FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Bungles Harassment Policy Complaint [Updated]

So recently FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention (formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con) has been at the center of attention regarding their (lack of a) harassment policy. What started this ball rolling is that author Richard Paul Evans was accused of repeatedly touching a fellow panelist without her consent during a past event. And while it has led to Evans not being reinvited to FanX along with the con working towards drafting of formal harassment policy, not everything has gone as smoothly as it should have.

You see, along the way, the Salt Lake Tribune published the rather milquetoast headline “After Complaint, Utah Author Richard Paul Evans Is Among Many Reflecting On When And How To Hug” on May 6th. In that article, FanX co-founder Dan Farr seemed semi-dismissive about the situation:

“[Evans] offered willingness to talk to the people and apologize,” Farr said, adding that if Evans were to return to FanX, “there would be an anticipation he would be extra careful in his interactions with other people.”

Author Shannon Hale rightfully took issue with this, and emailed FanX staff with her concerns. Hale has documented her communications with the con on her Tumblr, but while the communications remained polite, what FanX did next was anything but.

In a move so unprofessional it boggles the mind, a member of FanX’s management took the con’s official Twitter account and posted a screenshot of one of Hale’s emails. While they removed some of the text from the email’s body, tne thing they didn’t censor was Hale’s personal contact information. The con has since deleted the tweet, but Hale has preserved it in a screenshot:

Hale also noted that the altered text wasn’t done to protect anything other than remove a potentially embarrassing portion written by FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg:

Needless to say, this has blown up a bit on twitter. File 770 has collected a number of examples of people criticizing FanX’s handling of the situation, including this twitter thread by Ally Condy, another thread by Howard Tayler, and this one by Justine Larbalestier.

In the wake of these events, FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg initially issued the following public apology:

How much stock a person can put into that apology is up to the individual to judge. With this string of actions, it’s hard for at least me to believe that an event is really taking the issue seriously no matter what they say at this point. Apologies ring pretty hollow when an event has acted this unprofessionally, and it will take some time for FanX’s management to re-earn the public’s trust.

But hey — they’ll at least have a better harassment policy on the books.


Update (5/25): Salt Lake City’s Fox 13 is reporting that FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg is officially taking an “immediate and indefinite” leave of absence from the event. Brandenburg told Fox 13:

In the end, it stopped being about who was right and who was wrong, but what was the message that we were all going to send? And I made a decision that the message I wanted to send was not that we were going to fight to try to be right, but that we were going to make a really tough decision… that the people that were complaining and had been harassed would feel heard and validated.

Besides his comments, Brandenburg has also deleted his public apology from Facebook. Honestly I’m left wondering how much of this is a PR move rather than genuine sentiment. The best I can say is that it’s better than nothing?

FanX still has quite a ways to go though.

Via File 770

Trae Dorn

Trae Dorn has been staffing conventions for over twenty years, and is a co-founder of Wisconsin’s longest running Anime convention No Brand Con. Trae also writes and draws the webcomics UnCONventional and The Chronicles of Crosarth, which leads many to ask when the hell they have time to actually do anything anymore. Trae says they have the time because they “do it all quite poorly.”