My MidAmeriCon II badge was just suspended. That is awesome. This is why.

I am so proud of MidAmeriCon II and their safety staff. Why? Because I violated the Code of Conduct and they held me accountable. It would have been really easy for them to give me a pass because I’m “Someone” and to say, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter” for me. Even though it was stressful for them, they followed their procedures and it was a great, very respectful process.

In fact, that’s why I’m writing this post. I asked if there was anything that I could do to help mitigate the damage I’d done – not as a bargaining point, but because I’d screwed up. What we agreed on was that Codes of Conduct are really important, and that part of making sure that they are robust is knowing that everyone is held accountable at the same levels.

So what happened? I served scotch while I was on a panel. It’s something I’ve done before, but in this case, it violates the code of conduct because it potentially jeopardizes the con’s relationship with the venue. It’s something I didn’t think about.

The fact that my violation was accidental doesn’t matter.

As I said, I’m so proud of MidAmeriCon II for the way they handled this. I finished the panel. Two members of the concom took me to a private room where we could do an incident report. I told them what happened and… according to the policies and procedures, this means that they need to ask me to leave for the remainder of the day. It’s not a revocation of membership, or anything,  just a one-day suspension sorta like a time-out.

Again, it would have been easier for them to ignore it. I had a panel that I was moderating afterwards and that means they then had to restaff that. I have a fairly big footprint on social media so there was the fear that I might have thrown a fit and caused a firestorm. The violation was accidental – and… and all of those reasons have been used to excuse inappropriate behavior in the past.

In order to have robust and functional harassment policy – in order to make sure people feel safe, it is so, so important that a Code of Conduct is administrated evenly regardless of a person’s status.

I’m really sorry to have added to their stress and so proud of them and our community.

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130 Responses

  1. Gav King

    Thank you so much for being a class act. If only more people in our community handled being called out this gracefully…

  2. Jessica Steiner

    Whoops!

    I’m proud of them for following their rules, and proud of you for giving them positive publicity in response!

  3. victoria

    I was in said panel. Not one in the panel was made aware of the seriousness of this. I want to both thank the con for the professional way this was handled, and your grace in making this post and how you have reacted. I contrast your grace with another incident at the con where a person who is also a “someone” violated the code and has handled his removal with the exact opposite of yours. I look forward to seeing you at future cons.

  4. Peter Hentges

    Sounds like that was no fun for anyone, but that it was resolved properly and respectfully. Kudos to you all.

  5. Murphy Jacobs

    I’m impressed with everyone involved. People make mistakes, and thus we learn. You’ve also made an excellent example of yourself by accepting that you made a mistake, accepting the consequences, and writing it up as you have. Should there ever be an incident where a “Someone” doesn’t behave with similar grace, everyone can say “Look, THIS is how you deal with it.”

  6. K`shandra

    Seconding Murphy Jacobs’ comment above. Kudos to them for treating everyone equally, even when it sucks to have to do it; kudos to you for acknowledging that you screwed up and accepting the consequences.

  7. Diskgrinder

    The best response to an inadvertent breaking of the rules of the venue.

    I used to run a club in the early nineties for people transitioning from cd rom multimedia to the Internet. It was on unlicensed premises (a cyber cafe as they were called then, basically a bunch of pentiums and cathode tubes in a shop) and we brought in a case of beer to celebrate the unveiling of the performa range of macs (because they had a built in RF tv tuner, and QuickTime recording)

    We were told the serving of alcohol was against the law, so we didn’t.

    The point being, the interdiction was licensing laws, not the imposition of anti-libertarian freedom faulting fascism. Just the law.

  8. Jeff Beeler

    Do you usually ask the con if there is a venue at the con for your programming item where you can serve free Scotch?

      1. John Mellby

        That was Scotch? I thought it was rum.
        If I had known it was Scotch I would have accepted some.
        Sorry for you faux pas, but the panel was lovely anyway.
        Thanks!

  9. Antiqueight

    Well done.
    Well done to the Con and kudos to you for posting about it and accepting the fault and stylishly handling your time out.
    This is behaviour to copy…not the error but all cons should be so capable and all members so adult.

    Well done

  10. Catherine Jefferson

    Well said, Mary. I’m not at WorldCon, and the fuss going around about Dave Truesdale along with the lack of actual information is… puzzling. And a bit unnerving. (I’ve largely avoided the culture wars of the past few years, mostly because I rarely make it to cons anymore.)

    MidAmericaConII — and anybody else who will run a Con — should also take a lesson away from this. Con staff need to be aware that people might not know about changes to the Code of Conduct, or new issues that involve the Code of Conduct. I bet that, if somebody had thought to post a clear reminder at checkin and in the green room that the Con’s agreement with the hotel didn’t permit alcohol except when served by the hotel (or in private rooms?), you wouldn’t have made that mistake.

