CONDUCT AND HARASSMENT POLICY

Updated August 7, 2017

Skepticon is dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, or religion. We believe that our conference thrives on such diversity. We do not tolerate harassment of conference participants in any form. Skepticon organizers, volunteers, speakers, workshoppers, tablers, and attendees are expected to comply with the following Code of Conduct at all conference events. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned or expelled from the conference without a refund of any donations, at the discretion of the organizers.

MISCONDUCT

We define misconduct as deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, disruptive arguments anywhere at the conference, personal verbal attacks, offensive verbal comments (related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religious identity, etc.), fights, physical assault, inappropriate physical contact, unwelcome sexual attention, and any other act that may cause harm to oneself or others.

“Yes” means yes; “No” means no; and “Maybe” means no. Please accept no for an answer for any request or activity. You are encouraged to ask for unequivocal consent for all activities during the conference. No touching other people without asking. This includes hands on knees, backs, shoulders—and hugs. Ask first! There are people who do not like to be touched and will respect and like you more if you respect their personal space.

While Skepticon does encourage an environment of sex positivity where sex and sexuality are discussed, we will make every effort to make our convention attendees as comfortable as possible. Tablers (including volunteers) and presenters should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

Assuming the absence of problematic behavior, as defined above, criticism or disagreement regarding an attendee’s belief structure will not be construed as misconduct.

Participants asked to stop any form of misconduct are expected to comply immediately.

REPORTING A PROBLEM WITH CONDUCT

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, witness blatant instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, or other stereotyping and harmful behaviors, or have any other concerns, please contact a Skepticon organizer or volunteer immediately.

Conference staff can be identified by special badges or be found at the registration desk. Conference staff will be happy to help participants contact hotel/venue security or local law enforcement, provide escorts, or otherwise assist those experiencing misconduct to feel safe for the duration of the conference. We value your attendance.

Skepticon also encourages attendees to report any criminal behavior directly to the St Louis Police, as well as to Skepticon staff.

If a participant engages in misconduct, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund of any donations.


RED LANYARDS

Skepticon knows that not everyone has the luxury of being an out heathen in their communities. In an effort to protect those who do not wish their photos be shared via social media, they will be wearing red lanyards. Please be extra careful to not include them in photographs, videos or share them or their names on social media platforms.


COLOR COMMUNICATION BADGES

Skepticon uses a three color communication system at our convention. The color communication badges are both different colors (red, yellow, and blue) and shapes (square, triangle, circle). Place these on the Skepticon badges given at registration so that others can easily find and identify your preference. Be sure to place a sticker on the front and the back of your badge in case your lanyard flips over.

Attendees are not required to actively participate, but are required to respect the boundaries and choices of those who do. Please be aware of people who are using stickers on their badges and act accordingly:

  • A blue circle sticker means that the person is actively seeking communication; they have trouble initiating conversations, but want to be approached by people who are interested in talking.
  • A yellow triangle sticker means that the person only wants to talk to people they recognize, not by strangers or people they only know from the Internet. The badge-wearer might approach strangers to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to speak back to them in that case. But unless you have already met the person face-to-face, you should not approach them to talk.
  • A red square sticker means that the person probably does not want to talk to anyone, or only wants to talk to a few people. The person might approach others to talk, and that is okay; the approached people are welcome to speak back to them in that case. But unless you have been told already by the badge-wearer that you are on their “red list”, you should not approach them to talk.
  • Having no stickers means that person is comfortable verbally confirming their boundaries and social availability.

Via Autistic Advocacy: Color communication badges are a good aid because they allow people to express their current communication preference quickly, nonverbally, and simply – people can change what card is showing if their preference changes. They are a good way to prevent situations where someone is caught in a social situation they do not want to be in, or situations where someone wants to talk but can’t initiate. This means that communication badges can help make conferences, conventions, meetings, college campuses, and other spaces more accessible. People with communication impairments, people who have trouble expressing their communication preferences, and people who have trouble reading social cues about communication preference, may find color communication badges useful. Color communication badges also help all people, abled or disabled, to more easily and effectively let people know whether they want to be approached for conversations or not. This can creates a positive impact on the social atmosphere where communication badges are being used.


SAFETY AND EMERGENCY POLICIES

Updated August 7, 2017

Skepticon wants you to have a safe and enjoyable time at our conference. These policies are intended to help ensure that you will.

MEDICAL EMERGENCY POLICY

The Skepticon staff fall under Missouri Law 537.037 RSMo (“Good Samaritan Law”) for purposes of providing first aid.  Any first aid care that the staff provides is being done voluntarily by that staff member. Pre-registering for attendance at the convention does not include guaranteed first aid.

