To My Beloved Arisia Friends and Family,


As someone who has been part of Arisia leadership in recent years, I am sorry forward what my actions and inactions have wrought. I am sorry for hurting people who work year round to make the convention happen. I am sorry for hurting attendees. I am sorry.


First, let me get the important bits out of the way:

  1. I was a voting member of the ‘16-’17 EBoard.

  2. I am taking a year (or longer) off from Arisia to self-crit.


It feels strange to be putting this out after several people have already resigned, but I’ve been working on it for days, and several people have assured me that more stories will be welcome and useful.


What follows is long. I’m a wordy person. But I want to share my experiences with Arisia so that others can learn from my mistakes – and hopefully correct the problems I witnessed and which I should have done more to call out at the time.


Regarding the Handling of Incident Reports


So far I know of four major stories of continued abuse that have come out. I think it goes without saying: I believe them.


All of these stories are heartbreaking and shocking. These are people I have worked with and trusted, these are people my friends have worked with and trusted, these are people we expected volunteers to work with and trust. And they're capable of these terrible things. Not only that, Arisia leadership's responses have ranged from dismissal to inaction to outright coverups.


What Noel did is unforgivable. Thankfully, Arisia has finally taken steps to ban him. What everyone else on the EBoard and IRT for the past two years has done to cover this up and diminish the severity is awful. The lack of action with regards to Maura's story (and that's when I was on the EBoard) is awful, as well. Even more distressing is that Arisia has created a community where the people with the responsibility and authority to keep the convention safe cannot be trusted; it is dismaying to hear that multiple people never filed reports because they could not trust Arisia leadership.


Leadership in Arisia


By now, it's clear Arisia’s leadership problem is systemic. I feel that Crystal’s story “missed” me by chance; I just so happened to not be on the EBoard at the times she names. But these systemic, cultural issues take time to build up. The underlying questions I see are: how did we let Arisia become a place where these things can happen? Beyond that, a place where they are handled so poorly? And for that, I am one of the people responsible.


Again, I can't apologise enough.


I am deeply sorry to anyone I have caused harm. At this point, I know that extends directly to Maura. Maura, I am sorry. I am sorry for my inaction and ineffectiveness.


I am sorry that I contributed to an environment where people have not felt safe, and some, possibly many, people have not had enough trust in leadership to come to us with issues.


I’m not here to give a defense of my own actions or of anyone else on the EBoard. Suffice to say, I am fairly certain the same group of people would act very differently at this time, more in line with Arisia’s stated values than the ones Arisia has acted upon in the past. (I offer this piece - https://jocelyngoldfein.com/culture-is-the-behavior-you-reward-and-punish-7e8e75c6543e - as something I hope Arisia leadership will read. Arisia’s culture valued complacency, upholding the status quo, and protecting their own, from what I saw.) I was also overwhelmed that year, and I deeply regret that I learned that lesson at the expense of those in the community.


An Aside

For some more information on the bizarreness of how incident reports are handled and the ways in which Arisia makes other staffers feel unwelcome, I encourage you to check out Crow’s statement - https://www.facebook.com/lysander.meloccaro/posts/2159473034312162. I have filed my own Incident Reports - all about various consent violations - at Arisia before the IRT existed. The issues were all handled appropriately, though not swiftly. I think it’s important to note that they were not about sexual assault, nor did they accuse fellow staff, and thus Arisia responded in a way that seemed acceptable.


My History Working On Arisia


I’d like to tell you the story of how I got involved with Arisia and my journey over the years. My story is luckily not one of sexual assault; my story is one of the general culture of Arisia and what I’ve seen personally.


I am somewhat conflicted about sharing this - I was on EBoard for an amount of time that feels like a flash in the pan, so I feel like I don’t have any right to this kind of statement. While I want to recognize my impact, I also don’t want to overstate my involvement.


For me, it started in 2007. The leaders of the scifi club at Hampshire College arranged for members of the club to utilize the Space Pilot program at Arisia, meaning that if we volunteered a significant number of hours, we would have room expenses covered. That was my first Arisia; I’ve attended Arisia every year since, and every single year, I’ve volunteered or staffed. I was a volunteer from the start of my relationship with the con. (The Hampshire scifi club had been doing this for several years prior, I believe.)


