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Aeos
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  Creating a safe space
December 17, 2015 9:03:08 AM    View the profile of Aeos 
Havock and I were chatting about this.

If we are to be successful with the revitalisation of this community, I want us to keep in mind that the space we create here needs to be a safe space where people can be at home without fearing cyber-bullying, racism, discrimination or hate speech.

While the VE in the past has never condoned negative behaviour, I found that it did so by staying mute on incidents in IRC not that there were many, but still.

I think a key issue was, that there were not enough representation, which later balanced out.

As as 14 year old who joined this website, I didn't realise my Squad-leader's interactions with me for what it was as he displayed an interest in me. While that was harmless I guess, I think that we need to remember, that we have responsibility of accountability for our interactions with each others, especially towards younger less mature individuals. And sometimes innocent bantering became cyber-bullying with domino-effects.
I had a good friend one here who struggled with aspergers, and socially didn't always articulated himself well at all. There was no space for empathy, and he was absolutely ridiculed and eventually driven out.

I think what I've posted here, feels so obvious to consider, but it's important that it is said none-the-less.

It was not my intention to flay dead horses, but just that I don't want us to corrupt ourselves by muting the topic.

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[This message has been edited by Aeos (edited December 17, 2015 9:53:35 AM)]
Trykon
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 17, 2015 4:49:29 PM    View the profile of Trykon 
This was something I was thinking about yesterday, when everybody (including me, I hasten to add!) was having nostalgia time on Slack.  I feel like sometimes I come across as the party-pooper around here when I mention this, or that people roll their eyes a little at how often I bring it up, but: YES, to everything Aeos just said!

Before the showdown over whether we could get the main page content updated/replaced, there was an ugly incident which prompted me to write new Codes of Conduct and Policies for how the club would handle breaches of these rules, because we had no official guidelines pre-established, for how to deal with the ugly side of human interactions.  Stormz, you were incredibly supportive then, but this is another instance where the VEHC just... wasn't responsive enough.  You and Hav did everything you could (with Fury's help, if I remember), but we need Kad to sign off on adopting those policies (against sexual harrassment, bullying, etc.) officially; or at least on something like them, that addresses the concerns.  These are issues as old as the VE; as great as it is, to all be back, I don't see it lasting unless we can address some of the old, lingering problems, that caused the slow decline last time.  And one of the problems we need to grow past is that this club was founded in the 90s, mostly by teenage boys.  That informed the early (and subsequent) culture, and it's not a culture that is universally friendly to people who are different.  Society has evolved; most of the founding members have, too.  We don't have to outlaw all fun, in chat.  But we DO need to lay out some expectations, for stuff we won't tolerate, as a community.  And we need clear procedures to follow, when someone comes forward invoking those rules.

EDIT: I really don't mean to be Debbie Downer; I feel just as incredible, seeing chat full and new posts on the ComNet, as everyone else.  But we need the VEHC to be populated by people who are active and responsive, or we're doomed for a repeat of the first flame-out.  The VE was better than most internet places, but it was hardly safe (and I say that from personal experience, as well as someone who's fielded many emotional pleas for help, from other members who felt like "outsiders.").  And making it closer to that ideal is at least as important as updating the VE's ancient-looking front-end.

I've hesitated, to speak this candidly: I don't want to seem like I'm maligning club founders.  But really, I don't care who sits on the VEHC, as long as they're present and able to change the site to work best for the community members who are using it, day by day.  If Kad/Tal can do that, yay!  If they can't, we need to find people who can.  There are too many problems (of deal-breaker proportions) still lurking in the shadows of this place for us not to address the root cause: for years, there hasn't been anybody at the top with the power to solve those problems, who's had the time/inclination to bother.