If any member of the Skepticon event staff is notified of a medical emergency, the staff will report medical emergencies to the leadership team via phone or electronic messaging. Leadership will evaluate the situation. It isn’t possible to set decision-making criteria in advance since every situation will be unique.

The event staff will have a first aid kit available in the main conference rooms and at the Check-In/Registration Table for self-use by any attendee or persons present at the event. Both the Adult and the Pediatric version of the Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED Ready Reference will be maintained on site with easy access.

In addition to the Red Cross documents, the following questions will assist in decision making:

  • How serious is the injury or illness?
  • Can the victim make decisions on their own behalf?
  • Does the injury/illness require an emergency room visit?
  • Is an ambulance needed, or can a friend of the victim transport them?

LOST CHILDREN POLICY

While we have never had an issue with this at past events, Skepticon has resolved to be proactive. Please do not leave children unattended on conference grounds. In the unfortunate event that your little skeptic-in-training manages to elude their guardian’s supervision, Skepticon will use a modified version of the national ‘lost child’ procedure, called the Code Adam Program.

If an individual reports that a child is missing to any member of the Skepticon event staff, that staff member will refer the individual to the Organizers stationed at the Registration tables. The Organizers will ask for the following information about the child:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Eye and hair color
  • Height
  • Clothes worn (including shoes)
  • Any distinguishing characteristics

Once this information is obtained, the lead organizer will notify all event staff and volunteers by electronic messaging and describe the child’s physical features and clothing. All staff will look for the child and report back by electronic message. A negative reply will be required. If the child is not immediately located by the event staff, the lead organizer will contact hotel security to inform them about the lost child and request that the hotel staff look for the child. When the child is found by one of the event staff, that staff member will report it to the organizer leader stationed at the Registration table. The organizer will reunite the child with their guardian. If the child is not found within 10 minutes after notifying hotel staff, or if there is anything about the circumstances that suggests an attempted abduction, the lead organizer (or hotel staff) will call law enforcement.

FIGHTS & PHYSICAL ASSAULT POLICY

No member of the Skepticon organizational or volunteer team is required to intervene in a fight or to attempt to prevent a physical assault. There is no legal requirement to put oneself in danger. There is a good chance that anyone intervening in a fight would be hurt. If anyone chooses to intervene in a physical altercation they will do so at their own risk. Per the Code of Conduct Policy, anyone involved in a physical altercation can be removed from the premises by law enforcement. If law enforcement is engaged to intervene in a fight, it is unlikely that the parties involved will be welcomed at future events.

WEAPON THREAT AND/OR ACTIVE SHOOTER POLICY

Skepticon considers a weapon threat to be an expression of an intention to inflict pain or injury via a weapon such as a knife or gun. We do not have to see a weapon to consider it a threat. If an attendee makes a threat of weapon violence to an organizer, volunteer, attendee, speaker, hotel staff, unrelated guest of the hotel, service worker, random person in the lobby, or any other living being they will not be welcome to return to future Skepticon events.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm[s] and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.” If the threat of weapon violence becomes real violence, ie. there is an active shooter (or someone with another weapon) that is identified, the Skepticon leadership will do the following:

  1. Notify everyone of the shooter’s location.
  2. Call 911 and report:
    • Location of shooter
    • Number of shooters
    • Physical description of shooter/s
    • Number and type of weapons
    • Number of potential victims
  3. Direct Skepticon event staff member in each room to identify a room leader. The room leader is responsible to make decisions and provide guidance for everyone in their area. The room leader will decide whether to evacuate, hide, or take action against the shooter based on the location of the shooter.
    • Evacuate: Select an evacuation route that takes everyone away from the shooter and out of the building. Everyone will need to leave their belongings behind and move quietly and quickly along the route. The room leader assigns someone to lead the group out. The room leader is the last to leave.
    • Hide: Get into a defensible room and lock or barricade all doors. Turn out the lights and keep everyone quiet.
    • Take action against shooter: This is the least preferred option. Be loud, aggressive and fast. Commit to the decision and do not hesitate. Do the greatest possible damage in the least time.

ACCESSIBILITY AND COMFORT AT SKEPTICON

Updated October 21, 2018

Universal Design

The Disability Inclusion Services offered by Skepticon are informed by universal design and disability rights activism. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities, by making schedules, communications, and the physical environment usable by as many people as possible. We strive to create an event that works for members in all our physical and mental variety. We must balance that goal against limited fiscal resources, the paradox that sometimes one member’s accommodation is another member’s barrier, and an entirely volunteer work force. We always welcome discussion exploring how we can better accommodate our members. Feel free to contact us at anytime with inquiries or concerns at: [email protected], we want to work with you!