When I moved to the Boston area in 2014, I felt more able to be a Division Head, and I was closer - both in physical proximity and as friends - to several people who were Arisia leaders. I worked on staff at a higher level than I had before.

I quickly became concerned about “cliquishness,” both real and perceived. Several people can vouch that it’s a subject I brought up at various convention meetings. I was also finding myself becoming closer to the people at the head of the convention and the corporation - the same clique I was trying to assert needed to invite outside folks to work on the convention. I didn’t truly start as an “outsider,” but I’ve felt a little bit half-included and half not; mostly like I’ve been paid some kind of lip service.


I still wasn’t a corporate member when I attended my first corporate meeting, annual elections in September of 2016. I learned very quickly that “behind the scenes” (i.e. Arisia corporate) has a de facto two-party system that nobody wants to outright name. There are the “Progressives” and the “Conservatives” - I am firmly in the “Progressive” camp. I imagine some of this isn’t named as such because it isn’t quite as clear-cut as, say, current U.S. politics.


The candidate for Vice President was a Conservative running unopposed. Some of my friends suggested I run; I had been involved with Arisia for years, and in leadership, although purely through the convention. I wasn’t starting from zero, but I wasn’t really starting from where a leader ought to. Still, I felt under pressure to run, and so I did. There’s a toxic thought process that Arisians have spouted for years, and fortunately I see the community actively trying to remedy this, of “if you don’t like what’s happening, it’s up to you to step up and put in the work.” What we spend less time thinking and talking about is the corollary of guilt mixed with inflated ego that this creates - “If I don’t step up, who will?”


I won that election. I became someone the Progressives could vote for - and the corporation had frighteningly little notice about this (including me!) From the start, I felt a bit like a pawn, but I reasoned to myself that I could be an “outside” voice on the EBoard. I could not have been more wrong: I wasn’t part of the “clique”, but neither was I an “outside voice” (I also reasoned to myself that “feeling like a pawn” was “just how politics works.”)


And that’s how I became Vice President of Arisia, Inc. before I was allowed to be a voting member of the corporation. (Turns out you can run for office at your first meeting, but you can’t vote. I find it something of an odd loophole.) Starting out as VP feeling pressured and manipulated was not a good feeling, and for the entire year I felt I was only half-heartedly, perhaps reluctantly, welcome on the EBoard. I was never quite able to parse out when I was being manipulated and when I was making my own decisions; and really, I should have resigned, but see again: Progressives and Conservatives.


My Experience on EBoard


Over that year, I got to learn how the EBoard worked. There are reasons that a lot of things are confidential. That said, I’ve had some concerns about the secrecy of information and who communicates with whom and how. I believe transparency from the EBoard has been lacking for a long time, and this is exacerbated by who is friends with whom and thus has impromptu chats that turn into meetings without telling others.


I have one brief anecdote that so perfectly illustrates the half-hearted welcome I felt the whole year I was on the EBoard. A group of EBoard members were meeting one night at con at the end of the hallway on the first floor, and I walked up to this group of people I figured were my friends. I was at first shooed away (by someone who was admittedly exhausted) because they were discussing sensitive information, and someone else had to remind them “Cody’s VP!” The exhaustion doesn’t quite make up for this in my mind, because it feels like they had assumed “best friends == EBoard” as a kind of shorthand. I didn’t fit into “best friends,” so why would I be privy to this information?


Regarding Recent Events


I’m not on EBoard anymore and haven’t been since my term ended in September of 2017. For Arisia 2019, I was holding two staff positions and intending to be a panelist.


When Crystal's story broke, I found myself asking if I wanted to leave the convention as a statement, or stay and try to Do Better. When Maura’s story broke, the decision was obvious to me; I will admit, though, it should not have taken a second statement for me to make my choice.

As much as I’d like to distance myself from some of these recent events by claiming I wasn’t welcome or people didn’t share enough information with me or any number of other things, instead I need to recognize that I am ultimately part of the problem.