    Thanks for telling us what happened. At least I won’t worry about THIS incident if I hear about it through the grapevine. 😉

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      It’s actually pretty clearly explained. I just didn’t read the whole thing. The lesson to take away is that one should actually read the material in the packet, not just make assumptions.

      As for silence regarding other incidents, discretion is important and I think MidAmeriCon II is correct in not sharing the torrid details because the incident has been resolved.

      1. Mike

        The incident was resolved, yet by different means. Mr Truesdale has posted his version, although the con has not posted theirs, other than the social media version. But it appears that there was dissimilar treatment of two different panel members.

        Ms Kowal, how do you reconcile the two different treatments with your statement that the Code of Conduct is administered evenly?

        1. Mike

          Three reasons. You have said that the con panel pulled you aside into a private room where your infraction was explained to you, and that a one-day suspension was the result of your violation of the Code of Conduct.

          According to the MidAmericon tweet, Mr Truesdale’s membership was revoked for violating the Code of Conduct.

          Given that you both violated the Code of Conduct, and yet:

          a) you were given a one-day suspension while he was essentially ‘expelled’
          b) you were counseled in person while it appears he was not
          c) the Con staff felt it was necessary to publicly post the results of his expulsion, vice not publishing your punishment

          One could say it was a result of intent; yours was ignorance of the specifics while his ‘appears’ to be intentional. However, the Code does not appear to specify punishments on the level of infraction, just a general statement that the Con can revoke membership without a refund based on their judgement of their actions that “…adversely affects MidAmeriCon II’s relationship with its guests, its venue, or the public…”

          Both of your infractions had the potential to adversely affect its relationship, as noted by the complaints. Yet his was related to politics while yours was primarily regulatory (yes, a guest complained, but you did in fact violate the alcohol policy).

          Given your defense of their actions, would you care to hazard an opinion as to why you were treated differently by the Con staff, and should that affect this post?

        2. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          a) you were given a one-day suspension while he was essentially ‘expelled’
          – I would imagine that it had a great deal to do with how we responded to being told that there was a problem. But I don’t know as I wasn’t there or privy to the conversation.

          b) you were counseled in person while it appears he was not
          – Eyewitness reports indicate that he refused to go with them.

          c) the Con staff felt it was necessary to publicly post the results of his expulsion, vice not publishing your punishment
          – The Con staff asked me to write a post explaining what had happened, which I did while “in custody” and got their approval before posting it. They retweeted it from their official feed. Mr. Truesdale posted his own account, which differed from eyewitness reports.

          This post is about an incident that occurred between me and the Con and it was written with their approval. Altering it to discuss another member of the convention would be wildly inappropriate.

          You’ve asked me to hazard a guess about the differences in our treatment. I won’t beyond what I’ve already written, because I simply don’t have the information to make an informed guess.

          But I will say this… A Code of Conduct exists to protect the members of an event or organization. When I’ve been in similar situations as an administrator, how the person responds to a mistake informs a great deal of the way the next steps are shaped. Someone who does not regret their actions, or shows intention to do so again, or who threatens the staff?

          That person would get no quarter.

          Someone who regrets, apologizes, and wants to make amends? That person gets some leniency because the chances of a repeat action are low.

          In both cases, the choices are based on the actions of the offender.

        3. ctein

          Dear Mike,

          As I pointed out in another comment, your position is as silly as arguing that all driving violations should receive the same penalties because they all fall out of the Traffic Code.

          To note just a few differences– Mary did not launch a verbal attack on a large group of convention-goers. Mary did not hijack a panel. Mary did not set out with the intent to commit a CoC violation. And I could go on and on.

          You can argue (oh, far, far away, PLEASE) that Truesdale did not merit the punishment he received, but trying to claim that his and Mary’s case are essentially the same is simply ridiculous.

          You might want to spend some time learning exactly how Codes of Conduct are implemented and why they include some flexibility as well as anonymity, since this does not appear to be clear to you.

          And, to state the blindingly obvious, none of this should in any way affect nor alter Mary’s post, because she did not writing an article about the CoC in general, but about her particular experience with the CoC and how well and appropriately she thought it worked for her. You’re gently insisting she should rewrite it to address a larger not-personal-to-her issue.

          One word:

          Why????

          pax / Ctein

  11. Angela Highland (Korra'ti)

    Oh dear! I’m sad the incident arose, but kudos to both you and the con staff for handling it so gracefully. The con’s last day is today, yes? I hope you will be able to leave the convention on a high note!

  12. Stacey

    While I originally agreed with you and your suspension, after hearing about the closing ceremonies from a friend, I completely disagree with them suspending you.

    Because at the closing ceremonies, three people (apparently members of the MACI committee) drank dry a previously unopened bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label – while on stage, during the official ceremonies.

    If they are going to enforce the rules, they need to enforce them fairly and across the board. Which means that the chair or one of the div heads (many of whom would have been there, and possibly on stage), should have done something immediately. From what the friend who attended said, NOTHING was said. While I understand that something may have been said later, it should have been shut down *immediately*.

