The SCA is an amazing place to find the things you love to do, and the people you love to do them with – all in a context of shared interest and values, and in a framework characterized by courtesy, responsibility and recognition. It’s a great place to play and grow.
But in the end, it’s a community made of humans, and sometimes things aren’t as they should be. What happens then? A lot of folks may not realize that the SCA has a structure in place for when things go wrong. This article will try to demystify that structure and associated process, and maybe even give some guidance to you if things go wrong in your corner of our shared hobby.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, understand that the SCA has rules. They come in the form of laws and policies and other sorts of governing documents.
- The top document is the Organizational Handbook (https://sca.org/docs/pdf/govdocs.pdf), which includes Corpora. These are the basic rules. Section X of Corpora deals with grievances and sanctions.
- The Society Seneschal’s Resource Page (http://socsen.sca.org/kingdoms-and-seneschals/seneschal-resources/) has some great resources, too, including the Seneschals’ Handbook (sanction information spread throughout but see especially V.D. and XXII and XXIV.4 (Harassment and Bullying Policy)), and the Sanction Guide, which includes the Code of Conduct.
- Our Kingdom’s Procedures are outlined both in Kingdom Law (Article X: Grievance Procedure), and in Kingdom Seneschal Policy (VI.A.), although mostly just referenced Corpora, X.B.2, which is the Society Grievance Procedure. Here’s the repository for Seneschal documents. (http://docs.aethelmearc.org/index.php?d=Seneschal&s=n&o=asc)
Wait, we have a Code of Conduct?
We do! It applies to everyone, on any SCA issue regardless of forum, including in person (events, practices, meetings, phone calls, etc.), and online (email, social media, etc.). This also means that the Code of Conduct applies whether you are on SCA official outlets or your own personal social media outlets, if discussing an SCA matter.
It is expected that participants in the SCA shall treat each other with respect and civility and this extends beyond SCA gatherings. Participants expressing themselves in any forum on an issue related to the SCA shall likewise maintain civility and courtesy. When considering sanctions in response to behavior, the sanctioning authority shall consider the extent of the public comment as well as the gravity of injury done to an individual local branch, Kingdom or the SCA. Behavior that is disruptive to the peace and well-being of the SCA is subject to sanction from an expulsion to Revocation of Membership and Denial of Participation (R&D) especially where there is a continuing course of conduct.
What if I have a dispute with someone about an SCA matter?
If it’s a modern legal matter, none of this applies. Go to the modern legal authorities/resources. The SCA will not get involved in modern legal stuff. Period.
If it’s not bullying or harassment, you should follow the grievance procedure. You can read the full grievance procedure in Corpora, but here’s the condensed version:
1. Understand the basic principles. There are lots of ways to approach our activities; as long as it’s legal and follows SCA rules, be understanding of each other, and communicate. Look for common ground, as compromise may be possible. Keep a sense of perspective; there are always two sides to any issue. Go through the chain of command/authority without skipping anyone, and without spreading laterally. Be circumspect and polite. Be patient and allow each level time to deal with the situation.
2. Try to work things out face-to-face. Explain your point of view and listen to theirs. If direct communication isn’t possible, find a respected moderator between you. Don’t go to the officer in charge of the area yet. Hopefully this resolves the issue. If not:
3. Write to the person you’re having difficulty with. Describe (politely) the way you feel you’ve been damaged. Ask for the action you feel would make things right, and suggest a time frame in which you want that to happen. This could be a series of letters and/or conversations, and if there is progress being made, continue with this.
4. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, write a formal letter to the other party. Outline new points and refer to previous correspondence. Send a copy to the officer in charge or the Royalty or Royal representative at the next higher level than the one where the dispute exists. Continue at this step as long as there’s progress or it resolves. If not…
5. Write directly to the officer in charge of the area, copying the subject of the dispute, the next higher officer, and the appropriate royalty or royal representative. Include the entire previous correspondence. Explain what help you need. Allow time for response. If it doesn’t resolve:
6. Repeat the last step, moving up the organization, including everyone on your copy list. Once you get to the Kingdom Officers, the Kingdom process kicks in. See below.