VENUE ACCESSIBILITY

Guestrooms The Oasis Hotel has accessible guestrooms including the following features :

  • Roll-in showers
  • Shower safety bars, bath rails, and toilet grab bars
  • Lower peep holes on the guestroom doors
  • Lowered closet bar

If you are making your reservation online, please select a room type with “Accessible” in the description.

Pool Accessibility The hotel has a lift in the top floor pool. Please let the front desk know if the lift is needed during your stay, and they will ensure the lift is ready to use, as well as provide you with instruction on how to use it the first time.

Accessible Paths of Travel The hotel has accessible paths of travel from the hotel lobby to their accessible guestrooms, convention and meeting spaces, and all public areas including the restaurant, pool, business center, fitness facility, and laundry facility. Please contact their front desk or seek assistance from any of their staff on how to best access these locations.

Elevator The are three elevators centrally located in the building to move between floors. Most of the conference will occur on the top floor of the hotel, with some evening events on the lobby level.

POTENTIAL BARRIERS THAT REMAIN

Given our fiscal limitations, our commitment to our current conference venue, and the reality that sometimes one member’s accommodation is another member’s barrier, we simply cannot make Skepticon perfectly accessible to everyone. We don’t want to make promises we can’t keep. We want you to know about these potential barriers so you can make informed decisions. “No” is not the same message as “we don’t care” or “we don’t believe you” or “we’re comfortable ignoring your needs.” Skepticon has and will continue to wrestle with these issues. Contact [email protected] for background on these remaining barriers:

  • Hotel front entrance features a large revolving door with two standard hinged glass doors to each side. None show any markings indicating disability accommodations (e.g. powered opening assistance). We will be working with the venue to get more information and find solutions.
  • Most of the programming rooms are illuminated with fluorescent lighting.
  • Speakers, workshoppers, and vendors bring a lot of reading materials in only regular print.
  • Skepticon is not scent-free. For some members, fragrances trigger asthma, migraine, or illness, while some members need to use fragrance to manage pain and mood. Those of us who react to fragrances, dust, and particulates should bring an N95 mask.
  • Most of the toilet facilities are labeled “Men” and “Women,” although humans don’t divide that neatly. Any/every gender is welcome in restrooms in the hallway leading to the main conference room, which will be clearly marked with signage. Feminine hygiene products will be available in these facilities.
  • Hotel carpet can make wheeled travel more challenging.

ALLIES: HOW EVERYONE CONTRIBUTES TO AN ACCESSIBLE CON

We all learn contradictory messages about people with disabilities. Disabled people are the archetypal “other”: the fate-worse-than-death, the sainted and spiritual, the cursed and amoral, the sub-human, the super-human, the sexless and the over-sexed. These conflicting stereotypes support a weird stew of fear and fascination. Everyone attending creates a universally accessible con by paying attention to their own behavior and attitudes.

Beneficial behaviors for presenters at Skepticon

  • Keep your lips visible for those who speechread.
  • Use a microphone if one is available (even if you have vocal training) so all can hear.
  • If using Powerpoint or other presentation software, review these techniques for making accessible presentations.
  • Use high color contrast for text in presentations or handouts. Low contrast may be difficult or impossible for colorblind or low vision users to read.
  • Use high color contrast for text in presentations or handouts. Low contrast may be difficult or impossible for colorblind or low vision users to read.
  • Caption any video/audio content.
  • Describe any images/charts you are using, for the benefit of blind or low vision members (general descriptions are fine; describe any relevant details).
  • If you are using paper handouts, electronic versions help people who want enlarged text or who use screen reading software.

Maintain clear paths. Skepticon provides fantastic opportunities to talk, but clogged doorways and hallways make navigation time-consuming for all, and impossible for some of us. Tuck your belongings in front of your feet or under your seat. Remind members gathered in doorways or hallways of the need to share the limited space so all of us can move freely. Skepticon will enforce a “Traffic Friendly Hallway’ system where we will divide the main walkways between the workshop rooms, vendor tables, and main stage speakers into two: one lane for moving/waking and and another for standing/stopping.

Share the air. Smoke and scents travel quickly, and air won’t move if you ask it to. Washing your hands after smoking makes a difference. We ask that you limit your use of scented products if you can do so without negatively affecting your health. For those of us with asthma, migraine, and chemical sensitivities, fewer fragrances, vapors, and particulates make the con a place we can attend. Some of us smoke, and some of us don’t. Our venue is completely non-smoking, and we ask that you utilize the designated smoking areas outdoors. Skepticon is not, however, a fragrance-free con.

Spread the word. Universal Design simplifies life by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities. Skepticon is delighted to discuss how you can incorporate universal design into your conventions, buildings, instruction, publishing and lives: contact us now via [email protected] or in person at the con.

