Readercon received a report of harassment at the convention, and the Readercon board has elected to refuse membership to the harasser for two years.
I'm not on the board. I'm not privy to the board's deliberations. I'm reacting to this as an individual, not as a member of the concom.
This is not the outcome I wanted, and it makes me very unhappy. My recommendation was for the board to follow the policy: lifetime suspension, the end. My recommendation was that the board should then rewrite the policy because I think zero-tolerance policies on any front do a disservice to everyone by creating a narrative that facts then have to be fit to. But even if there were not a zero-tolerance policy in place, I would have recommended that René not be permitted to attend Readercon again. I feel that would have been appropriate to what has been reported and confirmed, and I also feel it would have sent the right message to current and potential Readercon attendees. The message we have sent instead is leading to a lot of wonderful people saying they no longer plan to attend the convention, and... I really don't have words for how distressing that is. We are paying a very big price here and I do not see what we've gained for it.
I have no idea how much René's fannish activities actually factored into the board's decision-making, but I am entirely unsurprised that this is being read as "SMOFs get more leeway to treat people badly"; if I were an outsider to the convention I would read it that way too. I find that concept deeply upsetting. I very much hope there were other reasons for lenience.
I gave serious thought to resigning from the concom over this. Ultimately, I decided that I can do more good from within, so I will continue to work with the concom and the program participants--and, when my opinion is requested, with the board--on making Readercon a safer, more inclusive space where people treat one another with respect and courtesy.
I am, with some trepidation, leaving comments on. If you want to criticize my personal stance on this, go ahead, but please don't use this comment space as a way to send messages to Readercon. Feedback on the board's decision should go to email@example.com.
EDIT: The board has posted a statement clarifying that the suspension is for AT LEAST two years, with active information-gathering during that time to determine whether to make it permanent. That is a somewhat different thing from my initial understanding of what was going on. I still feel we should abide by our policies. I'm still greatly concerned by the privileging of one man's misbehavior-contrition-redemption narrative over a number of women's ongoing concerns over feeling unsafe. I am honestly very skeptical of whether someone with an acknowledged pattern of harassment is going to undergo "real and permanent positive change"; in other words, I think we will still have the end result of René being banned from the convention, only by a much more painful and circuitous route. But "at least two years, and permanently gone if we don't see you actively shaping up" is better than "two years and then we consider you to have paid your dues and will welcome you back with open arms", which was the idea that was circulating before, so I'm glad they clarified, at least.
And now I think I'm going to shut off the computer for a while.