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Splitting Things

January 4th, 2019
safety  [html]
Update 2019-10-22: I no longer endorse this post; see this update.

I had a good conversation in person with Quill today about the splitting things portion of my outcomes of a safety report post. I had written:

I think organizers should have a pretty low threshold for splitting things. You don't need to determine whether the harm counts as abuse, be sure of what happened, or be sure how blame should fall. That someone feels strongly enough about avoiding someone that they're willing to give up half the dance time/space to do so tells you a lot.

Their view, as I understand it, is that if the reporter (John) doesn't want to be at a dance with a person he credibly reports hurt him (Susan) then yes, he should be able to have that and there should be some dances that Susan isn't allowed at. But then instead of dividing the dances, let John come to all and just have there be half that Susan can't come to. In practice, John is likely to not attend any dances on days Susan is allowed, but if, for example, he wants to work on being comfortable in the same place as her, then he should be able to do that.

That is, instead of "splitting dances" in the form of "Susan can only be there on X days and John can only be there on the other days", just split in the form "Susan can only be there on X days". There's no reason to also restrict John unless Susan is also credibly talking about how John hurt her.

I find this pretty convincing. Simple fairness isn't a good reason to split dances: John is saying Susan hurt him, she's not saying something similar, it's not symmetric. That someone is willing to give up half the time/space is a signal of credibility, but it's far from the only such signal we have and depending on circumstances it may not be that strong a one.

My strongest remaining thoughts in the other direction are around how well this is likely to work when generalized. If a volunteer committee without much time or experience is investigating reports, how likely are they to end up in a good place? How likely are people to be able to subvert this system? The thing is, the worst people can do with this is turn this back into a mutual exclusion situation. So I don't see a reason to have this be symmetric by default.

What do others think?

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