Again, I don't know Tal or Kad, so I'm afraid of coming across as overly critical of them.  This isn't personal.  And I'm full of respect for them, based on what I know about them secondhand.  I just also REALLY care about the friends I've made in the VE, and I care about the community as an idea, too: it's been a place for me to learn valuable skills, and indulge in escapism whenever I've wanted to.
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[This message has been edited by Trick (edited December 17, 2015 5:03:24 PM)]
StOrMz
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 12:15:29 AM    View the profile of StOrMz 
OOC:
Stickied for importance


I'm Posting this in VEHC ComNet, in hopes Talon/Kadann can be directed here. Tryk, if you could, please unbury the revised CoC and post here for reclarification for all members and hopes that Kad/Tal can/will approve and implement them into our CoC.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 2:04:16 AM    View the profile of Trykon 
The original NHC thread (not visible to most people, I think), is here: http://comnet.imperialnetwork.com/topic/16172/

The subsequent post after it was all approved by the NHC, was here: http://comnet.imperialnetwork.com/topic/16773/page/0/
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Gurlanin
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 9:45:40 AM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
As someone who has Autism, I totally agree. There are a number of people here (and I hope he doesn't mind me singling him out, but Tryk is one of them) who do know their stuff when it comes to interpersonal communication issues.

We've got to be firm on certain issues, and encourage anyone to come forward if they have issues.

Might I suggest the creation of a Community Support division? A purely OOC branch that has around three people in it (One Head of CS, and two CS ... agents? :P). Navy and Army will each have a member to whom anyone can go about any problem, and it will be discussed in absolute confidence. Obviously, if the issue is with one of the CS members, then there are at least two others that someone can turn to. In addition to this, each member should have a chat once a week/fortnight with their CS person just to make sure that they are coping alright. Can be as simple as "I'm perfectly happy", but it will allow problems to be dealt with swiftly, and possibly before they even arise.

There were severe community issues with my university, so I have put a lot of thought into this idea already! :P I do believe, however, that the VE could benefit from it.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 8:21:50 PM    View the profile of Trykon 
My sense of things is that people are wanting fewer official positions and bureaucracy, as we get back into the swing of things.  The urge is to streamline.

But I don't disagree with your impulse, Gurlanin!  I just think we might get more mileage (and utility) from keeping the Community Support roles voluntary, rather than appointed.  In other words, folks like me would display an icon, logo, or title on our wiki pages and ComNet signatures, identifying us as volunteers willing to field Community Support issues.
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Sniping101
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 8:39:24 PM    View the profile of Sniping101 
Shhhh. . .this didn't happen.
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[This message has been edited by Sniping101 (edited December 19, 2015 12:56:25 AM)]
Trykon
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 10:37:36 PM    View the profile of Trykon 
Sniping101 wrote:Better yet, a anonymous email for reporting that whoever acts to address this kind of thing has access to combined with something akin to what Trick describes.

Just making sure I parsed that correctly.  Rephrased, that could be said:

"Better yet, whoever acts to address this kind of thing should be given access to an anonymous email, used for reporting."  Is that right?  I'm still not sure I understand what tat means, exactly.  Maybe I need to think about it tomorrow morning, instead, but any clarification would be appreciated. 
Sniping101 wrote:Then we, you know, need the people who can do stuff to actually do stuff, unlike some past incidents.

Past incidents loom large, in my mind.  It's the reason I'm gonna keep pushing these policies, until the powers that be acknowledge the point, and address the issues.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 10:47:28 PM    View the profile of Slasher 
I would push that we have a Vast Empire Master-at-Arms, a member of the high command who is designated to react to, and deal with, these sorts of issues. I will say for my part that I will not stand idly by while people abuse others.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 10:50:59 PM    View the profile of Sniping101 
Yeah, that was one mess of a post, walked away half way through writing it, so no wonder it's nonsense.

