CFI has issued a new policy on hostile conduct/harassment at its conferences. This post will provide an abridged explanation of why CFI issued this policy. A second post will provide a longer explanation and discuss how the policy will be administered.
Although CFI had an existing policy governing employee conduct both on and off CFI premises that explicitly prohibited sexual harassment and harassment based on protected group status, it did not have a policy specifically addressing harassing conduct by attendees or speakers at its conferences. Problems regarding harassment at conferences of secular/skeptical organizations were discussed at the Women in Secularism conference in May. That discussion suggested a need for a policy explicitly addressing harassment at conferences.
CFI has a strong interest in taking measures to ensure its conferences provide an environment that is free of disruptions, abusive conduct, and harassment. CFI’s conferences serve an educational purpose, and focus on the free and open exchange of information and ideas. Individuals who feel intimidated cannot participate fully in the conference, and they are, therefore, deprived of the benefit of the conference, and CFI’s educational purpose is frustrated as well. A policy against hostile conduct and harassment that is appropriately implemented and enforced should prove to be of significant assistance in preventing intimidation and harassment.
Frankly, nothing more needs to be said by way of justifying the policy, but given some of the recent debate about harassment policies, a longer post will expand on these reasons and also address some concerns that have been raised about harassment policies.