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Code of Conduct

Western Literature Association Code of Conduct and Behavioral Guidelines  

Introduction

The WLA has begun work on a Code of Conduct that we hope will allow for a conscientious and equitable conference environment. WLA conference attendees have a right to a safe, harassment-free experience. In order to ensure our members and participants feel welcome and able to express themselves and speak to their lived experiences, the WLA asks that each conference attendee familiarize themself with the following behavioral and conduct standards.

A Note Re: Freedom of Expression

The guidelines below are not intended to constrain responsible scholarly or professional discourse and debate. Constructive, scholarly and academic exchanges can feel uncomfortable at times. The WLA has a tradition of engaging in contentious conversations, discussing uncomfortable realities, and fostering collegiality despite differences in opinion, values, and beliefs. Like most academic organizations, the WLA is committed to free and open dialogue and debate in the name of freedom of expression. The WLA is also known for its collegiality and humor within and beyond academic dialogue–we don’t have an award for the most humorous presentation each year for no reason! In order to sustain our warm and collegial atmosphere, we hope to foster awareness and an ethic of conscientious academic citizenship in our membership and amongst our conference attendees. 

Welcomed and Encouraged Behaviors

Because fostering an inclusive and accessible conference environment goes beyond avoiding detrimental actions, the WLA encourages the following behavior and conduct:

  • ° Listening as much as, or even more than, you speak;
  • ° Sharing “air time” by yielding speaking time to those whose viewpoints may be under-represented. For instance, Black folx, Indigenous peoples, Latinx individuals, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, and anyone else who also identifies as under-represented based on race or ethnicity; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Two-Spirit colleagues; and graduate students and attendees from beyond academia);
  • ° Using welcoming language, for instance by honoring individuals’ correct pronouns and favoring gender-neutral, collective nouns and language that is sensitive to disabled colleagues, members, and conference attendees (think: “people,” “folks/folx,” or “y’all” rather than “you guys,” and “wild,” “shocking,” etc., rather than “crazy,” “nuts,” or “lame”)
  • ° Accepting critique graciously; 
  • ° Offering critique constructively and with care;
  • ° Seeking concrete ways to make physical and online spaces, as well as resources, more universally accessible (e.g. printing and providing access copies of papers and presentations, using a microphone, providing trigger warnings before presentations begin, using closed captioning when possible, providing descriptions of visuals, and more);
  • ° Making proactive moves, as bystanders, to advocate for the welfare of conference attendees, and remaining prepared to intervene, if necessary.

Harassment and Discrimination

The WLA has instituted a no-tolerance policy for harassment, discrimination, bullying, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and other exclusionary behaviors., whether online or at in-person conferences. Harassment and discrimination includes but is not limited to:

  • ° Verbal comments that reinforce damaging social structures of domination (e.g., related to race, ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities both visible and invisible, physical appearance, body type, age, or religion), or that minimize a person’s lived experiences, identity, or safety;
  • ° Threats or acts of violence;
  • ° Disruption of talks or other events;
  • ° Intimidation, stalking, or following;
  • ° Unwelcome sexual pursuit or pressure;
  • ° Physical contact without consent;
  • ° Unwelcome sexual attention, verbal or physical;
  • ° Deliberate misgendering or use of “dead” or rejected names;
  • ° Deliberate “outing” of any person’s lived experiences or identity without their consent;
  • ° Cyber-harassment, -bullying, trolling, doxing, etc.  
  • ° Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

As a reminder, the following behaviors do not constitute discrimination or harassment:

  • ° Discussion of sensitive topics;
  • ° Feeling persecuted for your social privilege;
  • ° Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “please leave me alone,” or “I’m not comfortable discussing this”;
  • ° Refusal to expend the emotional labor to explain or debate social justice issues when the person being asked feels threatened based on their lived experience, personal identity, or safety;
  • ° Communication in a “tone” you don’t find congenial;
  • ° Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions.

A Note Re: COVID-19, Xenophobia, and Racism

As COVID-19 infections increase in the U.S., so too do feelings of fear, anxiety, and isolation. Additionally, the U.S. is experiencing an increase in misinformation, xenophobia, and racism. Our Asian-American and Pacific Islander colleagues have been contending with physical, financial, emotional, and psychological harm, while our Black, Indigenous, and Latinx colleagues are coping with the emotional weight of disproportionate rates of infection and death in their communities. Accordingly, the WLA will not tolerate COVID-related harassment at this year’s virtual conference, and beyond. Please only use the names provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” when discussing COVID-19 topics; and be sensitive to the varied nature of COVID-related experiences conference attendees are experiencing.

Misconduct Reports

While we continue our work to implement an anonymous, online Misconduct Reporting System, those serving on the WLA’s Equity Committee will be making themselves available to anyone who wishes to report an incident or needs support or assistance during the conference. These individuals, from various stages in their academic careers and representing various areas of expertise, are prepared to listen, offer support, and to document instances of misconduct. Please note that advocates will not advise or investigate on their own, while they will stand ready to pass along documentation of incidents to the Executive Council, if the complainant wishes. As we further develop the reporting options we can make available to our membership and conference attendees, our goal is to meet misconduct reports with a process of survivor-centered, restorative justice. Until we have fully developed this system, The Equity Committee appreciates members sharing feedback and concerns, which will help us ensure the safety and well-being of conference attendees.

Should you need to report misconduct, the following individuals will be available to you via email to set up a time to talk: 

Committee Chair: 

Ashley E. Reis, Senior Lecturer, University of North Texas: Ashley.Reis@unt.edu 

Committee Members: 

Krista Comer, Professor, Rice University (WLA Executive Council Member): kcomer@rice.edu 
Jennifer Dawes, Professor, Midwestern State University (WLA Executive Council Member): jennifer.dawes@msutexas.edu 
Carolyn Dekker, Assistant Professor, Finlandia University: carolyn.dekker@finlandia.edu 
Mike Lemon, Instructor of English, Texas Tech University (WLA Executive Council Member): mike.lemon@ttu.edu 
Nick Henson, Instructor of English, Citrus College: nhenson@citruscollege.edu 
Jillian Moore, Ph.D. Candidate, Duquesne University (WLA Graduate Representative): benionj@duq.edu 

Future Goals 

Our hope is that this Code of Conduct and Behavioral Guidelines will serve to protect the safety of all WLA members and conference attendees. This is a living document that we will continue to revisit frequently and develop over time. We appreciate the support of the WLA community in making our organization and conferences more inclusive, accessible, and equitable. 

Notes

We encourage our members and conference attendees to educate themselves on the addition of the asterisk after Trans*. You can learn more, via Jack Halberstam, here

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