UNIVERSE-HPC Events - Staff Procedure for Handling Reported Harassment

Familiarise yourself with the Code of Conduct policy.

Also have a good understanding of what is expected from an attendee that wants to report a harassment incident (read the reporting guidelines).

Try to get as much of the incident in written form (email or via messaging) by the reporter. If you cannot, transcribe it yourself as it was told to you. The important information to gather include the following:

  • Identifying information (name) of the participant doing the harassing
  • The behaviour that was in violation
  • The approximate time of the behaviour (if different than the time the report was made)
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Other people involved in the incident

Prepare an initial response to the incident. This initial response is very important and will set the tone. Depending on the severity/details of the incident, please follow these guidelines:

  • If there is any general threat to attendees or the safety of anyone including staff is in doubt, advise them to contact their local police or law enforcement agency.
  • Offer the victim a private video call.
  • Ask “is there a friend or trusted person who you would like to be with you?” (if so, ask this person if they can be added to the chat).
  • Ask them “how can I help?”
  • If everyone is presently physically safe, involve higher authorities (e.g. police or security) only at the victim’s request.

There are also some guidelines as to what not to do as an initial response:

  • Do not overtly invite them to withdraw the complaint or mention that withdrawal is OK. This suggests that you want them to do so, and is therefore coercive. “If you’re OK with it [pursuing the complaint]” suggests that you are by default pursuing it and is not coercive.
  • Do not ask for their advice on how to deal with the complaint. This is a staff responsibility.
  • Do not offer them input into penalties. This is a staff responsibility.

Once something is reported, the event chair (or their deputy) and at least two staff responsible for enforcing the Code of Conduct should meet. The main objectives of this meeting are to find out the following:

  • What happened?
  • Are we doing anything about it?
  • Who is doing those things?
  • When are they doing them?

After the meeting and discussion, have one of the staff in the meeting (preferably the event chair or who they deputise) communicate with the alleged harasser. Make sure to inform them of what has been reported about them and allow the alleged harasser to give their side of the story. After this point, if the report stands, let the alleged harasser know what actions will be taken against them.

Some things for staff responsible for enforcing the Code of Conduct to consider when dealing with offenders (note that the list below is not a requirement and only applies if the report deems it necessary):

  • General participants
    • Warning the harasser to cease their behaviour and that any further reports will result in sanctions.
      • Requiring that the harasser avoid any interaction with their victim for the remainder of the event.
      • Requiring that the harasser immediately leave the event and not return. If applicable, inform them that we will not honour any travel claims related to their attending the event.
  • Speakers - Ending a talk that violates the policy early. - Not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the policy. - Not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event.
  • Staff - Calling for the resignation of the harasser from their responsibilities.

The Event Chair will identify an appropriate senior individual, independent of the CoC and the persons involved, to conduct the appeal and the accused participant will be informed of the appeal procedure in a timely manner. Keep in mind that it is not a good idea to encourage an apology from the harasser.

It is very important how we deal with the incident publicly. Our policy is to make sure that everyone aware of the initial incident is also made aware that it is not according to policy and that official action has been taken - while still respecting the privacy of individual participants. When speaking to individuals (those who are aware of the incident, but were not involved with the incident) about the incident it is a good idea to keep the details out.

Depending on the incident, the event chair (or who they deputise) may decide to make one or more public announcements. If necessary, this will be done with a short announcement either during the plenary and/or through other channels. No one other than the event chair or someone delegated authority from the event chair should make any announcements.

If some participants were angered by the incident, it is best to apologise to them that the incident occurred to begin with. If there are residual hard feelings, suggest to them to write an email to the event chair or one of the event staff. It will be dealt with accordingly.

All reports of Code of Conduct violations should be made directly to:


This procedure has been adopted from the Ada Initiative’s guide titled “workshop anti-harassment/Responding to Reports”.