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American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS)

Code of Professional Conduct

Last updated: 25 June 2021

Preamble

The American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) values rigorous debate and free expression and recognizes that scholars will often disagree on a range of subjects and issues. The organization also recognizes, however, that harassment of any kind undermines the foundations of equity, diversity, and inclusion which enrich and ground healthy scholarly exchange.

As such, the ACIS prohibits all forms of harassment–against any person, for any reason, regardless of intent–at any ACIS-sponsored event, including but not limited to in-person events such as annual conferences, committee meetings, and social gatherings, or online at virtual conferences, live-streamed meetings, or via social media. Anyone attending an ACIS event is expected to avoid behavior that is discriminatory, intimidating, threatening, or harassing.

What is Harassment?

The ACIS defines “harassment” as any unwelcome conduct that is based on an individual’s (actual or perceived) race, sex, age, color, national origin, ethnicity, creed, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, marital status, pregnancy, genetic information, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other characteristic protected by law.

“Unwelcome conduct” can be defined as any words or actions that most would agree could be considered hostile, intimidating, or abusive. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Persistent and unsolicited attempts at emotional or physical intimacy
  • Derogatory or demeaning words or actions
  • Lewd or lascivious words or actions
  • Prejudicial actions or comments related to an individual or group identity
  • Intimidation, stalking, or following
  • Any persistent and unwelcome photographing or video or audio recording
  • Sustained and/or deliberate disruption or interruption of a presentation or event
  • Explicit or implicit threats of violence, retaliation, or professional harm
  • Acts of physical violence

The ACIS expects all who participate in ACIS-sponsored events to:

  • Abide by this Code of Conduct
  • Foster an environment of healthy, safe, scholarly exchange
  • Proactively help to defuse harassment when they see it and to support anyone being harassed
  • Alert the proper authorities (staff, security, or law enforcement) if they believe that someone might be in physical danger

How are Allegations of Harassment Handled?

For the purposes of handling alleged incidents of harassment at its events, the ACIS defines the people involved as:

  • Participant: Anyone attending an in-person or virtual ACIS-sponsored event including members, staff, volunteers, vendors, visitors etc.
  • Target: Anyone who is subjected to behavior that allegedly violates the ACIS Code of Conduct
  • Witness: Anyone who sees or hears an alleged violation of the ACIS Code of Conduct and who shares that information with the Ombudspersons and/or the Conduct Review Committee
  • Reporter: Anyone who contacts the Ombudspersons to report an alleged violation of the ACIS Code of Conduct. A Reporter may also be a Target or a Witness.
  • Alleged Violator: Anyone who has been identified by a Target, Witness, or Reporter as having allegedly violated the ACIS Code of Conduct
  • Ombudspersons: Three volunteers who 1) are members in good standing of the ACIS; 2) collect the initial reports of Target(s), Witness(es), or Reporter(s); 3) help the Target if they wish to lodge a Formal Complaint with the Conduct Review Committee. The Executive will strive to ensure that the committee is as diverse as possible in its construction (e.g., gender, race, professional rank, etc.)
  • Formal Complaint: A report of an incident, which a Target has asked the Ombudsperson(s) to forward to the Conduct Review Committee for action
  • Conduct Review Committee: Three volunteers who are members in good standing of the ACIS and who formally investigate reports of alleged violations of the ACIS Code of Conduct. This includes the opportunity to hear from the accused offender.

Members of the Ombudspersons committee, as well as the Conduct Review Committee, will be expected to review training materials and videos provided by the American Historical Association (AHA). A process should be established by which any committee or Executive member can be recused for conflict of interest.

Anyone who sees or hears or experiences harassment at an ACIS event should begin by reporting it to one of the ACIS Ombudspersons via email, phone, or in person. Their contact details are available on both the ACIS website (URL here) and on the program for each annual conference. The ACIS recognizes that the pain and trauma of harassment can sometimes take a while to process. As a result, while it is preferable that the initial report to the Ombudsperson be made as soon as possible after the alleged incident (to forestall the possibility of it happening again in the near future), the Ombudspersons may accept reports from any alleged Target, Witness, or Reporter within sixty (60) calendar days of the alleged misconduct.

Upon receiving the report, the Ombudspersons will make every reasonable effort to collect statements from any Witnesses and the Target. When communicating with the Target, the Ombudspersons will collect their statement, describe the ACIS policies and procedures, clarify issues relating to privacy and confidentiality, and discuss whether or not the Target wishes to file a Formal Complaint with the Conduct Review Committee. Anyone may report to or seek advice from the Ombudsperson but only the Target can file a Formal Complaint. If the Target decides to do so, the Ombudsperson will submit the Formal Complaint to the Conduct Review Committee on behalf of the Target, including as much detail as possible from the Reporter(s), Witness(es), and Target.