7. If it’s still not resolved, the Board of Directors will find a solution. But! You may not like the solution, and this is the final resolution. In addition, whatever the resolution is, may very well affect the entire Society. Be careful. The idea is to get to a resolution, not get to the Board.
What happens if I get to the Kingdom level with my dispute?
First, you have to provide written proof that you tried to resolve it already. If you haven’t done that, you’ll be asked to go through the steps above, although the Kingdom Seneschal can change that on a case-by-case basis.
If you have gone through the procedure, you can petition the Kingdom Seneschal for formal arbitration within 30 days of the stalemate. Note that formal arbitration is VERY rare, and usually the informal process works well.
In formal arbitration, both sides pick an arbiter from the list of names the Kingdom Seneschal provides. The arbiter conducts formal interviews of the people and officers involved, and hopefully can resolve the dispute in the course of these. If not, the arbiter makes a recommendation within 90 days (can ask for an extension). The options are: drop the case, hold a Court of Chivalry, or proceed with another action without a Court of Chivalry. If anyone is unhappy with the recommendation, they can petition the Crown for a Court of Chivalry.
Hey, what’s a Court of Chivalry? How does that work?
It’s the process by which the Kingdom is empowered to investigate grievances that can’t be settled through the grievance or arbitration procedures. It is NOT for modern legal stuff, modern legal crimes, bullying or harassment, or hate speech. It’s for SCA only disputes.
Our Kingdom hasn’t had any in more than a decade. That doesn’t mean we can’t. You can read about the process in Kingdom Law. It’s a process that takes some time (weeks), and involves the Kingdom Seneschal, the Crown (who must attend), and a panel, which is 5 people plus two alternates. The panel votes on a finding, and may recommend a resolution or action. Any sentence is the prerogative of the Crown.
What kind of sentence? For that matter, what kind of repercussions are there for rules violations, at any level?
The Crown can remove or suspend any officer for just cause at any time. The above process could be, but doesn’t need to be, followed first. (That isn’t considered a “sanction”, though.) A couple types of sanctions include administrative, where the Kingdom or Society officer can suspend or remove lower officers in their area of authority, or a revocation of authorization to participate in that area (this sometimes takes the form of revoking a warrant).
Another category of sanction is a Royal Sanction. There are several types, including a Banishment from the Royal Presence (not allowed to attend Royal Progress events), being prohibited from wearing any display of kingdom badges or armory (i.e.: kingdom award medallions, etc.), being prohibited from the privileges of rank (e.g.: not being able to participate in an Order poll, etc.), being prohibited from taking part in any official business in the Kingdom, and Exile from the Realm, which means they cannot attend events in Kingdom. Royal sanctions either have a specific time frame, or they end at the end of the Reign.
For the really bad stuff, you can be expelled from the SCA (Expulsion), and/or have your membership revoked and denied (R&D). See below.
Sounds like Royalty does a lot of the sanctioning. What if they break the rules? Are they immune from repercussions?
No, the rules apply to everyone, including the Royalty. In fact, Corpora explicitly states that Royalty are subject to all current Society rules and Kingdom Law. The Board of Directors reserves the right to discipline people that break the rules while on the throne. However, resolutions must be sought directly with the Crown and the relevant Kingdom and Corporate Officers before the matter will be heard by the Board.
That all covers regular disputes, but what I feel that there is situation that is bullying and/or harassment?
Any bullying and harassment concerns should be reported directly to the Kingdom Seneschal. If you’re not comfortable with that, report it to the President of the SCA or our Board Ombudsman. The grievance procedure does not need to happen first for bullying or harassment situations. If you become aware of a situation like this, whether the subject of the behavior is you or someone else, the correct procedure is to report it. This one deserves a direct quote from Corporate:
The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.
Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following:
- offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual;
- the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner;
- photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual;
- inappropriate physical contact;
- unwelcome sexual attention;
- or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying.
Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.
Don’t be shy here. Bullying and harassment is not to be tolerated. Retaliation for reporting bullying and harassment is not to be tolerated.
What about hate speech and symbols?
