Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

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caroline
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Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by caroline »

In the Zoom panel on diversity and racism in quizbowl, I remarked that in order to more effectively deal with misconduct, we needed more resources, rather than to simply make more demands on our existing ones. Quizbowl is decentralized and lacks a governing body, so there is no single effective way to deal with misconduct or any central authority that can tell everyone how to respond. The closest thing we have to this is the misconduct form committee, which contains representatives from several major quizbowl organizations (NAQT, ACF, IAC, PACE, and the admin of the main Discord server), but there are many things in quizbowl which do not fall under those organizations’ authority, such as housewritten tournaments. An FAQ on the misconduct form’s processes will be released soon, so I will not be explaining the form in full here.

Please note I am only speaking for myself, and I am not an expert on the misconduct form, nor have I ever represented it.

Last night, I brainstormed another potential way to deal with misconduct, which I would appreciate community input on: I am proposing a way for people in administrative/authoritative positions (e.g. TDs, heads of clubs, head editors of sets, etc.) to inquire whether there is a misconduct report on the people they work with, and any consequences which have already been enacted for them. Note that the misconduct committee does not decide what consequences there should be for misconduct reports, but they distribute the report to relevant parties. I’m not super pressed about the exact form of communication for inquiries—I envision it as an administrator emailing the misconduct committee or filling out a Google Form, but there are certainly other options—since I’d rather know if the broad, high-level idea is viable first, though I welcome input on it nonetheless.

Here is one hypothetical example of how it would work: I am a head editor of a set who has assembled a list of potential writers and editors, I email the misconduct committee to ask if there is a report which recommends against allowing them to work on sets or for them to interact with any other individual on my list, and they email me back confirming yes/no.

Additionally, I suggest creating a public log (such a spreadsheet) tabulating who has sent an inquiry, under what capacity (e.g. “I am a TD asking about staffers for tournament X”), and whether they’ve received a response, to increase public transparency.

One of the flaws of the setup of the current misconduct form is that communication is a one-way street: the committee or reporter can send the report to other people they think should know about it, but it is difficult to predict every person you think should know about the report in the present and future. (For example, if I did not want X person to interact with me, I cannot predict every quizbowl space I will ever inhabit at the time of filing a report, and thus decide every person who should see that report.) My proposal relieves some of that burden in that it opens up communication to go both ways: if someone in an administrative position is concerned about perpetrators of misconduct in the space they administrate (which you hopefully are!), they have a way to find out if anyone they’re working with is a perpetrator. Many people in quizbowl often work with / play with / etc perpetrators of misconduct without realizing it, in great part because there is no clear way to find out they are a perpetrator.

Issues
1. There needs to be very clear policies on two things. I would appreciate input on both.

a. Who can send in such an inquiry, and under what circumstances. This is to prevent, for example, perpetrators of misconduct trying to learn more about the reports on them (in cases where the reporter doesn’t want them to know about it), but also, not literally everyone in the quizbowl community needs to know about the specifics of all misconduct everywhere. I obviously don’t speak for victims everywhere, but I do not want people who have never interacted with me or a person I’ve reported on, and who will never be involved with either of us in any capacity, to know about my report. Such inquiries should be sent with the explicit intention of making sure you’re administrating a quizbowl space to be as safe as possible, not to potentially sate another person’s curiosity.

b. What information they would receive from such an inquiry. As mentioned previously, the misconduct committee does not decide consequences. I think for several scenarios, it should be pretty straightforward: for example, if a major organization represented by the form has banned X person from staffing, local TDs running tournaments independently of that organization (such as housewrites) should also ban X from staffing. However, this does not encompass all scenarios, and not all forms of misconduct deserve equal consequences: for example, a teenager who cheated at a tournament does not deserve the same consequences as someone who committed sexual assault. Input on what “should” happen as a response to misconduct—i.e. what warrants appropriate consequences—is appreciated as well, and an important conversation to have.

There’s also the question of how much an administrator should know about misconduct: in my previous head editor hypothetical, the response was simply “yes, this person shouldn’t be allowed to work on your set” vs “no, they’re fine,” but should they know more—why they’re not allowed, for example, or how long this ban lasts (many bans, such as player bans, are temporary)? While I’m happy to discuss what a response from the misconduct committee to any inquiries should look like, I would like to emphasize the expectations for this should be an extremely clearly defined policy, no matter what those expectations end up being.

In particular, I think there should be criteria on what sorts of reports need to be shared (instances of more minor misconduct, for example, may not warrant sharing) and a strong emphasis that an institutional response does not necessarily warrant a community-wide response of the same measures.

