An Open Letter to ArcticNet

To the Executive of ArcticNet 2016,

This is the second time I have attended the ArcticNet conference. Let me begin by saying that I have been impressed with the diversity and breadth of research presented over the past few days, and inspired by the community-based research described. I have commented to colleagues on the professionalism of the graduate students, and the quality of both their research posters and presentations.

However, last night during the awards presentation a comment was made by one of the presenters that was utterly distasteful, misogynistic, and completely inappropriate. The fact that the presenter “joked” that the comment was “Trump-like” indicates that he knew what he said was wrong.

As academics and as mentors, it is our responsibility to set the example by which our students should strive. It is our responsibility to provide a safe space for the exchange and debate of ideas. We should never, ever allow comments like we heard last night to become normalized. And it is up to each and every one of us to call it out when we see it.

I do not accept that this was a joke. I do not accept that this was a mistake. I believe this was misogyny, plain and simple.

While the words that have been spoken can never be taken back, I believe that it is the responsibility of the ArcticNet Executive to:

  • denounce the comments unequivocably,
  • reaffirm your sexual harassment policy (assuming it exists),
  • require sensitivity training for all executives, and
  • issue an apology, making sure that this behaviour will never be tolerated at ArcticNet.

Sincerely,

Dr. Daniel Gillis
Assistant Professor and Statistician
School of Computer Science
University of Guelph

 

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