Addressing Minor Misconduct as a TD

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Aaron's Rod
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Addressing Minor Misconduct as a TD

Post by Aaron's Rod » Fri Jan 18, 2019 5:39 pm

(DISCLAIMER: I've had this post on the back burner since the summer, so there's no one and nothing I'm alluding to in particular. Also, I'm making this post as myself, and not on behalf of the misconduct form or anybody associated with it, or any organization or question set I'm associated with.)

This post is addressed to tournament directors of non-national tournaments, especially those that are not affiliated with a national quizbowl organization. I wrote it with college and open tournaments in mind to propose a model for how handling minor misconduct should work, and make some suggestions as to what you should do ahead of time. TDs are leaders in their circuits, and whether you like it or not, how your tournament is run can reflect on your institution, positively or negatively.

Most quizbowlers are relatively young people who are learning a lot about themselves, others, and how to navigate the world, especially what is and isn't acceptable to say and do. But quizbowlers are human, and as such are prone to errors both intentional and unintentional. Of course, if you think that the misconduct form representatives should know about something, then by all means fill it out. But I’d like to posit that in many cases (e.g., a passing offensive remark), the issue can be solved to most parties’ satisfaction that day. It’s more likely to make the slighted person feel that their concerns have been addressed, and more likely to be a learning opportunity for the person that slipped up. (We’ll call those people the complainant and the respondent, respectively.)

To people who are not shy about confrontation, this will seem intuitive; to others, it's good to run through this in your head a few times should you need it. Dealing with these as a tournament director can be awkward if you’re not prepared and really rewarding if you are.

Rules
A lot of non-NAQT tournaments tacitly run on ACF or PACE rules, which have the same basic structure. (For the sake of completeness, NAQT’s rules are here.) For many reasons, it’s in your best interest to actually state “we’re using ACF’s ruleset with the optional powermark addendum,” or what have you. If you do run into problems, particularly with a player, having pre-accepted guidelines for tournament director power can be invaluable in lending credibility to your decisions.

All of the rulesets describe minor and severe misconduct, with varying levels of specificity. In the unlikely event of severe misconduct, if you or your tournament are affiliated with an academic institution, you may also consider that institution’s rules surrounding third-party harassment.

Before the tournament
In your logistics emails to both staffers and players, put your contact information that can be used the day of the tournament (e.g. a cell phone number people can text, or mention that you’ll be checking your email--and then actually do it! If you’re not comfortable giving out your personal email, consider creating a separate account just for TDing). Mention in your email that you want people to have a positive experience at your tournament, and if another player or staffer’s behavior is impeding that, they can and should contact you (or your designees) via those means. You don’t have to make it a big deal and you don’t have to scare people, but let people know in advance that you want to hear about those things.

Of course, not every player will see your logistics email, because their club presidents are probably taking care of it. Reiterate your contact info at the opening meeting, and add where you’ll be in-person as well (in the control room? Reading? etc.). If the room where your opening meeting and/or your control room has a whiteboard or blackboard in it, it’s a great idea to write that info on the board just so people can reference it if they need to.

At your staff meeting, tell your staff that along with their quizbowl responsibilities, it’s their job to maintain a certain standard of behavior in their rooms, and that they should bring any concerns to you.

Handling a Report
So, you’ve received a complaint about someone’s behavior at a tournament. (Let’s say that they made a vulgar joke, although it could be any number of things, including in-game unsporting conduct.)

Thank the complainant for sharing their concerns with you. If you received the complaint in person, ask the complainant if you can take a second to jot down what happened. If a player made the complaint, ask who their moderator was. Most importantly, assure the complainant that you will address this as soon as possible. Depending on if you’re reading or not, you might not get a chance to address until a break in between rounds, during lunch, during a rebracket, or just after the tournament.

Sometimes, the complainant will not want to deal with the respondent, so it’s also fair to ask what they’d like to happen--would they accept an in-person apology, or would they prefer not to speak to them? It’s not your job to make everybody like each other, it’s only your job to address people’s concerns.

Talk to the moderator to confirm what happened. (And remind them you'd like to hear when these things happen!) If you can, bring them with you when you speak to the respondent.