I resigned from my staff positions this year (Assistant Communities Track Manager under Programming and a member of the Diversity Committee) as well as from being a panelist. My resignation email to Programming is as follows (I sent the same general email to Diversity):


“Hi all,


In light of recent events and Arisia's failure to deal with incident reports appropriately over the past few years, I am resigning my position in staff (as Communities Assistant Track Manager) AND my position as a panelist, effective immediately.


I can talk about Arisia failing to deal with these issues, but as someone who was on the EBoard for part of the time involved, I am ultimately part of the problem and have let this happen. I feel it is inappropriate for me to be involved with leadership or as a public facing member of the convention at this time.


Thank you for your understanding,

--Cody Lazri”


It was painful for me to resign, much as it has been for others. As of February 2018, I was originally going to take this year off initially to “gafiate” - “get away from it all” - because I was stressed and overwhelmed. And yet, I found myself in two staff positions because I wanted to help. I’m now taking some time to reflect on how my “help” has harmed others, and how I can realistically and truly Do Better.


Next Steps


Do I know what the way forward is? Personally, I believe it starts with the voting members of the past three iterations of the EBoard and the 2018 IRT leaders resigning from their convention and corporate leadership at least through 2020, some for longer. It’s time for a new group of people - a more welcoming group of people - to take over.

Do I think that’s going to happen? No. I also think a lot of people disagree with me on the way forward, and have entirely valid reasons why, and that’s a large discussion currently happening in several places (Arisia corporate email list, Fans of Arisia (Unofficial) on Facebook, Arisia staff Slack, and probably in various personal emails, direct messages, Hangouts, and in person.)


Because historical Arisia corporate information, while technically public, is notoriously difficult to find, I am linking relevant pieces here. For the record, the Mentor (Arisia’s corporate newsletter) can be found at https://corp.arisia.org/mentor - but picking out information from it can be difficult.

I implore you to remember that we are all humans who were doing the best we could and trying to do the right thing. Do not take this as an invitation to harass the people named below.


Election results: President: Kris Snyder, Vice President: Cody Mattes, Treasurer: Ben Levy, Clerk: Rick Kovalcik, Elected Members-At-Large: Abby Noyce, Diana Hsu, Peter Olszowka

Election results: President: Noel Rosenberg, Vice President: Anna Bradley, Treasurer: Ben Levy, Clerk: Rick Kovalcik, Elected Members-At-Large: Jaelen Hartwin, Kris Snyder, Sharon Sbarsky

Election Results: President: Noel Rosenberg, Vice President: Anna Bradley, Treasurer: Ben Levy, Clerk: Rick Kovalcik, Elected Members-At-Large: Andy Rosequist, Sharon Sbarsky, RaShawn Seams

Kris Pelletier, Anna Bradley, Daniel Eareckson, Diana Hsu, Ben Levy, Dale Meyer-Curley, Sharon Sbarsky, Kris "Nchanter" Snyder


Some notes on the above, because resignations have been tendered and the history is a bit more complex than what I dredged up there:

  • I have no reason as of this time to believe that Andy Rosequist has any connection to these issues and I am not suggesting he resign.
    UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Gregorian Hawke was a Member at Large as of 22 Feb 2018. Further UPDATE: Nchanter had resigned from Member at Large and Gregorian was elected to fill that spot.

  • I would, however, like to hear from RaShawn Seams, as he was heavily involved with The Watch over several years. I don’t know if he was subject to the same kind of treatment Crow outlined in their statement.

  • Noel Rosenberg resigned from EBoard as of 26 October, 2018, and is banned from Arisia and Arisia functions.

  • Jaelen Hartwin resigned from EBoard and convention duties as of 26 July, 2018.

  • I (Cody Lazri) resigned from convention duties as of 27 October, 2018. I am listed in the 2016 minutes linked above as Cody Mattes because I had not yet legally changed my last name.

  • Neither Conor Walsh nor Abby Noyce appear involved in either convention or corporate leadership at this time.

