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In 2014, serial harasser Jim Frenkel attended Wiscon 38 despite complaints about him harassing a Wiscon 37 attendee, and previous reports. The Wiscon 38 organisers reported that they did not have a systemic way to track such issues. They reviewed the situation and provisionally banned Frenkel for several future years, a response that did not satisfy many onlookers.

2013 events[]

Main article: SFF harassment revelations 2013

In 2013, speculative fiction editor and then-Tor employee Jim Frenkel was the subject of harassment revelations, including a complaint about harassment at WisCon 37.

2014 / Wiscon 38 events[]

April: Stephanie Zvan specifically alerted the WisCon 38 (2014) committee to the issue of Frenkel's attendance possible attendance at WisCon 38 and asked them to take action.

May 22-25: WisCon 38 was held. Jim Frenkel attended WisCon and volunteered in the con suite.

May 28: WisCon's ConCom posted to the WisCon blog saying they were aware of the issue and of safety complaints.

May or June (exact date unknown): Lauren Jankowski announced that Wiscon had lost her report of 2013 harassment, and moreover had falsely told her that a co-complainant had specifically requested that Frenkel not be banned. She apologised to her co-complainant for acting on that information.

June 1: Natalie Luhrs posted a roundup of events to that point.

June 1: WisCon made a statement about new safety precautions they'd taken prior to WisCon 38 and how they were reviewing the situation for WisCon 39 (in 2015).

June 24: Elise Matthesen announced that Wiscon has told her they have lost her 2013 harassment report.

June 30: WisCon made a statement acknowledging that harassment complaints from Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski had not been properly handed over by organisers of WisCon 37 (2013) to organisers of WisCon 38.

July 2: Elise Matthesen wrote a blog entry stating that she was unlikely to attend WisCon in future, even though she would forgo a great deal of income by not attending.

July 5: Stephanie Zvan published her blog post about her April discussion with the organisers, and discussed the general issue of whether and when event organisers can consider having a previous harasser attend.

July 7: WisCon 38 co-chair Joanna Lowenestein apologised for Frenkel's attendance at WisCon 38.

July 9: WisCon's subcommittee reviewing Frenkel's attendance published their report timeline

July 18: WisCon's subcommittee reviewing Frenkel's attendance announced (in part) that:

WisCon will (provisionally) not allow Jim Frenkel to return for a period of four years (until after WisCon 42 in 2018). This is "provisional" because if Jim Frenkel chooses to present substantive, grounded evidence of behavioral and attitude improvement between the end of WisCon 39 in 2015 and the end of the four-year provisional period, WisCon will entertain that evidence. We will also take into account any reports of continued problematic behavior.
Allowing Jim Frenkel to return is not guaranteed at any time, including following WisCon 42; the convention's decision will always be dependent on compelling evidence of behavioral change, and our commitment to the safety of our members. If he is permitted to return at any time, there will be an additional one-year ban on appearing on programming or volunteering in public spaces. Any consideration of allowing him to return will be publicized in WisCon publications and social media at least three months before a final decision is made.
Based on the policies adopted by WisCon's Harassment Policy Committee before WisCon 38 in 2014, Jim Frenkel has the right to appeal this decision to SF3, WisCon's governing body. If he enters an appeal, we will make public statements both when he does so and when the appeal ruling is issued.
These are official WisCon actions, and will not be affected by future philosophical or policy discussions.

July 20: antarcticlust, a member of the WisCon Frenkel subcommittee and chair of the WisCon Harassment Policy, commented in a personal capacity:

Following W38, we developed something of a judicial model to make sure that there would be follow-up and consequences to harassment. Based on comments within the ConCom and the broader membership, however, I am starting to think that a judicial model is not actually what the community wants… It's becoming clear to me that a judicial model was not ultimately what was wanted here, but based on our efforts to correct past mistakes, it's what we built.

July 21: antarcticlust posted again listing numerous ways she felt the WisCon subcommittee handling Frenkel's harassment had made mistakes.

Late-night July 21: A new official statement from the concom about what's going on behind the scenes and the current state of the decision:

July 26: Concom issues statement that they are appealing the subcommittee decision to the wider concom, as well as Debbie Notkin's resignation as Member Advocate. Refunds for WisCon 39 are addressed

July 30: Concom issues statement indicating that voting on the appeal has started and that the decision will be posted Monday (8/4/14).

August 4: Concom issues statement that the Wiscon 37 and 38 concoms have voted overwhelmingly to ban Jim Frenkel permanently.

Reactions to the official actions[]

  • Lauren Jankowski stated that she would not attend WisCon after WisCon 39.
  • Kate Nepveu stated that she would not attend WisCon for the foreseeable future.
  • K Tempest Bradford stated that she felt Frenkel was unlikely to reform and that therefore the actions amounted to a ban. [1] [2] [3] [4] However, later information caused her to change her view.
  • quartzpebble pointed out to the committee that they were effectively excluding his victims from the WisCon event and asked if details of any harassment by Frenkel in future would be made public.
  • rosefox: "Shorter Wiscon: In recognition of the possibility that a harasser may eventually learn to behave himself like someone who graduated kindergarten, we will guarantee that a minimum of two people (the ones he harassed) will no longer feel comfortable at our convention."
  • Crossed Genres stated that they will no longer attend Wiscon: "Unfortunately, we have decided that Crossed Genres cannot in good conscience continue to support a convention which we don’t believe places enough emphasis on the safety of its con-goers. Because of this, Crossed Genres will not attend or participate in WisCon for the foreseeable future."
  • Mikki Kendall (karnythia) wrote "I have no intention of dropping out of attending WisCon. I have a lot of friends that go, and Wiscon is the only con where we can all get together. I refuse to give up my time with friends because of Jim Frenkel. This is not a new approach. It has been my approach since long before Frenkel being able to attend WisCon was ever in question. You see, I have never thought of WisCon as safe space."
  • Natalie Luhrs posted an extensive roundup of reactions, adding: "From where I’m sitting–as an outsider to their community–WisCon is run by a bunch of people who talk a good game about feminism but when it comes down to it, down to making the hard decisions about predators in their community, they can’t actually do what has to be done."
  • Catherine Lundoff stated that she was unlikely to attend WisCon 39 and called for a leadership turnover for WisCon.
  • Jim C. Hines wrote that WisCon's volunteers were not equipped to judge the sincerity of any apparent change of heart from Frenkel and had failed to protect their members.


See also[]