The above diagram details the flow of action when a complaint or violation of the code of conduct occurs.
Reporter: Anyone at the conference may act as an incident reporter. Reporters may speak anonymously but must be identified confidentially to the response team if the reporter and confidant agree to move a complaint forward to the response team or local authorities.
Confidant: Any individual related to the conference organization who receives a report of inappropriate behavior. Ombuds are specifically designated for this role, however complainants may feel more comfortable with other members in the organization.
Response Team: Members of the organizational team who are activated to respond quickly and discreetly with the incident. The team may include a small subset who handle immediate responses and a larger group to address future responses and institutional memory. The team should consist of the ombuds, IEEE CS Representative, IEEE Event Emergency Response Team, and a VEC-appointed contact (VAC) who may be a member of the ombuds team.
Local Authorities: This group changes year-to-year and their contact information will be provided to the response team before the start of the conference.
Role of Confidant / Ombudsperson
As a confidant, your primary duty is to provide a safe and supportive space for reporters to bring forward experiences to a conference representative. When necessary, and in agreement with the reporter, you will also alert a member of the response team. Members of the organizing committee, in particular, the general chair(s), Inclusivity and Diversity Chairs, and VEC members should be prepared to receive complaints and act in the confidant role. Reporters may feel more comfortable speaking directly with a member of the senior leadership of the conference.
The Ombuds people will be identified as representatives of the VIS organizing committee to receive incident reports and act as a liaison between conference attendees and the VEC/IEEE. The ombuds role does not include taking corrective action or making determinations about harassment reports, but rather to be an impartial, friendly, and safe person to speak to as issues arise, and to inform of, and appropriately handle next steps.
Confidants should follow the ACT model when approached about a potential incident:
Acknowledge: Verbally acknowledge the report so the person knows the matter is being dealt with. Offer the reporter the opportunity to move the conversation to a private space, such as the conference chair’s office. Offer to find another ombudsperson if the reporter would be more comfortable with someone else. Ensure the person who made the report is aware of the VIS Code of Conduct.
Collect: Upon listening to the complaint, inform the reporter that you will alert the response team. Collect contact information from the person unless the reporter chooses to report anonymously. Contact information is important when the report is made verbally, as it might be difficult to identify the person again after the original report. Only identify the reporter if permission was obtained to do so.
Tell: Following the workflow, seek immediate assistance from the response team and contact local authorities if there is an imminent threat. Remember to respect the privacy of all involved and only share the incident with those identified in this workflow.
The VIS conference should be a safe and comfortable place for all attendees. The goal of the initial conversation is to provide a safe place for people to be able to discuss things that they are finding uncomfortable, discuss possible next steps, and receive guidance. This process allows for this initial, informal conversation to be used as a way for reporters to provide anonymous feedback which can be passed to conference organizers without triggering an official complaint. Together, the confidant and reporter can discuss what, if any, official follow-up is appropriate.
Determining Incident Level
Determining the level of a reported incident is inherently a judgment call. Some incidents will end at the initial conversation. Others will move to an informal and anonymous report to the VAC by the Confidant. Such anonymous reports are helpful for improving the overall conference environment, but corrective action against individual attendees is not taken from informal reports.
To move forward a complaint for assessment by the response team, incident reports are made by the Confidant in consultation with the Reporter. All efforts should be taken to: keep the reports confidential, protect the safety and well-being of the alleged victim, and protect the privacy of the alleged perpetrator as appropriate.
Serious incidents are actions that clearly break the VIS Code of Conduct. These are incidents meant to exclude, intimidate, or cause discomfort.
Examples: unwanted physical contact; overt sexual statements; violent language or outbursts
Action: Serious incidents should be reported to local authorities if there is a threat of imminent danger, and directly to the IEEE CS Staff Rep and EERT. Also, inform the VAC that an incident has occurred – this alert should not include the specifics of the report but rather a high-level gist of the incident.
Moderate incidents are actions that more subtly break the VIS Code of Conduct, and may be done so without (explicit) intention.
Examples: personalized attacks on social media; use of offensive language or imagery
Action: Consult with the VAC about how to proceed (i.e., which other members of the Response Team to involve).
Minor incidents are actions that are deemed inappropriate or unprofessional.
Examples: overly aggressive questioning in public forums; promotion of harmful stereotypes
Action: Report the incident to the VAC.
In addition to any required follow-up by Local Authorities, incident responses may include any of the following:
- remove an individual from the conference without warning or refund;
- prohibit an individual from participating in VIS events, including publishing at VIS;
- exclude an individual from VIS leadership positions;
- suspend or terminate voting rights in VIS elections;
- rescinding of any previously bestowed awards, e.g. VIS Academy.
Appointment and Rotation
VEC receives nominations from the current Ombuds team, including a brief nomination paragraph or verbal explanation at the VEC meeting, highlighting why the candidate is appropriate for the role. Nominees may hold other roles within the Organizing Committee, VSC, or VEC, but this is not a prerequisite. VEC makes the final appointments, drawing from the proposed pool of nominees, but may include others in order to achieve appropriate team balance. Appointments should be guided to maximize the diversity of the current Ombuds team. The ombuds group puts forward candidates annually during the normal organizing committee renewal process.
3-year rotation terms, 6 people, 2 off per year. The changeover happens immediately after the conference.
At least 2 members of the Ombuds team should be attending the conference in person in any given year. If this is not possible, one or more members of the current Organizing Committee can be temporarily appointed to the Ombuds team to ensure sufficient local representation.
VIS 2023 Ombuds
- Gautam Chaudhary, Zenith Solutions
- Christopher Collins, Ontario Tech University
- Mennatallah El-Assady, ETH AI Center
- Josh Levine, University of Arizona
- Lace Padilla, Northeastern University
- Kristi Potter, National Renewable Energy Lab
- Pre-conference check-in (Ombuds team)
- During the conference (as needed by an incident)
- Post-conference debrief (Ombuds team + VEC representative)
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you experience, observe, or have knowledge of behavior in violation of the Code of Conduct.
You can also approach individual members of the Ombuds team individually (contact information will be available at Registration) or in person.
Please contact email@example.com with any questions about the Code of Conduct and Inclusivity & Diversity at IEEE VIS.