On The Lingering Issue of Harassment at #scio14

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I am a relative newbie to the ScienceOnline community. I have partaken in ScioBeantown in its previous iteration and hope to continue as part of ScioBoston. Through this group, I have met some wonderful people that are hurting right now. My status as a newbie affords me less of the in-community baggage that’s accumulated. That I am unabashed affords me the opportunity to be blunt.

The first breakout session of Scio14 had selections focused on women in science and ways to be an ally to all “minorities.” According to the stream, attendance at these sessions was highly slanted toward women. Apparently the males (myself included, hypocrisy noted) chose poorly and went to a less-weighty law session. Following the tweets from the other session (#sciowomen and #scioboundaries) made me feel horrible for not attending the other sessions, and not being an active contributor to addressing and solving this problem.

Why were there so many sessions focusing on women in science and harassment? Well, Bora Zivkovich, a godfather of science communication, was an extensive, repeat [alleged (added 3/2)] harasser of women. This has been covered elsewhere, and, Dear Newbies, a google search will give you the lay of the land. This led to a conceptualization of “ripples of doubt” wherein female communicators couldn’t separate his favoritism and assistance from their own ability to succeed without his help. Tl;dr, A guy named Bora was powerful and [allegedly (added 3/2)] harassed a bunch of female science communicators.

This elephant in the room needed to be addressed here, because Bora was a big part of ScienceOnline. This led to the session selection. But this wasn’t enough. Friends I’ve made early in this community went to the sessions that tap danced around the subject of Bora [allegedly (added 3/2)] harassing members of the community. Friends were left shaken by the fact that these sessions covered nothing substantially and didn’t really address Bora by name.

This leaves me with a question: why bother having the sessions on harassment and inclusion if 1) the right people didn’t attend and 2) if you aren’t going to address the actual issue.

This matter is hanging like a fart in the air over the conference and needs to be addressed head-on. It should have been the first thing mentioned in a plenary session. The hard truth should not be opted into. It is the only way to build community with newbies like myself. They need to know how we got to where we are today. We all need to know what to look for. And, above all others, we all need to know how to be allies to each other.

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10 Responses to On The Lingering Issue of Harassment at #scio14

  1. Scicurious says:

    Actually, we didn’t dance around the topic at the #scioboundaries session. Things got pretty heavy and specific. Don’t know how much made it into tweets though.

  2. I have no problem being wrong about that, but I still think that discussion should have had a bigger audience.

    • Scicurious says:

      Well yes…but there’s also the question of how much we should be putting victims on the spot. But yes, I wish that more people had come.

      • Definitely a fair concern, the on-spot-puttedness. Trying not to presume to understand their position, I could imagine seeing it on the schedule might be an adequate heads-up, and their names CERTAINLY should not be mentioned explicitly without their consent.

        • Scicurious says:

          Their names weren’t mentioned.

          And then, it’s people’s choice if they show up or not. Says more about the people who avoided it than it does about the org itself I think. Karyn was in the session as well.

  3. Anon says:

    Bear in mind that some people were specifically asked not to attend.

  4. second year here says:

    I disagree. I’m female. I’m part of the community. And I am ready to move on. My employer is not sending me here to discuss Bora. I’m here to get new ideas, learn new skills and hopefully meet some new contacts. There has been plenty of discussion about harassment; now can we talk about something else?

  5. Pingback: Things I Learned at #scio14 – Building the Network | The Snarky Scientist

  6. Anon2 says:

    You should probably be more thoughtful in your choice of words. “Harassment” has a legal definition, and by most accounts it does not apply here, wrt Bora. Understandable that you are misled by the information you googled on the Internet but that is not necessarily the best way to inform yourself.

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