SAA Meeting Safety Policy FAQ
The SAA recognizes its responsibility to ensure a safe environment at all our meetings and events. In November 2019, the Society membership revised our bylaws to streamline the process for reporting and taking action against unsafe and inappropriate professional conduct, and in January 2020, the SAA Board announced the Meeting Safety Policy and Code of Conduct at SAA Events (hereafter Meeting Safety Policy). This FAQ seeks to answer common questions about policy implementation and provides procedural guidance for those seeking to submit claims under the policy. This preliminary FAQ will be revised as new questions are raised.
In what circumstances can the SAA act on harassment or assault claims?
The SAA Board is concerned with access and inclusion at its events, including its annual meeting, and developed its Meeting Safety Policy specifically with this goal in mind. The policy authorizes hiring two ombuds to help achieve this goal, and the policy authorizes a Disclosure and a Reporting process (each described below) to help survivors attend and participate in SAA events.
How do I know if someone who has harassed me plans to attend the meeting?
Program participants are listed in the preliminary program, which is published online in December. The Meeting Safety Policy stipulates that all advance registrations to the annual meeting will be published behind the member log-in wall the day after advance registration closes. For the SAA 86th Annual Meeting, this will be March 10, 2021.
How does someone make a complaint?
Any SAA member or meeting attendee can make a formal complaint by filling out either a Report or Disclosure form and submitting it to the SAA president (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or executive director (email@example.com).
Report and Disclosure forms are available on the SAA website at the end of the Meeting Safety Policy. Specifically, see Appendices, SAA “Meeting Safety Policies Appendix A (Onsite Reporting)” and “SAA Meeting Safety Policies Appendix B (Advance Reporting)”).
Any SAA member or attendee may e-mail information and request that e-mail be in lieu of a form. However, if information is incomplete, the Society’s ability to act may be limited. Actions that the SAA can take are determined by whether the complaint is a Report or a Disclosure (see below).
What is a Report?
A Report is a formal request that the SAA block a Subject Individual from participating in an SAA event. Reports must include documentation of a finding of harassment or assault against the Subject Individual named in the complaint by an external adjudicating body (such as a university Title IX office or a court of law; see below for definition of “finding”). When received more than 30 days prior to SAA events of concern, Reports are referred to the Findings Verification Committee for review and recommendation of action to the board. When received closer to or during the event of concern, the executive director and president are empowered to review and act on Reports promptly in the interest of the safety of event participants.
What happens if a Report is not verified?
If submitted Reports are found to be unverifiable or of insufficient substance to recommend blocking a Subject Individual from attending an SAA event, Reports will be referred to the Disclosure process, and threatened individuals will be offered support to protect their safety at SAA events (see the full meeting safety policy or contact the Committee on Annual Meeting Safety for examples).
What is a Disclosure?
A Disclosure is a claim submitted to inform the SAA of past circumstances that could adversely affect an individual’s ability to participate in an SAA event, and it is a means of requesting help from meeting safety volunteers that does not include any action against another attendee or member. Disclosure can be used to make requests such as being escorted between spaces at the annual meeting or presenting remotely from an undisclosed room.
Disclosures can be submitted during or in advance of an SAA event in order for the executive director and president to work with meeting safety volunteers and/or the ombuds to facilitate participation in the event. To reiterate, individuals cannot be barred from events using the Disclosure procedure.
Disclosures and Reports are not mutually exclusive; it is possible for someone to first use the Disclosure process and then also file a Report, or vice versa.
What counts as a finding?
A finding is defined as any determination by a court of competent jurisdiction or an administrative or regulatory body. This includes everything from a traditional “guilty verdict” in a court of law to a decision from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Register of Professional Archaeologists, or a Title IX office on a campus.
Can the SAA act without a finding from another source?
Since the SAA is not an adjudicating or investigatory body, it cannot bar a Subject Individual from participation without a finding from another institution. To help threatened individuals participate in the meeting under these circumstances, the Meeting Safety Policy provides for the Disclosure process described above. The Disclosure process is specifically in place in case there is no finding (or the finding is not able to be shared), and a participant would like to have access to meeting safety volunteers at an SAA event.
The SAA Board can suspend an individual’s ability to register for events if an investigation has been opened and while an institutional investigation is occurring.
Can the SAA act in response to posts on social media?
Social media statements do not provide sufficient grounds for the SAA to act, because they do not have the force of testimony.
What actions can the SAA take against a Subject Individual?
As a non-adjudicating institution, the SAA can react in one of two ways:
(1) If a Report is received no later than 30 days before the start of a meeting or event, and verified prior to the SAA-sponsored meeting or event, the board is empowered to suspend the Subject Individual’s ability to register for the meeting or to revoke their registration if already made.