After receiving a Formal Complaint, the Conduct Review Committee will share it with the Alleged Violator and invite them to respond within sixty (60) calendar days. Once the Alleged Violator’s response has been received (or the sixty days have passed), the Conduct Review Committee will, if they deem it appropriate to do so, share and discuss the Alleged Violator’s response with the Target and determine whether or not the incident has been resolved. In order to communicate with any of the people involved, the Ombudspersons and/or Conduct Review Committee may access the ACIS membership database for contact information.

Regardless of the outcome, the Committee shall furnish, within sixty (60) calendar days, a report to the ACIS President (along with, in cases where harassment has deemed to have been perpetrated, a recommended sanction, if any).

In the context of conferences, gatherings, and meetings (in-person or virtual), in which unchecked Violators may cause further hurt or trauma to the Target or anyone else, it is imperative that this entire process be streamlined enough to allow the Targets, Witnesses, Reporters, Ombudspersons, Conduct Review Committee, and the President to make quick, effective decisions and impose suitable sanctions within days or even hours of an alleged incident of harassment. Such rapid sanctions (see below) are, in such cases, limited to issuing warnings to Violators or requiring them to leave the meeting or premises. Stiffer sanctions, such as revocation of membership, can only be imposed after a “cooling off” period of at least sixty (60) days after the alleged incident.

What Are Possible Sanctions for Harassment?

The ACIS President will consider the Conduct Review Committee’s report within thirty (30) days of receipt and, if they agree with its recommendations, shall issue whatever sanction (if any) it suggested. These may include:

  • A written warning to the Violator, which explains that any further reports of harassment will result in more serious consequence
  • Requiring that the Violator immediately leave the event in question and not return for its duration
  • Banning the Violator from future ACIS events (indefinitely or for a limited time period)
  • Revoking any elected, appointed, or volunteer positions or privileges the Violator holds in the ACIS (i.e., membership on the Executive Committee)
  • Requiring that the Violator not be invited to speak or present or perform at any ACIS-sponsored event (indefinitely or for a limited time period)
  • Revoking the Violator’s ACIS membership and banning them from future membership

It is not possible for Violators to appeal their sanction unless new information comes to light or new witnesses come forward. These must be brought to the attention of the President within sixty (60) days of the Conduct Review Committee’s decision. If the President deems the new material worthy of further consideration, they will direct the Conduct Review Committee to conduct additional interviews. Once this new report is finished, it, along with the original report, will be considered by the ACIS Executive’s four officers within sixty (60) days of its receipt. Those four officers will then vote to uphold or overturn the original decision by a simple majority.

Instructions for Panel Chairs/Moderators

There are lots of ways to handle harassment when you see it happening (see a list of usual forms of “unwelcome conduct” at the bottom of this document). You can distract the Alleged Violator, address or support the Target of harassment, or delay action until later. In the event that an attendee at the panel you are chairing/moderating (whether virtual or in person) acts in an overtly harassing manner, however, it is important that you be prepared to address the Alleged Violator immediately and directly. You can do so by saying something like:

“Excuse me, Pat, the ACIS has a Code of Conduct, which all conference attendees are expected to adhere to. Your sustained disruption of this presentation seems to me—as the chair/moderator of this panel—to constitute a transgression of that Code of Conduct. I am going to have to ask you to please maintain your silence or leave the room.”

Sometimes, a “clarifying” comment by the Chair is more appropriate:

“Excuse me, Pat, I know that you are eager to get our presenter to clarify that issue but I think it would be best for you to wait until the speaker has finished the presentation. We also want to make sure that other attendees are given a chance to ask their questions.”

If the Alleged Violator continues to act in a harassing manner, you could respond with something like:

“Pat, I have now asked you a few times to stop interrupting this presentation. Your behavior clearly contravenes the ACIS’s Code of Conduct. I’m afraid that, as the chair/moderator of this panel, I am going to have to ask you to leave the room.”

If the Alleged Violator continues to act in a harassing manner and refuses to leave, you may have to call Hotel or Campus Security. If you do so, you should also let the ACIS President and event host know immediately.

Either way, you should certainly 1) gather the names and contact information of multiple people who were there, as their testimony as Witnesses may be required later; 2) speak privately to the Target of the harassment and ask them if they would like your help in contacting the ACIS Ombudspersons to file a Formal Complaint; 3) regardless of the Target’s reaction, you should let the ACIS Ombudspersons know what you saw and heard.

“Unwelcome conduct” can be defined as any words or actions that a reasonable person would consider hostile, intimidating, or abusive. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Inappropriate physical contact
  • Persistent and unsolicited attempts at emotional or physical intimacy
  • Derogatory or demeaning words or actions
  • Lewd or lascivious words or actions
  • Prejudicial actions or comments related to an individual or group identity
  • Intimidation, stalking, or following
  • Any persistent and unwelcome photographing or video or audio recording
  • Sustained and/or deliberate disruption or interruption of a presentation or event
  • Explicit or implicit threats of violence, retaliation, or professional harm
  • Acts of physical violence