  • From an official Arisia statement: https://www.facebook.com/arisiainc/posts/10155527019346580 -

“At this time I, Gregorian Hawke, have accepted the resignation of the the following Eboard members (those who stood for re-election in September). Anna Bradley - Vice-President, Rick Kovalcik - Clerk, Benjamin Levy - Treasurer, and Sharon Sbarsky - Member-at-Large. Anna Bradley has resigned effective immediately. Rick Kovalcik, Benjamin Levy, and Sharon Sbarsky have resigned effective upon the election of a replacement (per Bylaws 3.12) at the November 11th meeting when elections will be held.
Gregorian Hawke is now Acting President as per our Bylaws. Andy Rosequist is now Acting Vice-President per Bylaws and Eboard vote.”

Note from this, as of the time of this writing, 10:30AM on 31 October 2018:

  • Daniel Eareckson is Convention Chair

  • UPDATE: Anna is no longer on the org chart as ACC and will not be Div Head of Registration. Anna Bradley is an Assistant Con Chair, Division Head of Registration, and a member of the Diversity Committee and Web Team

  • Sharon Sbarsky is an Assistant Con Chair and in charge of Ribbons under Staff Services

  • Diana Hsu is an Assistant Con Chair as well as a Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee

  • RaShawn Seams is a Co-Chair of the Diversity Committee, Division Head of Member Services, and listed as a Watch Adviser

  • Kris Pelletier is IR Lead

  • Jaime Garmendia is a member of the Diversity Committee and an IRT Manager

  • Ben Levy is Exhibits Division Head and part of the Web team

  • Rick Katze is in charge of Ad Sales

  • Kris "Nchanter" Snyder is an Assistant Dvision Head of Programming as well as the Communities Track Manager, a member of the Diversity Committee, and an IRT Manager

  • Rick Kovalcik is Division Head of Tech

  • Peter Olszowka is Team Lead of Application IT and a Digital Publications Coordinator for KonOpas
  • Gregorian Hawke is Communications Division Head

I don’t even know that everyone named above did anything “wrong” - without detailed notes of who voted for what from the EBoard made public, it’s difficult to determine exactly who to hold accountable for what.


In Conclusion


I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether I will attend the convention. For me, a lot will depend on the corporate meetings taking place on 11 November 2018. Thus far, however, I have been fairly disappointed by the responses I have seen. To quote Daniel José Older, an invited Guest of Honor who has pulled out of the convention this coming year - https://twitter.com/djolder/status/1057307121581281281 - “Ending rape culture takes more than firing 1 person and then another as accusations become public. Accountability is not cosmetic.”


I want to remind everyone that the folks who resigned are able to run for re-election (save for Noel). This scares me. So does the idea that the power void left behind will be filled with the Conservatives - people who are not as interested in prioritizing diversity and safety of the most marginalized at the convention. I’d suggest new people run for office, but, well, see above. I wish I had more suggestions instead of just fears. I leave that to the new corporate members who have already proven that they are willing and able to put in the work. I look forward to seeing - and hopefully one day attending - the better Arisia that comes from your efforts.


I am sorry for my complicity in Arisia's toxic culture. It's not right for new people to need to step in and clean up our mess. Thank you for stepping up anyway to do the difficult work that we failed in, of making Arisia a safer place. Good luck and Godspeed.


Sincerely,

Cody Lazri


Date: 2018-10-31 06:30 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] bleemoo
Thank you for writing this. (This is Jaelen Hartwin, for those who might not recognize the username.)

My resignation was not in direct response to any specific incident report, though I resigned in large part because I felt like I could not make meaningful progress on fixing many of the systemic problems that caused Arisia to fail while resolving the incident reports you list here as well as other similar reports. I say this not to absolve myself of any blame; I like you felt powerless to do anything, but I was also complacent about those systemic issues during the time I served on the board, and if nothing else, I should have resigned much earlier than I did.

I share many of the same fears you describe here, but I'm also cautiously hopeful that the corporation can learn from this and actually start valuing the work of keeping the community safe.

Date: 2018-11-08 06:33 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] chaiya
chaiya: (flowers)
Thank you for this post, Cody.

- Crystal

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