Essentially have an email set up from which people can report anonymously to if there is a problem. One of the problems the US Army (and many organizations in general) tend to have is people not wanting to report things for fear of retaliation, I'm talking about some sort of anonymous reporting system. Although the more I think about it the more confusing my initial idea is. Some sort of form that people can use to email the volunteers about problems without having to fear retribution.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 10:59:06 PM    View the profile of Slasher 
.might I propose the creation of an account (those with roster access can do this) the login information for which is available to High Command members of that branch (one each for Navy and Army) and create a corresponding email address. Members can PM the Master-at-Arms on the site, or email them, and then the responding member of the High Command uses the account to respond, keeps the image of a United Front, and also prevents the perception that certain members are playing favorites because it will not be immediately known (except to High Command) who responded to the issue. Thoughts?
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 11:00:44 PM    View the profile of Trykon 
See, the thing is, in order to not stand idly by, you have to know what's going on.  And in order to intervene in a way that is more helpful than harmful, you need to have a blueprint laid down for you by the organization, because good intentions don't guarantee good results.  That's why I've been pushing the adoption of more comprehensive club policies (policies that specifically address harassment and similar behaviors), rather than relying on the inherent goodness of our membership base.  I think by and large, we are good people!  But unfortunately that's not sufficient, in a complicated world.

Also, another reason to avoid positions within a hierarchy (like a Community Support Leader, or Master-At-Arms, or whatever we call it), is that we've struggled, historically, with people going absentee.  If there's one (or even 3 or 4) person(s) who is appointed to deal with this, and that person goes inactive before an incident crops up, that's TERRIBLE for the person being victimized/abused/etc.  Who do they go to?  Better to have a stated club policy, with easy-to-follow instructions for anyone in the chain of command to follow if/when they're called upon to handle an incident, supplemented by a cadre of self-selected point people.  The people who care about community support/safety volunteer to safeguard it, and since they care, they're more likely to be active.

Or so the theory goes.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 11:01:32 PM    View the profile of Trykon 
And yes, anonymous reporting would be the best option.  Just not sure, technically, how to accomplish it.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 18, 2015 11:57:55 PM    View the profile of Avalar 
As someone on the unfortunate end of crap that happened, when it comes to anything sexual in nature that is uncomfortable and/or harassment, anonymous helps a lot. Many people do not like coming forward and admitting to such things because they feel responsible in some manner. And sometimes the person doesn't even know they're being harassed (because they've already been victimized) but others may see more clearly.

I absolutely endorse a better system for this because we are undoubtedly going to encounter those who treat people disrespectfully. However we implement it, it'll be a step in the right direction. We should always strive to understand and help whenever we can.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 12:44:38 AM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Alright, so lets try to outline the functions that this set up has to have. In a physical space, this is where I'd pull out a white board and people would yell suggestions. Let's not worry about the how right off the bat, first we need to know the what and we can just work backward from there to figure out the how. I'm going to start with my two cents.

- Anonymous Reporting

- Third Party (Separate from Chain of Command)

- Volunteer (NO incentivization with promotions/awards/ICS/etc)

- Active Volunteers

- Code of Conduct/Ethics Specific to the Volunteers that prioritizes the ones asking for help. (Not sure how to word this, but something that addresses how often people reporting stuff in general are either blamed, or told they need to grow a thicker skin, etc, etc. A CoC that always places the reporter first and essentially puts the volunteers always in their corner. Frivolous reports may happen, although not as often as people seem to think, but none of them should be treated as if they are because most of them probably aren't.)

Again, lets work out what we need, then why, then how. I've found that tends to be the best order to figure this kind of stuff out.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 6:44:17 AM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
Volunteer definitely. You wouldn't be able to force someone to do this role.

Anonymous is difficult to do in this format.

All the CS volunteers need to get together regularly to discuss any reoccurring issues, so that they might be dealt with.

I also still think that regular meetings between VE members and their CS person 1 on 1 is vital. It creates a time when there are no ranks or pressures, but allows people to speak openly.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 6:58:25 AM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Great Job!
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 10:04:54 AM    View the profile of Trykon 
In agreement with all.  Can't really say much; I'm on bad wifi, in rural Wisconsin.

One thing that occurs to me is that we should have some mechanism for making sure the people in charge of the club (not anyone specific, I just mean anyone who is in a position of power in the club's hierarchy) take this seriously.  Adopting the policies I wrote up years ago (or something like them) might be enough: if they're clearly written, then it should be obvious if the chain of command isn't taking an incident seriously.