It’s always preferable, although not always possible, to speak to the respondent in person. Be as discreet as you can--pulling someone aside in between games is a good bet. Tell them that you heard that they e.g. made an inappropriate joke, and that that’s not acceptable behavior at this or any other tournament. If you genuinely don’t think they understand what they did was wrong, you can expound on that. In all likelihood, they will be very embarrassed, so if they seem contrite there’s no need to flagellate too badly. If they offer to apologize, handle that however the complainant indicated they were comfortable--you can always tell the respondent you’re happy to pass along an apology.

If you aren’t able to speak to the respondent in person, ask a team contact for their email, and CC your moderator when you do.

Written out like this makes it sound like gross overkill. However, there’s no reason why this should take more than a few minutes of your time. You write down what happened, you flag down the cause of the complaint as soon as you can, and you talk to them.

After the tournament
Consider sending an email after the tournament. There’s plenty of other things to include here: Congratulations to the winners, links to stats (in addition to posting on your announcement thread), a reminder if the set isn’t clear, instructions on how to join a private subforum. But you can also ask for players’ feedback about their tournament experience.


This is neither comprehensive nor the only way to do things, but I hope these suggestions make TDs feel more comfortable addressing issues as they arise.

References
I can't endorse the entire wiki wholesale, but I took inspiration for this post from this "Geek feminism" conference anti-harassment wiki. It's worth at least perusing if you want to read more.

Special thanks to the people who gave me substantive feedback on this post: Bernadette, Susan, Marianna, Ryan, Cody, and David.
Alex D.
Lawrence B.A., B.Mus. '16 // DePaul M.S. '18
Treasurer & Misconduct Form Rep, ACF
http://tinyurl.com/qbmisconduct
Midwest is best.

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Cheynem
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Re: Addressing Minor Misconduct as a TD

Post by Cheynem » Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:12 pm

This is a really good post (is this cross-posted in the HS forum as well?).

I wonder if you (or others) think that when talking to a respondent, having multiple around is a good idea. From my point of view, this might be effective if you're worried about a discussion getting out of hand or being accused of bias/inappropriate behavior. In particular, if the respondent has a coach or team captain or something, that person could also be there. On the other hand, I also worry if this subtly seems like an escalation of things (like multiple people confronting you). I don't know. Thoughts?
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

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Aaron's Rod
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Re: Addressing Minor Misconduct as a TD

Post by Aaron's Rod » Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:02 pm

Cheynem wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:12 pm
This is a really good post (is this cross-posted in the HS forum as well?).
We don't really have proper cross-posting, but there's now a stickied topic in the Miscellaneous High School Quizbowl forum directing people to the Community Discussion forum.
Cheynem wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 6:12 pm
I wonder if you (or others) think that when talking to a respondent, having multiple around is a good idea. From my point of view, this might be effective if you're worried about a discussion getting out of hand or being accused of bias/inappropriate behavior. In particular, if the respondent has a coach or team captain or something, that person could also be there. On the other hand, I also worry if this subtly seems like an escalation of things (like multiple people confronting you). I don't know. Thoughts?
First off--I welcome anybody else's feedback as well. Mine is but one perspective.

My post was intended to address college and post-college students TDing college and post-college tournaments, but for a younger player I'd definitely recommend roping in a coach if you can. A coach or parent is invested in the players' growth long-term, so they'd naturally want to be kept in the loop. (It's also just a good policy to minimize one-on-one time with MS/HS students in general.)

College and adult players rarely come with any sort of supervision (rightly), and they should be responsible for their own actions. The reason why I recommend bringing the moderator who was there, if you weren't, is for backup should the respondent try to deny or "recontextualize" what happened.
Alex D.
Lawrence B.A., B.Mus. '16 // DePaul M.S. '18
Treasurer & Misconduct Form Rep, ACF
http://tinyurl.com/qbmisconduct
Midwest is best.

Ent
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Re: Addressing Minor Misconduct as a TD

Post by Ent » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:22 pm

Speaking as a coach, I want to include my thoughts on continuing something Alex wrote.

If you are addressing a MS or HS player, and it is not some emergency issue (like breaking up a fight), I would strongly urge TD's to avoid addressing things like this with a player alone. The coach or chaperone should always be present. This saves trouble for the TD, and prevents unnecessary repetition of the discussion if a coach approaches you later. If there is no adult traveling with the team, make sure that uninvolved adults are present to act as witnesses.

If the team is sans coach or chaperone, the coach or some other school representative needs to be contacted as soon as is convenient, with e-mail being preferred since, at least with most public schools, there will be a legal record of the contact to cover you.
Thomas Egan

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