The Los Angeles Times blog Hero Complex published an article about the San Diego Comic-Con and its lack of a policy on harassment. Although the event is attended by 130,000 people from all over the world, organizers haven’t seen fit to define what harassment is. Not really. This is the only thing posted on the official San Diego Comic-Con website about harassment:
Code of Conduct
Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.
Not once do they define what harassment is. How do you have a policy on something that you fail to define what it is? If you are coming up with code of conduct, and you find yourself using the phrase, “common sense”, you need to stop and start over. There’s no such thing as common sense. What may make sense to one person, may not make sense to others.
In fact, the word “common” should be stricken from any credible code of conduct. The San Diego Comic-Con uses the word twice in the first sentence.
For what seems like my entire adult working life, at every job I’ve had, I’ve had to take a yearly class on harassment. I find it boring and completely unnecessary, but I invariably realize some people are stupid and actually need an annual reminder on how to treat others in the workplace. Every workplace harassment class I’ve ever had has always began with defining harassment.
Every single one.
I’ll admit that defining harassment in the workplace is much easier than defining harassment at a comic book convention. A comic book convention is a social event. What’s considered unacceptable in the workplace may not apply in a social gathering. It’s why San Diego Comic-Con and other similar events need to define what harassment is.
You can’t have a policy on something if you never bother to define what that something is.