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Author Topic: Revised Anti-Harassment Policy Proposal  (Read 1276 times)
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« on: February 03, 2014, 09:37:24 AM »


The Anti-Harassment Policy Committee is now prepared to make public the draft policy which will be presented to the NDT Committee for a vote at their meeting in Austin, Texas on February 9, 2014.  We want to thank all of the people who took the time to send comments and suggestions.  The Committee read all of the comments and we did our best to address concerns and incorporate as many suggestions as possible.  We would like to be clear in stating that we view this document as a beginning.  Anyone who has suggestions for improvements to the policy is welcome to bring suggestions before the full NDT Committee at future meetings.

This policy reflects substantial revisions in response to the comments and suggestions we received. 
•   The most substantial change made was to incorporate language from the CEDA policy into this document.  After a more careful reading of that language, we felt that it better reflected the unique challenges of crafting such a policy for an activity that is built upon principles of free expression and the testing of ideas, even unpopular ones.  Also, as some suggested, mirroring the language from the CEDA policy alleviates concerns about subjecting everyone to new standards, as most tournaments have endorsed those standards for years.  The major criticism of the CEDA policy is that it lacks adequate recourse and enforcement.  This policy addresses those concerns.
•   There was substantial concern about the language in the policy regarding the obligations of a host to provide accommodations for people with disabilities.  We agree with the sentiments that many people expressed that issues of access and accommodation deserve a separate and specific policy; and that they are not necessarily a proper part of this document.  We thus removed the language from this policy.  Removing the language does not mean that hosts have no obligation however, as federal, state and local laws do still apply. 
•   Several people expressed concerns with the specific examples given including examples of derogatory terms; examples of what constituted gratuitous images; etc.  We have removed all of the examples and have chosen to rely on the language from the CEDA policy to guide people in making determinations. 
•   Some people objected that the policy was too tilted toward regulation and not sufficiently protective of speech.  In particular the "zero-tolerance" language was inconsistent with a process that would evaluate individual context in making a determination as to whether or not one's actions violated the policy.  We removed the "zero-tolerance" language and have endorsed the more community-specific balancing test in the CEDA policy. Similarly, we believe that the CEDA language addresses the suggestions that this policy recognize the importance of creating space where important academic and political discussions could take place and where participants are challenged to think more critically about a complex world.
•   Many people wrote about specific examples from rounds and asked if they would violate the policy, in particular there was concern that some debate arguments -- such as nuclear war good, and Malthus -- might offend people.  We believe that the CEDA language draws a good distinction between argument content and engaging in language and behavior that is demeaning and degrading to other participants.  The effort to try to answer all of the specific examples in advance is fruitless because the balancing test requires taking full context into account in making determinations.
•   Several people expressed concerns with the reference to the "reasonable person standard" in the definition of harassment.  This is the language and standard that is relied upon not only in federal and state laws, but also in almost every University's policies.  After considering this issue, the Committee decided to leave this standard in.  We feel that the concerns about it are addressed by the balancing language in the opening paragraph and the first paragraph in the "background" section which recognize the unique importance of the protection of and engagement with unpopular and controversial ideas in this activity. Additionally, the procedural section includes a directive to the Enforcement Committee to consider the full context when adjudicating complaints.
•   There were many concerns expressed that the policy would disproportionately impact marginalized and minority groups.  In particular there was concern that the policy was too explicit in its protection against "reverse harassment."  This concern has been addressed by removing the explicit language about protection of "majority" groups and by incorporating the CEDA language which states that questions of power should be considered in evaluating claims.