    So instead of no one being special, they just moved the line on who is special enough to get away with breaking the rules.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Mmm… There’s a difference between doing so as part of a stage act and serving to an audience. I also wouldn’t be so quick to assume that a) they didn’t clear that as part of their contract and b) it was actually whiskey.

      1. barbara ruhmann

        Excellent point – as to b) – I was in charge of props for a show which included a bottle of Jim Beam shared by members of the cast. A strong batch of Good Earth’s original tea is exactly the same color onstage as a bottle of Jim Beam. One of the actors actually thanked me for coming up with it, as his throat was somewhat irritated, and it eased it. So, perhaps it wasn’t actually whiskey, just a suspension of belief…

      2. KLM

        Agreed. If it were actually whiskey, it is entirely possible it was purchased per venue requirements.

        And even if it wasn’t, note that this was handled discreetly after the fact, why should that have been handled any differently?

      3. David Sooby

        Speaking as a personal friend of Ken Keller, chair of 1976 MidAmeriCon and one of the people drinking from the bottle of Beam’s Choice Green Label on the stage…

        Well, back in 1976 at MAC, I watched in astonishment as Ken drank about 2/3 of a bottle straight down all in one go, also while on stage. I was truly astounded. I’m no drinker myself, but I thought anyone who drank that much that fast would be in danger of being poisoned, or at least would have a violent reaction shortly afterward. I learned some years later that the “whiskey” in the bottle was actually tea.

        Whether or not the same thing occurred this time… well, I’m sworn to secrecy. 🙂

        So, MRK… you are to be congratulated on your perceptive response here, as well as your very classy response to the incident which prompted your blog post.

    2. Megan Marie Brandenburg

      It sounds like the issue wasn’t that she had the alcohol, but that she served it to people attending her panel. If it’s like most conventions if been to and worked for, they likely don’t have a 21 and up badge.

      Did she card the people who she gave drinks to? We don’t know. If she didn’t it would have been entirely possible to serve a minor which is illegal in the US. That rule is likely in place as much to protect attendees and guests as it is to protect the convention.

      I applaud her for her willingness to not only accept her suspension, but be open and honest about it and why it happened.

  13. Anne K Gray

    Interesting. Sounds like a slightly poorly designed policy, as the most important thing within this area of policy should not be to punish the offender but to ensure that the policy will be followed from then on (and to repair the relationship with the venue, if necessary).

    It is not an uncommon rule, however, for conventions to require members not to serve (or take their own) alcohol outside of personal or specific hospitality rooms. We had to arrange for use of the Concierge Suite for the Scotch Tasting at ConFusion, for instance.

    So kudos to all for handling it in a civilized manner, and everyone, yes, do please take care in American hotels to keep alcohol consumption/sharing off of any floor where the venue might be selling alcohol themselves, unless you purchased your drinks from said venue.

  14. Elizabeth Huffman

    Thank you so much for being a class act!

    Thank you MidAmeriCon for holding everyone to the same standards!

  15. Ian

    I agree they did the right thing, except for suspending you from the panel.

    I think they should have asked you to attend, but make no other appearances or shopping, or anything else con related.

    not for your sake, but for the benefit of the people looking for your panel who were then disappointed and lost the opportunity.

    while i have nothing to do with this particular con, as a volunteer, employee, or attendee, i have been on the staff of multiple cons.

    IMO the procedure should have to basically toss you for the day, as they did, but ask you to honor your panel attendance, and to escort you to and from the panel.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      How could they have guaranteed that I wouldn’t have done it again, though? You have to base it on actions. I really do think they made the right choice. And they let me suggest a replacement for myself, too.

  16. Todd Mason

    Good for them and good for you, given how draconian liquor laws and regulation can be, particularly in a dry-leaning state such as Kansas. Unintended consequences handled sensibly, it sounds like.

  17. John Nikitow

    I tip my hat to Mary and the MidAmeriCon staff. Stuff happens. Sometimes there are consequences. The whole thing was handled well. May others learn from this and, if punishments are handed out, may they use Mary as I splendid example of what to do.

  18. Robbie Knight

    Mary, I’ve followed your posts for a few years now and am always startled by your honesty and good grace, not because it would surprise me, but because these traits stand out vividly in our graceless age. I appreciate you sharing this story. What STYLE you’ve got. Thank you for sharing that, too,

  19. Karen Junker

    Nicely done! Thank you for sharing this with everyone. I will add to the other comments that your grace in handling this and in revealing it is a great example of how to do it right.

    Note: I have had an event closed down and everyone booted from the venue for liquor violations that happened there, and I have also had venues threaten to boot us just for bringing in ‘food and beverage’ that was not provided by the hotel’s catering department, even though it was purchased in vending machines on hotel property, so…one hates to be a tyrant about enforcing the rules and agreements with the venue, but sometimes the alternative is not very much fun.

