Social Studies of Computing

Multidisciplinary Research Group at McGill University

Code of Conduct

Contains text adapted from the DISE safe space statement, Philip SS Howard’s EDER 619 course guidelines, and the NordicJS COC.

We are committed to nurturing a space where students, post-docs, lecturers, professors and members of the community can all engage in the exchange of ideas and dialogue, without fear of being made to feel unwelcome or unsafe on account of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race/ethnicity, religion, linguistic and cultural background, age, disability, or any other aspect integral to one's personhood. We therefore recognize our responsibility, both individual and collective, to strive to establish and maintain an environment wherein all interactions are based on empathy and mutual respect for the person, acknowledging differences of perspectives, free from judgment, censure, and/or stigma.

The Social Studies of Computing group is a space for teaching and learning. We are committed to creating authentic opportunities for learning. Our view of learning is conceived as a social process that is co-constructed between/amongst faculty and students. In order to foster a positive environment for learning, we are expected to demonstrate awareness and respect of others. We are expected to be accountable to ourselves and others and to be engaged, collegial and accessible. By doing so, we are more fully able to share together in the types of critical dialogue, creative thinking and reflective practice that help us grow as scholars and as people.

1. Discussion Guidelines

This is a space where discussions about sexism, ableism, racism, colonialism, homophobia, cisnormativity, and other forms of oppression are regularly discussed and learnt about. To ensure a learning community where critical discussions about oppression can be safely and meaningfully discussed, we ask participants to:

2. Accessibility

We strive to be an accessible space and to provide accessible events. All our events and spaces are wheelchair accessible and scent-free environments.

Accessibility is a collective effort and we expect:

If somebody fails to meet these expectations, see “When Something Happens”.

3. Harassment

We are dedicated in providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion.

We do not tolerate harassment. Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

4. When Something Happens

If you see a Code of Conduct violation, follow these steps:

  1. Let the person know that what they did is not appropriate, explain constructively to the person why it was inappropriate, and ask them to stop. For tips on how to do this, see the next section.

    1. If you do not feel safe doing so, proceed to step 3.

  2. That person should immediately stop the behavior and correct the issue. If that person is you, see the section “If You Screwed Up”.

  3. If this does not happen, or if you are uncomfortable speaking up, contact the group’s manager (Prof Elizabeth Patitsas), or another professor connected with the lab, as soon as possible

  4. A professor will immediately address the issue and take further action.

You can contact Prof Patitsas via keybase (@patitsas), email (, twitter DM (@patitsel), or SMS/Signal (if you have her number).

If for whatever reason you'd prefer to contact a different professor, you can contact Prof McMahan via email ( or keybase (@mcmahan).

4.1 Turning An Inappropriate Situation Into a Teachable Moment

So you’re in a situation where you’re witnessing a Code of Conduct violation. 

First off, consider your own safety. If talking to the individual(s) would put your safety at risk, focus on your safety. Extract yourself from the situation, and proceed to step 3.

If you are safe, next remember the bystander effect. If you’re not the only witness, it could be everybody is waiting for somebody else to speak up. Assume it’s up to you to speak up.

Next you could be stuck on what to say. If it’s a situation you’ve never encountered before you could be at a loss for something situation specific. Here are some general-purpose responses that you can default to:

An unfortunate reality is that marginalized people have to do a disproportionate amount of teaching others about their marginalization. After the situation happened, it is recommended that you tell somebody you trust about it so you can debrief and process your emotions.If you tried to respond appropriately, but felt you failed to do so, proceed to step 3.

4.2 If You Screwed Up

Francesca Ramsey has an excellent video on how productively react and how to apologize: 


  1. Remember to listen --- your intent was presumably good, but here what matters is impact, not intent, and that means listening to what the impact was.

  2. An effective apology requires two parts:

    1. Take responsibility for what you’ve done

    2. Make a commitment to change the behaviour

  3. And she recommends two additional steps:

    1. Say thank you to the person who brought your mistake to your attention

    2. “Don’t just say it, do it” - change your behaviour

5. Professional Norms in Lab Meetings

Further details on professional norms for lab meetings ("standup") are provided in the lab handbook.

6. Attribution

As noted upfront, this code of conduct contains language from the DISE Safe Space Statement and Philip SS Howard’s discussion guidelines for EDER 617. It also contains language adapted from the NordicJS code of conduct, which in turn was based on the Code of Conducts of JSConf AU which is based on The Geek Feminism wiki, the work of Valerie Aurora and Conference Code of Conduct.