Don't know how clear I'm being, but basically saying we need volunteers to be the point people, but also we need "officials" to be sworn to uphold clear policies.  That way, if/when the point people think something is serious enough, they can call for disciplinary measures.  And that way, if/when a member thinks the volunteer point person they're talking to isn't upholding the policies properly, they can appeal to the higher-ups directly (giving them a second layer of protection; more exposed, and more uncomfortable, but a second chance to get help).
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 11:49:58 AM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
I think that ties in nicely with what I was saying originally, Trick.

Hears what I was thinking:

Community Support Volunteer - One or two members from both Army and Navy who have volunteered to be available for all members to talk about any and all problems they might be having within the VE. They are responsible for making sure that they have read the Code of Conduct thoroughly, and for keeping an eye out for any issues that might be arising. - Might be useful to have different time zones represented.

Head of Community Support - In charge of the Community Support division as a whole with an official title. They are responsible for making sure that the Code of Conduct is kept up to date and relevant by coordinating with the relevant persons. They are also responsible for dealing with the more serious issues brought to them by the volunteers, and making sure that it is dealt with swiftly and correctly. They have direct communication with the command elements to facilitate this.

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Semi-Serious Suggestion:
Potentially, if we wanted a slight IC slant, we could create a VE Internal Affairs division :P
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 4:27:45 PM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Your whole proposal is an ic slant. Doesn't matter if its army or navy people, it just has to be people. I don't care if it's all army, all navy or neither, it just has to be people trying to help. No appointed positions, no actual on the books positions. Just a group that has the HCs support (whether they always agree or not) and can borrow the HCs power in specific circumstances. Incentivizing it just leads to abuse.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 4:45:43 PM    View the profile of Aeos 
Snipes, I can understand the call for representatives from both division in the future but right now we don't have enough people.

I would like to volunteer in nightshift, and to be a general go to person for people to talk with. I have the chatrooms open all day while at the office, and it's easy for me to be present.

This issue lies fiercely close to my heart, coming from a cultural background rife with racism, bullied in childhood, on the receiving end of sexism and inappropriate behaviour as well as growing up with disabled siblings.

If there are issues arising, I will call it out in private, if I see behaviour continuing, I will escalate it. If the VEHC chooses to stay mute, I will walk away from this.

And guys, don't complicate things with too much positions, bureaucracy and paperwork. That's what slows the VE down. It's simple, when a new person arrives, they are informed about the individuals with whom they can speak about personal concerns. And those individuals can introduce themselves as well to take the first step. That's it. Make it personal and intimate.

Everything Snipes has said as said about NO incentivization. This role will not be about achieving more status or any of that.

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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 5:14:49 PM    View the profile of Slasher 
I will also voice as a member of NHC and not, anyone, at anytime, can come to me with one of these things, and I will respond and do my best to be available, and as far as NHC being mute, as long as I have any power I will be one to not stand for abuse. I have put up with enough in my life, that I cannot, and will not. Stand idle.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 5:17:41 PM    View the profile of Helena 
I would also volunteer to be a person people can speak to. I'm currently working with people on the same lines outside of here. I don't mind helping out.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 6:52:47 PM    View the profile of Jelly Bean 
I would like to volunteer for this. I really want to be there for the community. I've always tried to be an open minded individual and helping people with any issues they might be having whether it be IRL stuff or stuff within the community I'll always been there for any of yall. I'm pretty much logged into slack 24/7 now so anybody can message me if they need anything.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 19, 2015 7:57:34 PM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
It's really good to see so many people wanting to get involved in this. It's really fantastic.

The reason for having a structure to Community Support is so that it can be passed up through the proper channels and dealt with properly. Just having people around to help is one thing, but they can't always deal with it on their own. It also means that is the CS volunteers have an issue, then they know who to go to.

Things like this don't run themselves. It needs someone at the helm, making sure that it's community first. I'd be more than happy to volunteer in that role, even if it's just to get things started and/or organised. I feel very personally invested in the whole thing.

One thing I think we all agree on, however, is that the VE needs this in place before we really get going, for everyone's sake, no matter where the members are. Key point is to let people know who we are, that we are here to help them, and how they can reach us (Slack or PM).