  20. Beth

    This situation and how it was handled all around increases my respect for you even more and does the same for the con itself, about which I hadn’t heard much. To be honest, knowing that they enforce their rules and have consequences – but in a polite, respectful manner – makes me interested in checking out the con for next year. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

    1. Douglas Muth

      And I just checked you Twitter feed and saw that I appear to have accidentally misgendered you–my apologies!

      (I really wish the English language had a gender-neutral word to replace “sir” and “ma’am”.)

  21. Syd

    If it wasn’t obvious at closing that it could not have been scotch in that bottle. Let me respond. It was a prop filled with ice tea. Sorry to spoil the illusion, but no code of conduct was violated as it was a prop in a stage act and wasn’t scotch.

    That Ruth guzzled 1/2 the bottle should have given it away

  22. mat

    “In order to have robust and functional harassment policy – in order to make sure people feel safe, it is so, so important that a Code of Conduct is administrated evenly regardless of a person’s status.”

    What’s the connection between accidentally (?) serving whiskey to panelists and a “functional harassment policy” ?

  23. Sarah Goodman

    About the closing ceremonies: if you listen carefully they never actually said what the bottle was filled with. In fact, it was cold tea. (Which is a good thing — knocking back that much alcohol would not be healthy!)

    They may have erred in giving the impression that it was booze, but they weren’t endangering the contract with the convention center.

    I want to add my praise to both Mary and the Con Com for Doing It Right.

  24. Edwardian Poppins

    I just now heard about your faux pas. As I understand it, you mistakenly served Scotch at a panel, violating some, no doubt, Victorian rule, which then led to you getting a 24 hour time out in which you would be able to reflect on your misdeeds …. while drinking more Scotch!

    All in all I feel it probably worked out well …

  25. Beth Howard

    Good for you owning up to your part in the situation, and good for them sticking to their rules and making sure that all people are held to the same standards regardless of their position at the con. Well played on all sides!

  26. Mark

    Good on you, Mary and good on the Con folks for taking care of things in a proper way. If only the rest of the world could not only handle things with respect and justice and we could accept when we do something wrong, the world would be a much safer and happier place. Thank you for doing your part to make it that way.

  27. Greg M.

    Hi, Mary! Wow, this is a well-adjusted post. Many kudos to you, and to MidAmericon. If it had been me, I would’ve been embarrassed and upset–this is a small Worldcon equivalent of the golfer who called an extra stroke on himself in one of the major 1984 golfing events.

    P.S. It was great to meet you in person! And thank you for personalizing my book with ‘larval Zoloft.’ Heh.

  28. Hannah

    Thanks for being classy, Mary. You’re an excellent example to us all.

    Honestly, I felt like, while most of the con was very well run, they kind of failed as far as food issues in the contract with the venue. Not being able to have a real ConSuite, which many attendees plan on for at least some of their meals, was a pretty big oversight. I hope future cons took note.

  29. Flo

    As someone who went to the panel you got bumped from, Sunil did a great job of keeping things low key (“Mary had to leave earlier than expected” or something to that effect), and it was a good panel full of great book and movie recommendations- I have a new reading list. You were missed, but the substitution wasn’t disruptive.

    I’m sorry you got suspended on the last day, because what a great story to tell to all your other panels! However, I’m glad you’re handling it like an adult and giving credit where it is due.

  30. Nancy Palmer

    It seems goofy to be congratulating someone over the age of 10 for behaving like a grownup, but here I am doing just that! Way to go! Thanks for setting a much-needed great example.

  31. Ed

    It’s truly refreshing to know that in addition to the paragon of artistic talent, elegance and beauty I perceived you to be, that I can add (not surprisingly) grace and honor to that list. 🙂
    It is quite a contrast to similar recent events I won’t delve into here!
    I will mention however, that although I was not at your panel, I don’t think offering optional scotch to audience members who asked questions would have bothered me, whereas I was at closing ceremonies, where a bottle of liquor was downed by the chairs of MidAmericon I & II and Pat Cadigan, while asking the audience to hold their hands up while they did so – that falls into a general category of action that I find uncomfortable- exhorting someone to drink.

  32. Jacque

    Note to self: remember to read and internalize the Policies and Proceedures before the con starts. 🙂 (Thank you; woundn’t have occurred to me, previously.)

  33. Karen

    Another example to add to the stack of proof you are an Excellent Person and a fabulous writer. Kudos to you for a classy response, for the educational explanation–and to the con for their courage in sticking to principle.

      1. mg

        This wasn’t puritanism – it was commerce. Many hotels require that they provide all food and beverages at an event – Mary brought her own, which broke a contractual agreement between the Con and the hotel. If the Con hadn’t take official action, they could have been penalized by the hotel and risked not being able to use that hotel again.

