On June 2, 2019, a scholar attending Congress 2019 reported that he had been subject to racial profiling, discrimination and harassment by another conference attendee (“the Respondent”), in violation of the Congress Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct, which all Congress registrants must agree to follow, prohibits racial discrimination and all forms of harassment, including “stalking, following, harassing photography or recording.”
The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which organizes Congress, retained a lawyer with human rights expertise (“the investigator”) to investigate the incident and determine the facts of what occurred. The investigator collected evidence and conducted interviews between June 11 and August 7, speaking with the scholar who reported the discrimination (“the Scholar”), the Respondent, and several other witnesses before reporting back to the Federation. All of the persons directly involved in the incident cooperated with the investigation.
The investigator found that the Respondent breached the Congress Code of Conduct by taking photographs of the scholar who reported the discrimination, a Black man, and another individual without their consent. It further found that the Respondent discriminated against the Scholar on the basis of race in questioning his right to be on campus, questioning whether he was a registered attendee, and implicitly accusing him, without any justification, of stealing his laptop. The investigator found that the Respondent subjected the Scholar to heightened suspicion and scrutiny and, in doing so, acted from “unconscious bias against him as a Black man.”
Actions by the Federation
Based on the investigation’s findings, the Federation has suspended the Respondent from attending Congress for a minimum of three years (2020-22.) He will be ineligible, during that period, to register for Congress, attend or present at any event that is part of Congress, or participate in any of its activities.
Further, before he is eligible to return to Congress, the Respondent must demonstrate that he:
1. Takes full responsibility for his actions on June 2, and for the pain and harm they caused the scholar who reported the discrimination.
2. Will meet all Congress Code of Conduct requirements, without exception, at all points in the future.
3. Understands that the Code of Conduct applies to all Congress attendees and that it prohibits all forms of discrimination and harassment, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, religion (or lack thereof), age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or body size.
4. Understands the obligation under human rights legislation not to engage in discrimination on the basis of race.
5. Is engaged in educational and critical thinking activities to increase his awareness of white privilege and its consequences.
The Federation is learning from this incident. We are strengthening our organizational systems to prevent discrimination, harassment, racial profiling, and anti-Black racism from occurring. We are immediately undertaking, in consultation with our members, a full review of our Congress Code of Conduct and the systems we use to support and enforce it, including staff education and communications protocols. Improved policies and procedures will be in place in time for Congress 2020.
We recently announced a revised theme for Congress 2020 - Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black racism. Over the coming weeks and months, the Federation will continue working with its partners to incorporate this change into the theme’s description and programming. We are committed to making these issues an integral part of future Congresses, and to working with our scholarly community to address racial and social injustices.