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Principles of Engagement

The following are a few basic social rules, adapted from those of the Recurse Center. These rules make explicit certain norms of social behavior that help uphold the values listed above, as well as the ethical guidelines we endorse. If you mess up on any of the below, don’t panic: we all make mistakes sometimes. Apologize, reflect, move forward.

  • Raise All Voices
    During sessions and discussions, pay attention to who is contributing. Chairs are encouraged to be conscious of their biases and avoid preferentially selecting some people and/or paying attention to only some parts of the room. Discretely invite contributions from quieter members of the group, making sure you are not embarassing them or drawing undesirable attention (ask "what do junior people think" or "people from smaller colleges" for example) and be conscientious of not dominating the conversation. We understand that it can be exciting to discuss a new idea, but always strive to listen (rather than just wait your turn to speak).
  • No Feigning Surprise
    In an environment where participants have different backgrounds and knowledge, it is very important that people feel comfortable saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand.” Therefore, please do not act surprised when someone says they don’t know something, whether it is regarding a technical or non-technical subject (e.g. “What?! I can’t believe you don’t know what X is!”). Quoting from Recurse: "Feigning surprise has absolutely no social or educational benefit: When people feign surprise, it's usually to make them feel better about themselves and others feel worse. And even when that's not the intention, it's almost always the effect."
  • No Well-Actually's
    As defined by Recurse, "A 'well-actually' happens when someone says something that's almost (but not entirely) correct, and you say, 'well, actually...' and then give a minor correction.” Well-actually’s interrupt the discussion and fixate on a minor, usually irrelevant point, often solely to make the person delivering the well-actually feel more important. If you feel the need to correct someone, take a moment to consider whether your correction is in the spirit of truth-seeking, and whether it will provide a positive contribution to the discussion.
  • No -isms
    We explicitly ban racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other kinds of bias— whether these behaviors are overt or subtle. Subtle -isms can be particularly tricky, as they are often unconscious behaviors we engage in by mistake, and are sometimes caused by conflicting norms between cultures. To use an example from Recurse, saying "It's so easy my grandmother could do it" is a subtle -ism. If you experience these behaviors during the course of the meeting, you should feel free to bring it up directly with the person, or if it’s more comfortable, point out the behavior to the meeting organizer (Ranpal Gill: rgill at lsst dot org). If someone points out that you have engaged in this behavior, it can be tempting to become defensive— but instead, we ask that you apologize, reflect a moment, and move on. If you do not understand why issue was taken with your behavior, we will be happy to discuss it with you, so that everyone can learn from the experience.