  34. SorchaRei

    The only way codes of comduct work is if people of good intentions who violate them accidentally are willing to take the consequences cheerfully. It helps create a climate where the code of conduct is just another thing about the con. Thanks for doing the right thing, and thanks for writing about it.

  35. Jack Campbell Jr.

    As a co-panelist on that particular panel (which was a lot of fun), I thought you handled the whole thing fantastically when you found out that you would probably get in trouble.

    This is probably a lot more about previous agreements/contracts between the con and the venue than anything else. A lot of sites (at least around here) specify that their contractor serve all food or drinks.

    Sorry that you missed your last panel, and I hope to see you back in KC for another con.

  36. Glenn Amspaugh

    Very cool of you on how you handled things and then this post explaining why. Thank you!

  37. Darren Barefoot

    I’m somebody who organizes a lot of events, and I think I understand the importance of good codes of conduct and safety policies.

    However, I also understand the importance of flexibility. This feels like a silly over-reach and blind adherence to a policy. The organizers could have just had a word with you after your panel, written up the incident report and reprimanded you for the mistake.

    It seems peculiar to me that “kicked out of the conference for the day” is the mandatory minimum punishment for any transgression. Or if it’s not, it’s peculiar that organizers felt it merited that response.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Sure. And they could have jeopardized the relationship with the venue. Since the contract that they signed allowed for no corkage at all (something I didn’t know at the time) my actions put them in the potential position of having to pay several thousand dollars to the venue for breach of contract. Fortunately, it was easy to avoid by asking me to leave for the day, which was in no way a hardship for me.

      I’ve also run events and thought that their response was appropriate given the circumstances.

      1. Darren Barefoot

        It sounds like you’re a reasonable person, so I imagine if they spoke to you, you would have put away the scotch and kept it away (or returned it to your hotel room or whatever).

        Or they could have, uh, impounded the scotch until the end of the day.

        Either of these scenarios would have the same effect as kicking you out of the conference, with the added bonus of not kicking you out of the conference.

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          The problem is that “you’re a reasonable person” relies on me being who I am and, specifically, a known individual. Would someone who wasn’t known have been offered that same privilege?

        2. Darren Barefoot

          (I don’t see a reply button under your latest comment in this thread, so apologies for responding out of order).

          Indeed, that’s why you have the meeting after the panel and write up the incident report. It gives the organizers an opportunity to assess the person and undertake a course of action.

          If they’re a speaker, then they already have a (good or bad) reputation and the organizers probably has some relationship with them, so they’re not working in a vacuum.

          If the person seems like an unrepentant dolt or is already drunk, then send them home. If they’re even a little fussy, take away their scotch. If they seem horrified, apologetic and thoughtful, cut them some slack.

          As I said, it seems like blind adherence to a policy, or a poorly-designed policy that sets the ‘minimum punishment’ too high.

        3. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          You’re welcome. It seemed like something a “reasonable person” might do after several rounds of mansplaining by someone who wasn’t there and doesn’t know the full circumstances.

        1. Sally

          It’s easy to run a convention in your head.

          I was vice-chair of a small one once. ONCE. That was enough. However, I’ve gofered and been SMOF-adjacent and friend of concom, and in aforesaid vice-chairship, I was also hotel liaison. I have seen many contracts.

          I most certainly would have done the same as MACII. The corkage restrictions have thrown more than one convention (fan and mundane) from a tidy profit to a deep deficit.

          No one should be above the law or in this case, the CoC. Just because Mary wasn’t screaming, delivering a diatribe, or groping people, it doesn’t mean she didn’t break the rules.

          As a panelist, she was also operating under the aegis of the con, which would be enough to trigger the corkage fee. It’s akin to when a cop goes bad, the city which he works for is on the hook for the reparations.

  38. david horne

    Mary, thanks for posting this. I was in the audience, and had taken precautions before coming, including checking with the organizers, who had told me that the programming would be drug and drinking free. As a former addict, it’s important that I stay away from substances that might trigger a relapse.

    I made the complaint to an organizer that I had to leave your panel because of the cavalier use of intoxicating beverages. They told me they would deal with it and I am glad that they did.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      My very sincere apologies for my actions, which made you uncomfortable. I did not think about that possibility as a consequence and won’t do this in the future. Thank you for letting me know and for reporting it to the event organizers.

      They did tell me that it had made someone uncomfortable, but I didn’t mention that in the blog post because I didn’t feel like that part of the situation was mine to tell. Many thanks for speaking up.

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          Probably not, because the con asked me to do an explanation post and I cleared the text of this one with them before posting. I think a separate apology post is appropriate but…

          I’m still going to want to run it past the concom and the individual who reported me to make sure that I’m not inadvertently escalating things. It’s one thing for Mr. Horne to speak up in comments but he might prefer not to be exposed to the public scrutiny that could come from a blog post.

          It’s definitely changed the way I think about taking a flask into a convention space though, and I’m not going to do this again.