2. This is presumably more work for the misconduct committee, which is a small group of volunteers who have busy lives. While I cannot speak for how much work they are willing to do, I think that the community (and the committee) should be willing to allocate more resources and/or people to responding to misconduct if needed, especially since there have been so many past ineffective responses (or nonexistent ones) to misconduct. The onus should not (solely) be on 8 people to solve all misconduct in quizbowl; to that end, I expect this to be a partial solution, not a panacea.

3. To be a maximally effective practice, sending an inquiry should become a standardized and widely accepted practice (though it is hardly ineffective if not everyone adopts it). I don’t think this is an unrealistic expectation to place on community leaders—the misconduct form first came into existence when I had just graduated high school, and high school me would not have dreamed of such an option even existing, yet the form is quite widely discussed now. I didn’t think two years ago that adopting a code of conduct would be a widespread practice, but it is now. During the pandemic, we saw many changes to how quizbowl is played: the use of buzzin.live, measures to decrease cheating like required camera feeds and both hands on camera, and so on. I think we are capable of this change too.

I will add that I, and likely many others, would be more willing to participate in certain quizbowl spaces if we were given the assurance that the leaders of that space would make an effort to ensure others in that space had not committed major misconduct. For example, I would be more likely to sign up to do something if the person in charge said, “Before we get started, we’ll check that no one here has committed major misconduct,” sort of like how I am more likely to play an online tournament which has some sort of protocol in place against cheating.

I’ll close on this note: misconduct is everyone’s problem, and the solutions we have in place are not enough. That’s not to say existing solutions are so harmful or ineffective we should get rid of them, or that people like the misconduct representatives are terrible people with bad intentions who don’t do any meaningful work (I really appreciate them!), but we need more solutions. Simply reacting to misconduct is not enough. If you care about making sure others in the community are safe, you can’t just sit around, waiting for news of misconduct to reach you, especially because a lot of misconduct is never announced in widely read spaces like the forums or Discord (not even accounting for the many people who don’t check those spaces). Quizbowl’s decentralized community has no HR department that will tell you what to do or unilaterally ban everyone who has done something worth banning or whatever. You have to proactively take steps to ensure the safety of your space; making quizbowl a safe and inclusive place is your responsibility, and the responsibility of all of us as a community.
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Connie Prater
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by Connie Prater »

This is a really well-thought-out idea and I'll have to consider it in more depth, but I think it is a not terribly difficult thing to implement that has potential to move the needle on how we address misconduct in quizbowl.

Also appreciate that you've included thoughts on some of the challenges we'd have to resolve to implement this.
There’s also the question of how much an administrator should know about misconduct: in my previous head editor hypothetical, the response was simply “yes, this person shouldn’t be allowed to work on your set” vs “no, they’re fine,” but should they know more—why they’re not allowed, for example, or how long this ban lasts (many bans, such as player bans, are temporary)? While I’m happy to discuss what a response from the misconduct committee to any inquiries should look like, I would like to emphasize the expectations for this should be an extremely clearly defined policy, no matter what those expectations end up being.
My worry with supplying more information, of course, is that we need to prioritize protecting the expectation of privacy of the person who made the report and also avoid feeding the "rumor mill" that tends to happen with such a tight-knit and also very online community. My inclination is that ideally the administrator is given the minimum amount of information required to make a decision on whether/how to involve a person, and that really can be as simple as "yes/no" or some other instructions (ie "Everyone on your list is fine to staff, but don't pair these two people in the same room"). I do agree that we need some very well-defined standards on what that "minimum amount" is.

One possible way to address this, without disclosing too much information to the person making the inquiry, is for the administrator themselves to provide the parameters for potential involvement (likely a fairly detailed form). For a temporary ban, the inquirer would say clearly detail the scope of involvement including timeline so that it can be crosswalked with whether a ban would still be in effect during that period, making a simple yes/no or suggested course of action more useful, without going into any details about the misconduct report itself that aren't strictly relevant to the situation at hand. Of course that shifts more of the initial "paperwork" burden to that administrator, which could be a barrier for widespread adoption for now, but in the long term, depending on whether we all think this is a good idea, formalization of this as a best practice in existing tournament hosting guidelines could help solidify it as just a necessary step.
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by caroline »

Connie Prater wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:50 pm My worry with supplying more information, of course, is that we need to prioritize protecting the expectation of privacy of the person who made the report and also avoid feeding the "rumor mill" that tends to happen with such a tight-knit and also very online community. My inclination is that ideally the administrator is given the minimum amount of information required to make a decision on whether/how to involve a person, and that really can be as simple as "yes/no" or some other instructions (ie "Everyone on your list is fine to staff, but don't pair these two people in the same room"). I do agree that we need some very well-defined standards on what that "minimum amount" is.

