Zero Tolerance Policies Are Stupid


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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7 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Apparently the perpetrator here was a Somebody Who Kind Of Matters insofar as He Has Connections with some people and an organization who are more than tangentially important to Readercon.

    I think that factoid helps put all the pieces together.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Oh, I can read the dynamics all right.

      Still doesn’t change the fact that this sort of gerrymandering of the rules is exactly the sort of thing that will make people leave your org in droves.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

      But the whole point of a Zero Tolerance Policy is that it doesn’t matter that you Kind Of Matter. The policy gains its authority from its objectivity.Report

      • MikeSchilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

        This is a story I heard from my favorite high school teacher.

        “A few years ago, I was on the school’s athletic disciplinary committee. Somebody proposed a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol, and I said ‘Really? Zero-tolerance? What if it’s in Nome, Alaska? The kid and his family take a trip to Nome, Alaska, and while he’s there he has a beer. If we find out about it, are we going to kick him out?’ They said yes, zero-tolerance. And we voted and it won.

        “Then, during the football season our starting center got drunk in public and the police arrested him. Not even in Nome, Alasks. Right downtown. What should we do? You’d think it’s obvious: we have a zero-tolerance policy. But doubts start to arise. He’s our starting center, and there’s no backup half as good. We were going to be pretty good this year, but not without this guy. Is it fair to punish the rest of the team? They didn’t get drunk.

        “So they decided this: We have a zero-tolerance policy, and we’re going to suspend him for the entire year. Except for league games.”Report

    • RTod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      On a more serious note, a good post Pat. I certainly have not quibbles with anything you say here.

      FWIW, were I to be giving my professional opinion to ReaderCon, I would say that their big slip up wasn’t having a no-tolerance sexual harassment policy – every organization should have one. It was having a policy that declared in advance exactly what the universal consequences would be (in this case life-time exile) for any infraction, without regard to circumstance. Far better for them right now to have the internet discussing what the appropriate punishment for the guy’s douche-baggery should be, not how they caved on their own policy.Report