      1. Antiqueight

        I am often uncomfortable with the way alcohol is treated (not just cons, but at work and such too). It would almost never had dawned on me to raise it as an issue and I tip my hat to Mr Horne for doing so (I don’t reply directly as I don’t want it to seem encroaching since he is not the public figure). I have almost gotten so used to it that I wouldn’t think to comment until it is, as here, pointed out to me.

        The closing ceremony people have referenced with the pretend alcohol would have been more uncomfortable for me in the general presumption of humour in drunkenness.

    2. Sally

      Mr. Horne, we all wish you well in your continuing recovery. Standing up for yourself in this matter shows you’ve got what it takes — and you might have inadvertently saved the con thousands of dollars too.

  39. John Hedtke

    I just have to say that this whole thread makes me enormously happy because it reflects right action and taking responsibility on the parts of everyone involved. And that is a real pleasure to see.

  40. Invisigoth

    Thank you for this. So many times people of some import will say the rules don’t apply to them because of who they are. You took responsibility for your actions, accepted the consequences and, in the process, made a very strong statement that the rules are for everyone. Thank you.

  41. Susan

    I don’t know quite what to say about the fact that this is one of the few posts I’ve seen on the Internet where a grownup behaved like an actual…grownup. Well done! 🙂

  42. Greg

    Serving alcohol isnt universally reprehensible. Its not harrassment. Its perfectly valid behavior in the right context. I went. to a class way back when where you were only allowed water in the room. Soda, coffee, juice, etc were not allowed. I walked into the room on the first day of this particular class with a coke in hand. Should I have been thrown out for the day? It was only a 2 day class.

    Luckily for me, thr instructor stopped me as I was looking for a seat, told me of the restriction, allowed me to correct myself, and then I returned to find a seat.

    It appears that you simply didnt know of the restriction of behavior at this venue that is acceptable behavior in other venues. If informing you of the violation would be enough to cause you to stop continued violation, then that would have been enough to restore integrity.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      But you didn’t bring coke in and serve it to everyone and you weren’t the instructor. The thing is… I involved several other people in my violation. If the con had given them a suspension as well, that would have seemed like it was too much. The people in the audience had good reason to believe that what I was doing was sanctioned, because I was in a position of power as moderator of that panel.

      My infraction was not small, and the farther I get from it, the more I see how really badly I fucked up.

      1. Greg

        I dont know all the particulars behind this occurrence. I’ll just point to two possible extremes on a possible spectrum:

        If you were a paid employee who recieved work training that included “dont serve alcohol” or at least a review of the code of conduct, and then you violated that training, then I would agree that you are fully responsible and a day suspension was probably in the ballpark of an appropriate response.

        If you were unpaid and asked to volunteer your time with no training on how to do it, then I would say after they recieved a complaint they should have informed you (and all the other volunteers) of the “no alcohol” rule and apologized to the person who complained telling them the situation had been corrected. In which case, suspending you for something that was primarily their responsibility for their failure to train, seems misguided.

        1. Greg

          Very well. Obviously you know the particulars. My only point is that for readers who do NOT know the particulars, there are some fairly common situations where the con’s reaction was misguided. My experience of cons is that most people who work them are unpaid, underappreciated volunteers who often do not get full support they need to do their job.

          Carry on.

        2. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          “My experience of cons is that most people who work them are unpaid, underappreciated volunteers who often do not get full support they need to do their job.”

          I agree 100%, which is why I’m trying to support the safety committee who made the call, rather than trying to second guess their decision.

        3. Sally

          It wasn’t their failure to train. It was clearly stated in the CoC, which every participant was required to read and follow. It’s as if Mary skipped or dozed off in the mandatory training meeting. It’s entirely her responsibility.

          If they didn’t confiscate the booze, she got off lightly. If they did, that would be the letter of the law.

  43. Louise

    You are a shining bright star in my universe, and this is another wonderful example of why. Thank you for being such a fantastic person!

  44. Louise

    Many kudos also to the fan who needed to speak up and ask for a safe space to be preserved as promised under convention regs, and did so, and had that need respected and the concern addressed in an appropriate manner.

    MidAmericon, take a bow!

  45. zelcam

    It’s pretty standard in these types of venues that all servings of alcohol are highly circumscribed. See Midamericon’s catering page. I’m just glad that the con’s IRT handled this instead of venue security.

  46. Marion Deeds

    Thank you for sharing this. It is helpful to see and understand how the complaint and investigation process works.

    Clearly MACII took its Code of Conduct and its mission statement seriously and made a conscientious effort to respond appropriately to complaints.

  47. chacha1

    To me this seems like it was handled very professionally all around. Serving a genial beverage at an adult-oriented event in a commercial venue seems so innocuous, but there are a lot of unseen factors, not least of which is potential liability.

    In a case like this, it seems like a simple one-liner to next year’s convention staff and speakers (e.g. “oh btw no food and beverage in the event rooms, except as provided by/purchased at the venue”) might be in order.