There were many procedural questions regarding how the enforcement of the policy would operate and its scope. Some of these issues are ones that we feel are more appropriately left to the Enforcement Committee to resolve.  It is our intention that the Enforcement Committee will draft some rules of procedure that will be made publicly available to participants.  Some of the procedural questions raised are specifically addressed in the policy.  The following reflects the understanding of the Committee in how certain issues are impacted by this policy:

•   Does the policy extend to "cyber-bullying" or comments made on social media?  It is the opinion of the committee that speech which violates this policy is not exempt from it simply because it was communicated electronically.  In particular, specific threats of physical violence against other participants will not be ignored because they were posted on a social media site rather than directly communicated to the target.  That said, it is not the intention of this policy to prevent participants from using social media sites to engage in critical discussion about the activity or to empower a group to scan the Internet looking for offensive posts.
•   Does the policy apply to student-on-student harassment in rounds?  Similarly, must one stake the debate on the resolution of a complaint of in-round harassment?  This policy applies to behavior at or directly related to the National Debate Tournament, which includes behavior during the debates and the post-round discussions.  It is our view that if a debater is seeking a competitive sanction, such as the offense committed in a particular round deserves a loss for the other team, then that should be treated the same as claims of unethical conduct (clipping and falsified evidence).  In that situation, the team making the claim would ask the panel to resolve the issue and it could then be appealed to the Enforcement Committee.  If someone wishes to raise a complaint that occurred outside of the round, or one in which the person filing the complaint is not seeking a direct competitive sanction, then that person should contact the Enforcement Committee or its designee to file an official complaint. A team which believes a violation of this Policy has occurred during a round is not required to abandon other argumentation and stake the debate solely on that issue.  Particularly since the policy is new, there will be instances where good faith allegations that the policy has been violated will not, in fact, be confirmed by Committee investigation.  Requiring a team to “stake the round” on a complaint under this policy, at the risk of losing if the complaint, while made in good faith, is ultimately determined to be unfounded, would be contrary to the prohibition on retaliation for good faith complaints.  A team may, however, expressly choose to “stake the round” on a complaint.  The NDT reiterates that the goal of this Policy is to describe appropriate and inappropriate conduct and to deter – and provide a sanction for – inappropriate conduct.  It is not the NDT’s intent that the policy be used for tactical or strategic purposes.
•   Can an individual who is not a direct participant in the round file a complaint?  Does the policy apply to an observer who is offended by the language or action of one or more of the debaters if none of the debaters are offended? This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer regarding scope.  This line in the opening paragraph of the policy is a direct quote from the CEDA policy language: "All [NDT] participants should recognize the rights of others and communicate with respect for opponents, colleagues, critics, tournament hosts and audience members."  Determining that one has the right to raise an issue with the committee regarding what one perceives as offensive language or behavior is not the same as saying that any person has the right to stop the round.  It is this Committee's view that audience members could bring a complaint before the Enforcement Committee.  In particular if four male debaters were engaging in conduct that constituted gender-based harassment, the fact that none of them were offended by it would not mean that judges and audience members who were offended had no recourse.  It is unlikely that such an incident would be resolved with a direct competitive sanction (such as loss of the round) by an Enforcement Committee decision, but parties who were injured by the harassment would have recourse.
•   Can someone file a complaint on behalf of someone else? A person can designate someone else to file a complaint on their behalf. 
•   There were concerns expressed about the make-up of the Enforcement Committee and suggestions that at least some of the members should be directly elected.  While we have no problem with a direct election mechanism, it is not feasible for this year's NDT.  It was suggested that appointing some members of the Enforcement Committee from the pool of District Chairs on the NDT Committee would allow for some democratic accountability.  We are open to suggestions for a process for electing one or members of this Committee.
•   Can people protest members of the committee resolving their case if they feel that the committee member(s) is/are biased?  Can someone declare a conflict of interest? We feel that the exact operation of how to remove someone who has a conflict of interest should be left to the procedures of the Enforcement Committee.  We feel that this would operate similar to the Appeals Committee where members of the committee do not participate in decisions that they have a direct involvement with or where they feel that there is a conflict of interest.  We did add language in the policy allowing the Chair of the NDT to appoint additional people to the committee if there were not enough people who could fairly adjudicate the claim.
•   What constitutes evidence in an investigation? We feel that this is a question best left for the Enforcement Committee to address.  We did add language into the procedures section requiring the Enforcement Committee to make written decisions publicly available consistent with privacy protections.  Written records should allow for organic evolution of standards and a mechanism for ensuring consistency.

It is our sincere hope that there will be very few incidents that necessitate enforcement. 

Thank You,

The Anti-Harassment Policy Committee

* NDT Conduct Policy February 3.pdf (117.9 KB - downloaded 346 times.)
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