The 2012 PASS Summit is coming up in November and the board have decided that they want everyone to be free to enjoy the conference without having to worry about harassment. As such they have posted an anti-harassment policy that applies to all attendees at all Summit (and PASS sponsored social) events. You can find the policy over at http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/AntiHarassment.aspx
There have been serious problems at other tech conferences which has led to people (in particular women) to not attend. Valerie Aurora wrote about harassment as the reason why she would not be attending DEFCON over at http://adainitiative.org/2012/08/defcon-why-conference-harassment-matters/ and she is exactly right to call this out.
I admire that PASS have taken it on their own initiative to put together a policy, and I agree with it in almost every regard. My one issue comes in the final sentence of the Participant Behavior section (emphasis mine):
Similarly, sexual, racist, derogatory, threatening, or other inappropriate language and imagery are not appropriate for any conference venue, including sessions.
This is such an open ended point. What is inappropriate language and who gets to set that standard? Are we going to be held to the “7 dirty words”?
I didn’t grow up in the US and I have a different standard around what words are ok to say here (gets me in trouble at times). It goes farther than swearing though. What if a christian, in all good faith, starts talking of God to an atheist, or an atheist tells a christian that their beliefs are wrong. Either way this could be easily considered inappropriate by the other party. That then will go before the Anti-Harassment Review Committee who will decide on whether or not the policy has been violated. Given that there is no published guidance around this it could easily lead to someone getting kicked out, after all
I personally would like to see the policy amended around this point with either stronger guidance as to what does and does not constitute inappropriate language or that part struck out.