(2) If a Report supported by a finding is received fewer than 30 days prior to an event or during an SAA-sponsored meeting or event, the executive director and president are empowered to perform the verification duties of the Findings Verification Committee and to remove the Subject Individual from the premises. The board does not need to approve this decision but will be involved if possible.
What factors will the president and executive director consider when verifying Reports received fewer than 30 days prior to an event, or during an SAA-sponsored meeting or event?
The president and executive director are charged under the Meeting Safety Policy with privileging the safety of threatened individuals and survivors, and on shortened time frames will primarily consider the immediate safety of meeting attendees.
How do I get started?
Any SAA member or event attendee may submit a Disclosure or Report via e-mail to the SAA president (firstname.lastname@example.org) and/or executive director (email@example.com).
Alternatively, any SAA annual meeting attendee may contact an ombuds while at the meeting. Meeting ombuds are independent of the SAA’s organizational structure and can assist a member or attendee in identifying the range of options available to them, from informal resolutions to the established Disclosure or Report process.
How do I contact an ombuds?
SAA ombuds will be physically present at the annual meeting. There will also be a designated ombuds office, a phone number, and contact e-mail account on the SAA meeting web page. Their e-mail and phone number will be printed on meeting badges and listed in the meeting program.
Is there a way to be anonymous while submitting a complaint?
Confidentiality is possible to varying degrees as follows:
Visits to the ombuds are independent of the Society, and your confidentiality is of utmost importance with the sole exception of when there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.
Submitting a Disclosure allows the threatened individual or a third-party advocate to remain confidential to everyone except those who must be informed to help complete the requested accommodations (e.g., a safety volunteer who will escort someone between rooms).
Submitting a Report does not permit total confidentiality, as it initiates a verification process that requires limited release of information to the Findings Verification Committee, president, executive director, and the board.
Regardless, all Disclosures and Reports will be available only to the relevant parties during the process. At no point will Disclosures or Reports become public information through any action of the SAA.
What is the role of SAA legal counsel in responding to Disclosures and Reports?
SAA legal counsel advises the president, executive director, the board, and the Findings Verification Committee about applicable legal and ethical considerations so that the Society can implement its Meeting Safety Policy in the most consistent and fair way possible.
How can I act on behalf of someone else?
The SAA recognizes that coming forward to report misconduct can cause trauma. For this reason, the policy has a provision for a third party to file a Report on a threatened individual’s behalf. Doing so requires a written document empowering the third party to act on said individual’s behalf.
To submit a Disclosure or Report on behalf of another attendee, first obtain written permission from the threatened individual, and then use the existing Report/Disclosure forms, indicating on the form that you are submitting on behalf of someone else.
How does the SAA handle complaints from outside the United States?
The SAA can take action on any finding from any legitimate court or administrative or regulatory body, regardless of the country of origin. However, the SAA may only remove individuals from the SAA’s events within the United States.
What other options exist for pursuing complaints within archaeology?
The Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) is the designated adjudicating body for archaeologists, supported by the SAA, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, and many regional societies. The RPA has broad authority to investigate grievances and take action against professional archaeologists. You can find more information about the RPA’s grievance procedure here. You do not need to be registered with the RPA to file a grievance.
Students have the option of pursuing action at their institution’s Title IX office. The employer of an individual archaeologist may also have policies that are relevant in the case of misconduct.
Claim—Any formal request by an SAA member seeking action under the SAA Meeting Safety Policy.
Claimant—Any person who submits a claim under the SAA Meeting Safety Policy.
Disclosure—A claim requesting personal support for safe participation at an SAA event. Disclosures do not require outside documentation and do not lead to action against a Subject Individual.
Event (of concern)—Any SAA-sponsored event for which a claimant seeks accommodation under the SAA Meeting Safety Policy.
Finding—Any determination by a court of competent jurisdiction or an administrative or regulatory body.
Ombuds—A professionally trained, independent advocate available at an SAA annual meeting to provide confidential support to any meeting attendee.
Report—A formal request to prevent a Subject Individual from attending one or more SAA events in the interest of the safety of a threatened individual. Reports differ from Disclosures based on the provision of documentation demonstrating a verifiable finding against a Subject Individual.
Subject Individual—A person who has been accused of harassment and/or assault and from whom one or more threatened individuals seek protection during SAA events.
Third-Party Advocate—A person submitting a claim on behalf of a threatened individual, with their permission.
Threatened Individual–A person who has experienced harassment or assault from a Subject Individual and who seeks support to participate in one or more SAA events.