ALT does not have a code of conduct?

On the other hand, I do agree that the ACL policy circulated by Emily Bender sounds much more reasonable than the original ALT proposal. As Sebastian Nordhoff cleverly pointed out, its purpose is clear and its scope is adequately defined, in my view. The ACL policy 1. discourages harassing etc.; 2. provides a fairly sensible procedure (i.e. how to deal with cases of alleged harassment), without assuming guilt.

Lastly, I still haven't read a reply to David Gil's very clever and thought-provoking challenge: how about the 'Padang incident'? Or is that one fine, because it fits in our (Anglophone) Western conception of what is acceptable and what is not?


Giorgio F. Arcodia

2017-11-21 17:22 GMT+01:00 Andrew Garrett <garrett at berkeley.edu<mailto:garrett at berkeley.edu>>:
Hi all -

Please forgive what may seem like an intrusion from a linguist who happens to be on the ALT email list but is not an ALT member. From my perspective (within a US linguistics department), it seems very important that institutions and organizations provide clear statements regarding harassment. Bullying and harassment, ranging on a spectrum from intellectual bullying to sexual harassment (not to mention assault), are constant problems in our public and academic life, and are all too easy to minimize if we simply leave it up to our collective and individual goodwill. Most scholars and scientists do have goodwill, but it is incredibly easy for us to turn a blind eye to the problem of harassment, and thereby disempower, devalue, and exclude the voices of those who experience it, if we do not experience it ourselves.

Clarity in this area, and an expressed position along the lines of the excellent ACL policy circulated by Emily Bender, would probably also help draw people into ALT who are currently on the outside and (in some cases, I think) find themselves discouraged by some of the tenor of the current conversation.

Thank you for your discussions of this important subject. I wish all professional societies were as engaged as ALT.

- Andrew Garrett

Andrew Garrett
Professor and Chair, Department of Linguistics
Nadine M. Tang and Bruce L. Smith Professor of Cross-Cultural Social Sciences
Director, Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
1203 Dwinelle Hall #2650
University of California
Berkeley CA 94720-2650

email: garrett at berkeley.edu<mailto:garrett at berkeley.edu>
web: http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~garrett

On Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 6:07 AM, Emily M. Bender <ebender at uw.edu<mailto:ebender at uw.edu>> wrote:
Dear all,

In case it is helpful for this discussion, here is a link to the anti-harassment policy recently adopted by the Association for Computational Linguistics, another international scholarly organization:


We (the ACL exec) are presently in the process of developing procedures to follow in case of  complaints raised under the policy.  These cases are never easy, and of course none of this is pleasant to think about.  However, it is clear that despite the fact that most people attend academic conferences in good faith and without wishing to make the atmosphere unwelcoming to anyone, cases of harassment do occur, and that therefore the status quo is unacceptable.  Furthermore, it is a helpful, positive thing for professional organizations to set expectations.  That expectation setting in and of itself can help underrepresented groups feel more welcome and supported (and more likely to stick around in the field).  The "worst case" consequences in policies such as this are there to give them teeth, but are never automatic consequences of a complaint being raised.


p.s. Here's the text of the ACL policy:


Anti-Harassment Policy
The open exchange of ideas, the freedom of thought and expression, and respectful scientific debate are central to the aims and goals of the ACL. These require a community and an environment that recognizes the inherent worth of every person and group, that fosters dignity, understanding, and mutual respect, and that embraces diversity. For these reasons, ACL is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for all the members, as well as participants at our events and in our programs.

Harassment and hostile behavior are unwelcome at any ACL conference, associated event, or in ACL-affiliated on-line discussions. This includes: speech or behavior that intimidates, creates discomfort, or interferes with a person's participation or opportunity for participation in a conference or an event. We aim for ACL-related activities to be an environment where harassment in any form does not happen, including but not limited to: harassment based on race, gender, religion, age, color, appearance, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Harassment includes degrading verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. The policy is not intended to inhibit challenging scientific debate, but rather to promote it through ensuring that all are welcome to participate in shared spirit of scientific inquiry.

It is the responsibility of the community as a whole to promote an inclusive and positive environment for our scholarly activities. In addition, anyone who experiences harassment or hostile behavior may contact any current member of the ACL Executive Committee ([1]) or contact Priscilla Rasmussen (acl at aclweb.org<mailto:acl at aclweb.org>), who is usually available at the registration desk during ACL conferences. Members of the executive committee will be instructed to keep any such contact in strict confidence, and those who approach the committee will be consulted before any actions are taken.

This policy should be posted prominently on all ACL conference and workshop webpages, with a notice of a list of people who can be contacted by community members with concerns. In case of a formal complaint, the contacted ACL representative(s) will first speak to all parties involved to try to resolve the issue without presupposition of guilt.

Approved by ACL Executive Committee, 2016


On Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 5:13 AM, Good, Jeff <jcgood at buffalo.edu<mailto:jcgood at buffalo.edu>> wrote:
Dear all,

In light of the ongoing debate about the proposed code of conduct, I would like to send a brief message on behalf of the ALT Executive Committee.

The ALT Executive Committee recognizes the importance of allowing open debates on topics of relevance to the association and encourages members with an opinion on the proposed code of conduct to voice their views publicly on as they see fit. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, we welcome further discussion of this topic at the upcoming biennial meeting.

We also encourage members to vote on the code (whether for or against) as presently proposed, and we do not plan to propose a revised code before the biennial meeting. Based on the discussion at the meeting, a revision to the code can be developed if the present code is passed or a new code can be proposed if the present proposal does not pass.

Jeff Good
President, Association for Linguistic Typology
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Emily M. Bender
Professor, Department of Linguistics
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Prof. Dr. Giorgio Francesco Arcodia
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
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