    1. ctein

      Dear chacha1,

      Except that wouldn’t be at all accurate.

      The con talked about alcohol a LOT on all the advance materials. I don’t even drink (the stuff takes ucky) and I knew the policy.

      Mary made a minor goof. The con needed to act like they took it seriously for contractual reasons. End of story.

      I assisted Karen Anderson at Poul Anderson’s wake at ConJose in 2002 (?), which was in the con suite, which was open to everyone. The hotel gave special dispensation to serve up some of Poul’s favorite in a room off the con suite with the proviso that we carded everyone.

      I was carding people I’d known for longer then 21 years. I carded Art Widner! He thought it was hilarious. Some people whined at me. I explained that I had no idea who might be looking in, and if it appeared that we were not following the rules rigorously to Anyone Who Mattered, there’d be bad consequences.

      Certain categories of stuff are beyond our control and can’t be let slide.

      pax / Ctein

  48. ctein

    Dear Geoff, Greg, and Darren,

    I know some of you so please don’t take this as a personal attack because it’s not meant that way, but do you realize that what you are doing is trying to deny Mary’s experience**? You think you are allying yourself with her, but you’re not. You are each spinning out narratives that are your particular agendas but are in factual contradiction to the specifics she provided about sequence of events that involved her and solely her.

    Furthermore, you are arguing with her opinion and feelings about how appropriately the incident was handled although, again, that is entirely up to her. As well as going off into hypotheticals about how if it were in a different incident, it should have been handled differently. (duh) If you think that is supporting her reality rather than your theoretical construct, you have a different understanding of the word support than I do.

    In my judgment, she’s being exceedingly kind and polite when she merely calls it “mainsplaining.”

    Oh, and Mike? Putting aside the derailing aspects of your question, your underlying assumption is about as silly as arguing that all moving traffic violations should be subject to exactly the same fines and penalties.

    (**I was originally going to say undermine, and then I realized how foolishly that would read. In case anyone’s just popping in to read and doesn’t know Mary, they have yet to engineer a backhoe large enough to undermine her.)

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
    ======================================

    1. Greg

      “do you realize that what you are doing is trying to deny Mary’s experience”

      No.

      If someone had posted about being harrassed and then banned for complaining, most sane people would ask for specifics of what happened so they can understand.

      If someone posts nothing but their experience, its like they are posting “Shaka, when the walls fell”, and those of us who dont know who shaka is or what happened when those walls fell, are left with no context.

      The problem you seem to be having, ctein, is that getting those specifics might possibly result in someone coming to a different conclusion than Mary did about whether the con did the right thing or not, and apparently you dont want that, so you frame the possibility of me having a different opinion as trying to deny Mary’s experience. Theyre not the same thing.

      Mary can have whatever experience of the con she wants. I asked for particulars to understand what happened. She gave no further particulars, so I dropped it. But if she had, and I came to a different conclusion than she did, me having a different opinion than her on the situation wouldnt be denying her experience. If we are both adults about it, she could say “they did the right thing” and I could say “i think they over/under reacted and could have done xxx differently”, and we could go on our merry way.

      Denying someone’s experience requires that you disagree with them. But not all disagreement is denying that persons experience.

      1. ctein

        Dear Greg,

        Please do not claim you know what is inside my head.

        Ad hominem, not appropriate.

        You may challenge the externality of my actions and their consequences, as I did yours. You do not have leave to go after me, personally.

        Not now, not ever.

        I would strongly recommend that you drop this line of argumentation, at this point. It never goes well.

        Ctein

        1. Greg

          “Please do not claim you know what is inside my head.”

          This from the man who just finished telling me what I was REALLY doing.

          “You may challenge the externality of my actions and their consequences, ”

          I wrote what I wrote to Mary, and you read something into it that wasnt there. “Denying her experience” is not some external thing one can measure with a scale and calipers. You had to mind read me and you had to mind read Mary to make that assertion, whether you are willing to admit it or not.

          Either way, you are White Knighting here on Mary’s behalf. I asked her for particulars; she made clear she didnt want to go into the particulars; so I dropped it. End of story. We are both adults, and we treated each other as adults. And then you swoop in after the fact and take up the fight that wasnt there, nor was it yours to fight in the first place.

        2. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          Greg.

          “I asked her for particulars;”

          At no point did you ask me for particulars.

          You “explained” why the con was wrong. That you feel differently is fine, but you took time to come to my site and to tell me that I was wrong as well. THAT is what ctein means by denying my experience. It is the action you are taking.

          What your intent is, I don’t know, but I do know the effect of the action on me and it is exhausting to be put in a position of having to defend myself and by extension, the convention. I’m sure your intention is not to imply that you know better than me, despite “not knowing all the particulars” and yet the action you have taken of coming here and repeatedly writing the ways in which you think I’m wrong, have that effect.