Service Animal Etiquette. Although interacting with animals is tempting, please don’t pet, distract, or take photos of service animals at Skepticon. Those of us who rely on service animals need our animals to be able to concentrate on doing their jobs well. We would also like to talk to you about his noodly appendage, dinosaurs, gelato or other topics, rather than our service animal.

Helpful Attitudes. Offer help — don’t assume it’s needed. Most of us are taught to “help the handicapped,” but not “does this person want or need help?” If you think someone needs assistance, just ask. If they say yes, don’t make assumptions; instead listen to the details of what the person with disabilities wants. If they say “no thanks” don’t be offended. What might look overly complicated or inefficient can be what that disabled person finds works best.

Don’t assume people with disabilities want or need fixing. Members with disabilities are here for the same reasons non-disabled members are: community, skepticism, dinosaurs, prom. Talking about an interesting new book, super cool documentary you’ve recently seen, or a new podcasting tool you discovered, are much better conversation starters than “my nephew cured his fibromyalgia with a yak-milk diet” or “Don’t they have a wonderful new medicine for that?” or “Why take drugs when you just need a positive mental attitude and yoga?”

Privacy. People are often curious about the details of a visible disability. A member’s medical history and details of how their body functions is private. Please do not ask how someone became disabled or assume their experience is the same as another person with a similar disability.

Speak up! You don’t need to have a disability to advocate for access. If you see barriers, feel free to suggest how to clear them — whether this means talking respectfully to other members, alerting the hotel/convention center or one of the Skepticon volunteers.

MINIMIZING STRESS AND MAXIMIZING COMFORT

The weather both inside and out varies a lot. Bring layers to add in chilly program rooms, subtract in hot ones, and ensure you’re comfortable in the wide range of weather both inside and outside the hotels. It’s Missouri in August-the weather fluctuates!

Skepticon is an awesome, entertaining, and often dino-tastic environment. Finding stimulation is easy: here are options for managing stress and sensory overload:

  • We’ve created the Quiet Room for those of us who need a break during the con. Signs will point you in the right direction. It’s a good place to catch your breath, listen to your heartbeat, ruminate, and contemplate. The Quiet Room works when we respect its boundaries: please, no talking within. If there’s someone waiting for a space, yield yours after 30 minutes. Breastfeeding mothers are welcome in the Quiet Room.
  • The calmest programming is our main stage speakers; sit back and listen to our presenters share their awesomeness.

READING, LISTENING, EATING

Reading Skepticon provides information in various formats. Our most important publication is our yearly Program, which is handed to each individual upon registration. In addition to regular print, the Skepticon website hosts PDF and HTML versions as soon as they become available, generally the week before the con.

Listening All main stage speakers are required to use a mic. We also provide a live closed captioning service that will be projected near the main stage.

Eating The hotel has two places to eat: Bistro 14 restaurant and the lobby bar. The reservation price for a room includes the cost of a single breakfast in the Bistro 14 restaurant. More information will be added as we get responses from the hotel. Restaurants are limited within half a mile of the hotel, but within a mile or two there are many options, and the downtown trolley provides very inexpensive transport.


SPEAKER MERCHANDISE POLICY

Updated August 7, 2017

If you are a speaker who is interested in having your books or other merchandise sold by Skepticon event staff on your behalf, please read through the following rules. This will ensure that your merchandise will be handled in an efficient manner.

BEFORE THE CONFERENCE

  • Sales must be arranged in advance. Speakers may not bring merchandise the day of the conference for Skepticon organizers to sell on their behalf without prior arrangements.
  • Skepticon will not buy a speaker’s books from a publisher in order to sell them at the conference.

DURING THE CONFERENCE

  • If a speaker chooses to act as a vendor during times they are not fulfilling their speaking obligations, they may staff their table and sell their merchandise at their own discretion. However if a speaker wishes to have Skepticon sell merchandise on their behalf, we will handle all sales, have a table staffed at all times during the hours of the conference (to the best of our ability), and will promote their merchandise after the talk via scheduled signings.

AFTER THE CONFERENCE

  • Skepticon will total sales receipts, and count inventory after the conference ends to produce a reconciliation report. The speaker is responsible for signing off on this report before we will reimburse for sales made.
  • Skepticon will ship the remaining merchandise back to any location/publisher if the speaker (or responsible entity) makes arrangements before the end of the conference and pays for costs. This will be subtracted from the sales unless otherwise arranged.
  • Any merchandise left behind without arrangements for shipping will be considered a donation to Skepticon.

If these policies are violated, at our discretion Skepticon may elect not to sell merchandise on a speaker’s behalf.


Much love and credit goes to the great people at Apostacon and Wiscon for all their help creating these wonderful policies!