I also agree that, right now, just having people volunteering to help is enough, and it doesn't matter where they are coming from division wise for now. In an ideal world, you'd have at least one CS volunteer in each squad/ron.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 20, 2015 12:17:50 AM    View the profile of Trykon 
Can everyone who's volunteering go ahead and read the Policies I drafted up, a few years back?  They're linked to, earlier in this thread.  If we can, I'd like us to start with agreeing on POLICY.  That way, volunteers have a blueprint to follow, beyond just trying to be empathetic and responsible.  That way, too, the "right" course of action should be clear, even to folks who aren't keyed in to these issues.

In general, I keep finding myself nodding in agreement with Snipes, as I read along in this thread.  We need all this to be very obviously OOC: this is about us, as human beings, being available to the other human beings who are members of this club, as resources for them to come to (hopefully, even anonymously, if/when we figure out how to do that) when they are being bullied, abused, vilified, sexually harassed, etc., and especially when they might fear retaliation for coming forward to talk about it.  It has nothing to do with Star Wars, and everything to do with managing interpersonal relations among a diverse set of people (especially considering our internet setting).  And we want to make sure that the people who first deal with it are prioritizing a desire to protect their fellow community members over a desire to hold more positions, gain more prestige, or any other concern.  Simultaneously, having clear policy established and officially adopted means that if/when those first-responders elevate a given case to the VEHC, the VEHC is compelled, by the way the policy is worded, to act.  We need the power of the big positions, while keeping all the leg work off the proverbial "desks" of the people in those positions.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 20, 2015 10:05:43 AM    View the profile of Mongrel 
There's one thing I do want to say before I bow out: don't come at this with an axe to grind. You can't approach this situations angry. Doesn't mean you can't be angry and frustrated with them, you most definitely will be, but you can't act from a position of anger. On the flip side, you're advocating for the person who feels wronged, it's not your business to judge whether they should feel wronged or not. You're volunteering to help as best as you are able whether you believe them or not. Crazy as it sounds, there's a whole pile of subjective involved in this kind of thing, so while you may not think something was a big deal, well, that's not really your call. You are not important in this, you are a tool, a conduit, for the person you're trying to help. Ja?

I think at this point I'm just cluttering up the thread, but if anyone needs me, day or night, feel free to get a hold of me. You can do it on slack, or facebook or here or email. I might be drunk or asleep, but I'll get back to you.
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 20, 2015 10:14:00 AM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
I don't think anyone would disagree with you on that.

The helping people part, that is, not the drunk part :P
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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 20, 2015 2:41:35 PM    View the profile of Aeos 
Trick, the threads are incredibly detailed and I think you for going through the effort of compiling it.

I have unfortunately in the last few days, seen something that I found to be incredibly offensive event though for everybody else it was a chuckle. I come from a country with an extremely racially charged history so I'm very aware of when a joke crosses the line. This was the reason I brought up this topic.

My biggest fear is, beyond us being volunteers to assist members, is how to call out behaviour that is borderline inappropriate without being ridiculed for it.

But yes to everything everyone here has said so far, and I agree with everything Trick has compiled earlier.

I would also like to suggest that we compile a thread where theses themes are explained with more care, linking proper discussions from across the net. I've often found, that a lot of the issues stems from ignorance, but once an individual is informed about the matter, they reverse their opinion.


Look, I don't want us to head into a direction where we are too scared to crack a joke either, and take the fun out of life for this great community. So, we just need to take care to balance everything

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  RE: Creating a safe space
December 20, 2015 2:50:56 PM    View the profile of Gurlanin 
In the case of it being something serious on the open forum, the one of the moderators should be notified to act in the official capacity.

If it's something like you described, Ae, then I would suggest taking the person/s who made the joke to one side, either in private message or on Slack, and saying something along the lines of, "I know what you said was meant as a joke, but I/someone found it really offensive/upsetting for reason x, y, and/or z." 9/10 they will not have realised.

But I do agree that calling out inappropriate behaviour is going to be difficult. I guess people just have to learn that volunteers are there to help, not to stop people having fun. It's not something that we are going to be able to solve overnight, which makes it a learning curve for everyone.
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