          That you would have handled different circumstances differently? Great. Bully for you. But please, for the love of all that’s holy, stop telling me that I’m wrong and second-guessing a group of people who are not you. Everyone involved is an adult and was in full possession of the facts. Everyone is someone who has done con-running before. Why on God’s Green Earth do you feel the need to insist that we were wrong when you have admitted to not know “all the particulars?

          And don’t answer that. It’s a rhetoric device.

        3. Greg

          Mary: “At no point did you ask me for particulars.”

          Ok, sure. I offered two different set of particulars that greatly affect the outcome, and said folks dont know what those particulars are. I then left it open for you to fill in the particulars if you wanted, but I avoided directly asking “did you or did you not do xxx?” because I didnt want to force your hand. The idea was if the particulars mattered to you, you could fill them in, and if you didnt want to talk about the particulars you wouldnt have to say “I dont want to talk about those particulars”, which in my experience is the sort of statement that only causes more people to want to dig into those particulars. What is she hiding, and so on.

          “You “explained” why the con was wrong. .. tell me that I was wrong as well.”

          No, actually I specifically avoided saying that. I think there could have been more than one way they could have done the “right” thing. I think a warning could have been sufficient, depending on the particulars. And I think a day suspension could have been sufficient, depending on particulars. It may have even been the right thing to do by notifying the folks you served alcohol to that they violated the code of conduct as well, depending on the particulars. If the other drinkers were roudy and out of line, depending on the particulars, maybe suspend their badges for a day would also be right. There were probably several responses the con could have done that would have been “right”. And then there was the one particular response they chose, which appears to be on that spectrum.

          I was somewhat interested in getting more particulars to see how wide or narrow the spectrum was. And its been interesting to see the evolution of how cons deal with problems over the years, so, again, details would have been interesting. You didnt seem interested, so I dropped it. Two posts and it was clear to me, so my third post was an attempt to close my end of that conversation.

          It was never a challenge to your experience. It was me geeking out a bit on the details. And when I realized this post wasnt about details (i.e. when you answered my second post on this thread), I dropped it.

        4. Greg

          Mary: ” I thought you didn’t want people to guess what was going on inside your head.”

          No, that was ctein. But if you guess whats in my head and its a strawman of nothing but evil intentions when no such intentions were there, as ctein did to me, then you’re denyng me MY experience, and you should expect me to set the record straight.

          Likewise, if someone mischaracterizes my words….

          “You “explained” why the con was wrong. .. tell me that I was wrong as well.”

          Again, I never said that.

          It may have landed that way for you, but I never said it.

        5. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          Thank you for explaining that and telling me that I was wrong as well.

          I’m still not certain how I should have known you were asking me a question, absent an actual question included in your comments, without guessing at your intentions. But I’ll accept that you had intentions and you’ve explained that they were good — or wait… you didn’t use the word “explain” as in “Let me explain” so maybe you weren’t explaining since you “never said that.” So maybe I was supposed to take it as a question?

          I’m not sure what to do here. Guess at what you meant or not guess at what you meant… I think the safest thing is just for you to not say anything else on my site.

          Ever.

        6. Greg

          Mary: “I think the safest thing is just for you to not say anything else on my site”

          As you wish.

          My apologies.

  49. Tom

    I was the guy who got the last book party cipher right at the end of this panel. I just wanted to say I really had a lot of fun working out those ciphers. That last one took me a fair bit longer than the others. Makes me excited to read Ghost Talkers when it arrives on Thursday for me.

    Thanks for running the book party throughout Worldcon, it seems it was a great success!

  50. Catherine Asaro

    This must be the classiest public response I have seen to a con violation in all the decades I’ve been going to cons. Thank you, Mary, for showing the meaning of the word grace.

    The con must treat everyone the same regardless of how famous they are, how popular they are, or any other criteria. If they don’t, they can be censured for not applying their rules and policies in an even-handed manner across the board. And that doesn’t even touch on the thorny insurance and legal issues that can be arise when alcohol is involved.

    My kudos to Mary and to the con for their excellent handling of a sensitive situation.

    I’m getting the impression from a lot of people that MidAmeriCon II was particularly well run this year.

  51. Karl

    You showed a lot of class handling this. I’ve worked on concom security staff in the past and I only ever recall one person of the relatively few who become problems we had to deal with ever acting similarly, taking responsibility, giving a sincere apology and the big one, never causing a problem again in future years. I think they eventually ended up on staff actually.

  52. Jamie Mitchell

    I think you reacted respectfully and appropriately to the situation. Thanks for sharing your experience. You always impress me with your sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

    Why are some choosing to second guess? You were there, you knew and evaluated the situation. I trust your decisions.

    Nice job. Impressive.

  53. Tess Purvis

    Just another reason for me to admire you!

    Thank you for your well thought out, well spoken response. And on behalf of con chairs everywhere, thank you so much for your respect of the convention rules and treating everyone with grace and fairness.

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