[Lingtyp] ALT vote on code of conduct

E. Bashir ebashir at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 22 16:19:00 UTC 2017

Another message from a (non-member?) participant in the ALT list:  the suggestion in this latest post from Bill Croft seems balanced and workable.  If I am/were able to vote, I would argue in favor of a solution like the one proposed in Bil Croft's post.
Elena Bashir

      From: William Croft <wcroft at unm.edu>
 To: Linguistic Typology <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org> 
 Sent: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 9:48 AM
 Subject: [Lingtyp] ALT vote on code of conduct
Dear all,

There have been many valuable and useful points made in these posts. I think I am most in agreement with the three emails posted by Sebastian Nordhoff. There seems to be a broad consensus among the contributors to this list that sexual harassment (and other sorts of harassment) is a serious problem that must be addressed, and that a suitable code of conduct is an important step to take to address this problem. As Sebastian says, this is good. However, the way this is being carried out is problematic and divisive.

Sebastian argues that the aims of discouraging harassers and encouraging victims to speak out, vs. creating a legally defensible process to sanction violators, are rather different. In particular, sanctions need to be accompanied by a process. Otherwise, ALT would be legally vulnerable if sanctions were ever applied; and in the US at least, nonprofit board/exec members are personally liable for damages awarded against nonprofits.  Note that ACL's current code of conduct achieves the first aim (regarding harassers and victims), and now their exec is simultaneously considering sanctions and the process for applying them.

I think that imposing sanctions without a process is a significant flaw, and could lead to some serious liability issues. So I don't want to vote "Yes". But like everyone here, I believe that ALT should do something concrete and visible to discourage harassers and encourage victims to be unafraid. So I don't want to vote "No" either. But I don't have another choice -- especially if we turn to the ALT statutes, which are (now?) downloadable from the ALT website.

The statutes do not have any procedure for adopting policies or amendments. There is only a procedure for voting for the exec members, i.e. a simple majority vote. This actually doesn't make sense, since the nominees are unopposed (and there is no procedure for write-in candidates). So if I am opposed to a nominee, I can only leave the ballot blank. But the statutes do not require a quorum, so leaving the ballot blank is useless. The same is true if I leave the code of conduct question blank, to communicate that a different code of conduct is what is needed right now. Finally, the one thing the statutes do say is that only members can vote. As was noted before, anyone on this list, not just members, can vote. So the vote violates the statutes if any non-member of ALT on this list votes, but we can't tell because the ballot is secret. (This applies to the vote for executive board members, not just the code of conduct.)

I do not think this is the way to proceed. This process introduces divisions where there is a wide consensus on the way forward. Right now many have argued that although they support a code of conduct, they will vote "No" because the code is flawed. These people will be upset if the code is passed. Conversely, many have acknowledged the flaws, but will vote "Yes" because they feel it is important to have a code of conduct, no matter the flaws. These people will be upset if the code fails. And the voting process probably violates the statutes to the extent that the statutes cover this vote, which they don't.

Since I have argued that this is not the way to proceed, I feel obliged to stick my neck out and offer an alternative. I urge the ALT exec to reconsider their decision to hold this vote, for both the executive committee members and the code of conduct. I believe that there has probably been enough debate on this list for the ALT exec to prepare a revised code of conduct (e.g. based on the current ACL code) that would be acceptable to the great majority of ALT members. 

I would then propose that the ALT exec bring to the ALT business meeting next month revised statutes for the organization that would do at least the following:

--provide a process for adopting policies and amending the statutes;
--possibly require more than a simple majority for adopting policies and amending the statutes (I think this is part of what Sebastian had in mind in his second email);
--create a quorum for votes

And then put the revised statutes, and if the revised statutes are adopted put the revised code of conduct to a vote following these procedures (including restricting voting to members). If the business meeting constitutes a quorum, then these would be adopted immediately. Otherwise, a ballot can be taken as soon as possible after the ALT meeting.

It is NOT my intention to use the problems I perceive in the current proposed code and the process to adopt it, as an excuse to continue to do nothing about the issues at hand. I would like to see this done as soon as possible, like everyone else on this list, in a way so that everyone will strongly endorse both the process and the outcome.

Best wishes,

Lingtyp mailing list
Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20171122/82cd8502/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list