The Last Word on Readercon (Hopefully)

The Readercon ConCom has released a new statement that says, in part:

We apologize first and foremost to Genevieve Valentine and to Kate Kligman for not taking appropriate action based on their reports of being harassed by RenĂ© Walling. Our policy clearly states that harassers will have their memberships permanently revoked; we did not adhere to this policy, despite undisputed evidence of harassment. The board failed in its responsibilities to prioritize the safety of our attendees, promote a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere at the convention, follow our policy, and uphold Readercon’s reputation as a place where reports of harassment will be handled appropriately. Our actions showed disrespect for Ms. Valentine and Ms. Kligman’s painful experiences of harassment and their bravery in speaking up. We offer our heartfelt apology for failing to justify the trust they placed in us and for compounding their distress.

The concom has voted to overturn the board’s decision in the matter of harassment committed by RenĂ© Walling, and to permanently ban him from attending or participating in Readercon in any way. He may not purchase or otherwise acquire a membership; he may not participate in the program; he may not be or work for a dealer in the bookroom; he may not join any Readercon committee; he may not volunteer. We have informed Mr. Walling of this ban and he has not contested it.

I definitely recommend following the link through to the Readercon site and reading the whole statement. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

I want to thank the ConCom for working diligently to set right the terrible decision made by the Board. It feels like this was a long time coming, but it’s hard to believe it’s only been one week, give or take, since the Board’s original decision was announced. As we all know, a week in Internet time can feel like a month in real time, but the ConCom worked quickly to make amends and correct a bad decision. My hat is off to them. It’s also off to the over 400 people who signed the petition that was sent to the Readercon ConCom a few days ago.

Remember, folks, if you harass someone at Readercon — any kind of harassment, be it sexual, bullying, or any other variant — you are not welcome back at the convention. Ever. Period. Just like it clearly states on their website, and has for several years. Just like it says in the email that’s sent to every attending member, and has for several years. Had the Board members simply followed their own existing policy in this regard, rather than trying to coddle a serial stalker and harasser at the expense of every other attending member’s safety and comfort, they would still be on the Board today and would not have had to resign in disgrace. In fact, none of this would have happened.

But in a way, I’m glad it did. It brought to the fore the reality of harassment at conventions, especially of the sexual variety, and made it clear, in a way that I don’t think has been done before, that it will not be stood for anymore. Not at Readercon, and not anyplace else. And that’s a good thing.

So, long story short, I’m delighted by this turn of events. All that’s left for me to say is, I’ll see you at next year’s Readercon!

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