A Respectful SSC

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At the end of February, I sent an email to all members on “sexual harassment in the statistical sciences, and the SSC”:

In the last year, the #metoo movement has heightened awareness of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.  These issues affect all professions. Indeed, in December, a blog post raised serious concerns and called out individuals and their actions at international statistics conferences.

There are not any complaints related to the SSC that we are aware of.  But it would be naive to assume that there are no concerns. It is timely to consider what, as a professional organization, the SSC can do to ensure an inclusive and safe environment for all.  Over the coming months, the SSC will be seeking input and giving careful thought on how to proceed. As a path forward evolves, you can expect more information and opportunities to provide your input on this very important issue.

There has been progress, and I hope that by the time you are reading this note, there will be more.  At their March 2018 meeting, the SSC Board of Directors passed a motion to form a committee for a “Respectful SSC”, to consider the issue of sexual assault and harassment and respectful behaviour in the context of the SSC.  The committee will include diverse representation, including those most likely vulnerable in cases of harassment. Representatives from the Committee on Women in Statistics and the Student and Recent Graduate Committee will serve on the Respectful SSC committee.  Accredited members will also be represented, as the “Code of Ethical Statistical Practice” is pertinent to the discussion. There will be other representatives, and it will be important that all members of the Society have an opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

Other statistical organizations are undertaking similar efforts, and there should be opportunity to share information.  The topic has come up with the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS). The American Statistical Association formed a Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault in November 2017, and the International Society for Bayesian Analysis formed a Safe ISBA Task Team in December 2017.  

The committee will consider a variety of related issues.  Preliminary discussions among the Board and the Executive have identified many dimensions, including a possible code of conduct and safe mechanisms for those wanting to report sexual assault, harassment, or other disrespectful behaviour. The scope of any policy will need consideration.  Policies would apply to meetings organized by the SSC, but could also include other interactions connected to the SSC, for example communications with committees and volunteers acting on behalf of the SSC, and communication with SSC employees. There could be questions of jurisdiction, as many members would also be governed by policies of their employer.  Some recommendations may also need assessment from a legal viewpoint. What the committee will (and won’t) consider is not set in stone. Indeed, a first step for the committee will be to decide on priorities.

The work on a respectful SSC is as serious as it is important, and it will not be easy.  But it is an opportunity for the SSC to be a society that is supportive and welcoming, professional and respectful in how our members interact with each other and broader society.

Hugh Chipman


Sunday, April 15, 2018

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