One possible way to address this, without disclosing too much information to the person making the inquiry, is for the administrator themselves to provide the parameters for potential involvement (likely a fairly detailed form). For a temporary ban, the inquirer would say clearly detail the scope of involvement including timeline so that it can be crosswalked with whether a ban would still be in effect during that period, making a simple yes/no or suggested course of action more useful, without going into any details about the misconduct report itself that aren't strictly relevant to the situation at hand. Of course that shifts more of the initial "paperwork" burden to that administrator, which could be a barrier for widespread adoption for now, but in the long term, depending on whether we all think this is a good idea, formalization of this as a best practice in existing tournament hosting guidelines could help solidify it as just a necessary step.
I think I agree with this opinion as well: the minimum amount of information needed to make a decision, and no more than that. I also like the idea of asking the administrator to include a timeline (e.g. "When does your tournament happen" / "what's the production timeline for your set" / etc).

Also, since someone on Discord mentioned wanting clarification on the below text:
caroline wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 3:31 am Additionally, I suggest creating a public log (such a spreadsheet) tabulating who has sent an inquiry, under what capacity (e.g. “I am a TD asking about staffers for tournament X”), and whether they’ve received a response, to increase public transparency.
My proposal places a lot of responsibility into the hands of those who lead our spaces: TDs, club leaders, head editors, etc. Much of our community doesn't hold those roles all the time, though, and they still want some way to help. When I see a perpetrator of misconduct allowed into a space, I often wonder if I should say something, if the admins of that space know about their history, have made an attempt to find out, care about it, have the tools to deal with it, so on and so forth. If you are in that sort of position, the log thus enables you to find out whether they've taken that step to make your space safer, and perhaps diplomatically nudge your leadership to send an inquiry. (I think the proposal still works without the log, but we could all use more transparency surrounding misconduct processes.)
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by excessive dismemberment »

caroline wrote: Sat Dec 18, 2021 2:42 am Also, since someone on Discord mentioned wanting clarification on the below text:
caroline wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 3:31 am Additionally, I suggest creating a public log (such a spreadsheet) tabulating who has sent an inquiry, under what capacity (e.g. “I am a TD asking about staffers for tournament X”), and whether they’ve received a response, to increase public transparency.
My proposal places a lot of responsibility into the hands of those who lead our spaces: TDs, club leaders, head editors, etc. Much of our community doesn't hold those roles all the time, though, and they still want some way to help. When I see a perpetrator of misconduct allowed into a space, I often wonder if I should say something, if the admins of that space know about their history, have made an attempt to find out, care about it, have the tools to deal with it, so on and so forth. If you are in that sort of position, the log thus enables you to find out whether they've taken that step to make your space safer, and perhaps diplomatically nudge your leadership to send an inquiry. (I think the proposal still works without the log, but we could all use more transparency surrounding misconduct processes.)

As said person, I definitely support that being standard practice for TDs, club leaders, and head editors to make the proper inquiries, and the public log makes sense as a way to make sure that the community leaders are doing their best to keep everyone safe. I had another (possibly dumb and irrelevant) question regarding this: would this be specifically for inquiries about groups of people (editing teams, rosters for tournaments, etc) or would there be inquiries about specific individuals as well?
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by physicsnerd »

Connie Prater wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:50 pm
There’s also the question of how much an administrator should know about misconduct: in my previous head editor hypothetical, the response was simply “yes, this person shouldn’t be allowed to work on your set” vs “no, they’re fine,” but should they know more—why they’re not allowed, for example, or how long this ban lasts (many bans, such as player bans, are temporary)? While I’m happy to discuss what a response from the misconduct committee to any inquiries should look like, I would like to emphasize the expectations for this should be an extremely clearly defined policy, no matter what those expectations end up being.
One possible way to address this, without disclosing too much information to the person making the inquiry, is for the administrator themselves to provide the parameters for potential involvement (likely a fairly detailed form).
This doesn't sound particularly practical, especially for e.g. large tournaments with many staffers/players (on both ends - this is a lot to write and a lot to read!). Instead, I'd suggest a system roughly as follows. Give the inquiring party three pieces of information:

1. Category of offense - these should be predefined categories, potentially with 'severity' associated with the category. They should err towards less specificity. Example: 'academic misconduct' or 'academic misconduct - minor'. External example: see Stack Exchange's ban reasons. (These may be a little more vague than we'd want, especially since SE ban reasons are 100% public.)

