I chose to research the Entomological Society of America’s Code of Conduct for the national meeting held in Minneapolis that I recently attended in November, 2015. These meetings have historically been a hotbed for a to a long list of sexual harassment complaints, many of which I or witnessed or experienced myself. Understandably, I am curious to see in writing exactly where these discrepancies occurred and what officially qualifies as sexual discrimination and harassment. It is important for individuals to know exactly what they can do if they think they have been wronged in one of these ways, and to understand they have power as a victim in these situations.
The Code of Conduct states “by attending ENTOMOLOGY 2015, you agree voluntarily to abide by our ethics policy.” The policy starts by describing the parameters of authorship, and states that “all authors connected to a presentation and/or abstract must agree on all information contained in the presentation. Failure of an author to agree to the presentation format will lead to the presentation being withdrawn from the conference.”
Next, the policy provides a “Harassment and Safety” section, which is written as follows: “ESA is dedicated to providing a safe, hospitable, and productive environment for everyone attending our events, regardless of ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, gender, or sexual orientation. It is important to remember that a community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is neither healthy nor productive. Accordingly, ESA prohibits intimidating, threatening, or harassing conduct during our conferences. This policy applies to speakers, staff, volunteers, and attendees. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference, at the discretion of ESA leadership. The policy continues by describing what qualifies as harassment, including “offensive gestures or verbal comments related to ethnicity, religion, disability, physical appearance, gender, or sexual orientation in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome attention.”
The content of this policy is surprisingly thorough, and written in a professional tone that communicates a no-tolerance policy. My only complaint is that there is no mention of repercussions for harassment outside the conference setting (ie: bars, city streets, hotels, etc.). Most of the personal accounts I have heard either occurred in darkened bar corners, or on the walk back to their hotel rooms. ESA members (faculty and students alike) were the offenders in these situations, and the victims were left scared, confused and feeling utterly powerless.
Noteably, the policy stresses to the reader that ” If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact ESA staff who can work with appropriate ESA leadership to resolve the situation… ESA staff will be happy to help participants contact convention center/hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, and otherwise assist those experiencing harassment, to enable them to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance, and want to make your experience as productive and professionally stimulating as possible.” This quote was followed by the contact information for ESA’s complaints department. In my opinion, this is written in a supportive and stern tone, with the hope that the victim feels they can contact help without repercussions.
This policy was far more thorough then I was expecting, but I still believe measures like this are just the beginning of a long road to gender equality. Fortunately, I was asked to collaborate with ESA’s Diversity Committee , for a series of interviews I am conducting with a colleague in a side-project called Perspectives of the Modern Scientist. I feel that progress towards diversity and gender equality will be made at a rapid pace in the coming years. We are in an era of heightened social-consciousness, and I am encouraged by the lightning-fast progress of the Gay Movement over the past five years.