A behavioral covenant is an all-around good idea that will help prevent harmful incidents and will allow appropriate responses when harmful incidents do happen.
Unitarian Universalists have known this for years. We use them in workshop and conference settings to make sure that all participants will feel welcome. An example of the behavioral covenant that we use for our annual General Assembly meeting can be found online here.
Partly in light of recent events involving differences in how some men and some women perceive social interaction in face-to-face and internet situations (“Rebeccapocalypse” was the term used by ScienceBlogs writer Greg Laden — he has an excellent collection of links to the relevant online articles in his “Elevators and Privilege: A Letter to Dawkins and a Link Farm” blog article).
The next major convention of atheists-freethinkers-skeptics happening is “The Amazing Meeting” (TAM) in Las Vegas (sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation). If one is going to have a convention with 1,500+ attendees, it’s a good idea to have a behavioral covenant.
Here is the “code of conduct” that the conference organizers have implemented for the TAM next week:
We want TAM Las Vegas 2011 to be a welcoming experience for everyone who attends . . .
Please respect your fellow attendees by not disparaging them based on unfair grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; and by not making uninvited sexual comments toward others
If someone asks you to leave them alone or to otherwise stop a behavior that is directed toward them, please do so. Continued unwanted behavior directed toward another person is harassment. People who harass others or cause multiple complaints of disrespectful behavior may be required to leave without a refund.
Problems can be reported to TAM staff or volunteers who will bring it to the attention of JREF management. A warning will be given when appropriate, but there will be zero tolerance for violence, physical intimidation, and unwanted intentional physical contact.
Let’s make TAM fun for everyone!
It’s worth checking out the comments from readers about this code of conduct on James Randi’s Facebook profile. Some understand why this is necessary and some do not.
Bravo to the James Randi Educational Foundation for creating an explicit code of conduct for their upcoming conference.