2. Length of associated ban - also should be general categories, likely 'less than a year', 'year', [maybe] 'multiyear', and 'permanent'. This is to some extent a recommendation, as the committee does not decide consequences.

3. Recommendation - yes/no as to whether individual should be involved in given capacity.

The idea would be that these should be broad/rough enough that they're quick to assign. Perhaps even as cases are reviewed by the committee, these categories are assigned to the case. (I don't know how internal records are kept by the committee, but if this is even vaguely spreadsheet-able that'd reduce the time needed to handle these sorts of inquiries.)

Just a suggestion based on my admittedly limited understanding of the situation. Overall idea on inquiries being possible is a really good one though!
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by caroline »

excessive dismemberment wrote: Sat Dec 18, 2021 3:48 pm As said person, I definitely support that being standard practice for TDs, club leaders, and head editors to make the proper inquiries, and the public log makes sense as a way to make sure that the community leaders are doing their best to keep everyone safe. I had another (possibly dumb and irrelevant) question regarding this: would this be specifically for inquiries about groups of people (editing teams, rosters for tournaments, etc) or would there be inquiries about specific individuals as well?
If there is such a situation which warrants only asking about one individual (e.g. someone just dropped from a commitment and you're replacing them with another person you're screening), then sure. If you mean in the context of like, just asking about a random person you're curious about, then no, there should be some sort of actual event/project/commitment/etc that warrants the inquiry.
physicsnerd wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 6:01 pm
Connie Prater wrote: Fri Dec 17, 2021 2:50 pm
One possible way to address this, without disclosing too much information to the person making the inquiry, is for the administrator themselves to provide the parameters for potential involvement (likely a fairly detailed form).
This doesn't sound particularly practical, especially for e.g. large tournaments with many staffers/players (on both ends - this is a lot to write and a lot to read!). Instead, I'd suggest a system roughly as follows. Give the inquiring party three pieces of information:

1. Category of offense - these should be predefined categories, potentially with 'severity' associated with the category. They should err towards less specificity. Example: 'academic misconduct' or 'academic misconduct - minor'. External example: see Stack Exchange's ban reasons. (These may be a little more vague than we'd want, especially since SE ban reasons are 100% public.)

2. Length of associated ban - also should be general categories, likely 'less than a year', 'year', [maybe] 'multiyear', and 'permanent'. This is to some extent a recommendation, as the committee does not decide consequences.

3. Recommendation - yes/no as to whether individual should be involved in given capacity.
I don't think it needs to be too detailed - to preempt the need for #2, I think just asking "what is your project's timeline" (e.g. "My tournament is on XX date," "set production spans from XX to XX dates," and so on) is fine and not that much work on the part of the inquirer, without placing any burden of revealing the length of a ban.

I think #3 is of course good to include; I am unsure about #1, since I feel like even that much is too much info and could lead toward unnecessary speculation, people making assumptions about the nature of the misconduct, etc.

EDIT: I'll add that the misconduct form's report statistics say that there have been 71 misconduct reports between October 2018 and October 2021, so I'll speculate a little here myself and say that replies to inquiries will hopefully be short, as a great deal of them will probably say that you don't need to worry about the people you're inquiring about.
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by physicsnerd »

caroline wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 6:26 pm I don't think it needs to be too detailed - to preempt the need for #2, I think just asking "what is your project's timeline" (e.g. "My tournament is on XX date," "set production spans from XX to XX dates," and so on) is fine and not that much work on the part of the inquirer, without placing any burden of revealing the length of a ban.
From the other end, I do wonder if not giving a timeline makes that individual less likely to be recruited for projects post-ban, if that makes sense. This is just speculation though, and your points here make sense in general. My thought was really just to eliminate the need for a 'detailed form' since that just seems like a lot of potentially unnecessary work for everyone involved.
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Re: Proposal for another way to deal with misconduct

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

I greatly greatly greatly endorse this idea. Thank you for writing this. It could also help prevent cases where reports are made because third parties think that the misconduct board has never heard of a given situation (that is a mechanism that would have helped me personally).

ETA: I especially agree with point 3, that no matter what form this takes, it has to be maximally used. It kind of boggles my mind that as an activity we don't say, run background checks on everyone that we put in contact with minors. Not to say that this should replace other measures like background checks, but I think it would be a good and useful step in making a safer community.
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