We do not tolerate hate speech or symbols in the SCA at all. Not at all. If you see someone using them, report it to the Kingdom Seneschal, the Society Seneschal, or the President of the SCA. Yes, really. From Corpora, X.A.4.:
Hate speech is not tolerated in the Society. Hate speech is speech or symbols that offend, threaten, or insult individuals or groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits. Such symbols and speech have no essential part of any discussion of ideas and are of so little value to the Society that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the harm caused. The use by any participant in the Society may result in possible sanctions up to and including revocation of membership and denial of participation.
How do I get a hold of Kingdom and Corporate officers if I need to?
Corporate Officer contact information can be found here: https://sca.org/officers/directory.html
Kingdom Seneschal contact information can be found here: http://socsen.sca.org/kingdoms-and-seneschals/
Ombudsman listing and contact information is here: https://sca.org/BOD/omb.html
What about other sorts of bad stuff?
Rarely, some really nasty stuff goes down in the SCA, like serious violations of the rules, things that could put people in harm’s way, things that could endanger or negatively affect the SCA. Every now and then, really nasty stuff goes down in someone’s modern life that could put people or the SCA at risk, like being convicted or violating some civil or criminal laws, or a situation where someone is under criminal investigation and could be a risk to SCA participants.
These people are expelled from the SCA. They are prohibited from participating in the SCA in any way, including attending events, other gatherings, online forums and websites, and social media. The Kingdom can initiate these via the Kingdom Seneschal and the Crown, or the Society Seneschal can impose an emergency expulsion, with the ratification of the Chairman of the Board. Emergency expulsions can also be issued by the Crown and Kingdom Seneschal together. Expulsions can even happen within just the space of a day or two in special cases.
Expulsions are temporary until the Board has a chance to review the situation. Upon review, the Board can choose to make the expulsion permanent. The is known as Revocation and Denial of membership, or an R&D.
The Board will also consider an R&D by petition from the Kingdom, either 30% or more of the member population, or a majority of the Kingdom’s Great Officers and Peers who are members. They’ll also consider an R&D via a recommendation by a Kingdom Court of Chivalry or other Corpora-defined recommendations. Other notes: R&Ds can be appealed if there’s new evidence, and an individual member can agree to a voluntary R&D.
There’s a very specific sanction process in the Sanction Guide that needs to be followed to protect all the people affected by the situation, other SCA folks, and the SCA itself. The procedure covers roles and responsibilities, notifications, confidentiality, Royal Court and publication requirements, a review process, an appeals process, and other guidance for SCA investigators. Only modern and SCA names, the sanction type, and the sanction term can be shared with the membership at large, although individuals directly affected by the situation may be contacted by the appropriate people.
That’s… that’s a lot…. Does this really happen?
The SCA has a lot of people in it. Our Kingdom alone has about 1,700 members, and that number doesn’t include participants that don’t have memberships. Pennsic has 10,000 attendees, and not all of them know or understand the Code of Conduct. Other than Pennsic, it’s pretty rare that our Kingdom needs to do an expulsion, but it does happen.
Bullying and harassment allegations happen, too. It’s unpleasant to think about, but humans are humans everywhere, even here in our hobby. Our Kingdom Seneschal is a safe person to report to, and will listen with compassion and discretion, as well as act within their authority to resolve the situation. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the Kingdom Seneschal, you should report to the Society Seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom Board Ombudsman.
Understand that the leaders and officers of our Kingdom strive to keep us all safe to the best of their ability, and that includes issuing sanctions when needed, or finding informal resolutions, or a combination of both. Keep in mind, too, that just because a dispute may have happened in a public or public-like setting, doesn’t mean that the public will hear about the outcome. This is for everyone’s protection. The parties that are directly involved know the outcome. This may not be broadcast publicly, but working toward resolution happens in every case that’s reported. If the involved people aren’t happy with it, there is always a way to appeal, up to the Board level. It is of utmost importance that all the people in the SCA feel safe.
Serious matters, especially regarding bullying and harassment, should go directly to the Kingdom Seneschal.
As for the less serious disputes and disagreements, please talk to each other. The very best thing to smooth ruffled feathers and come to agreements is simply to communicate. You may just find that the source was a simple misunderstanding, and that there’s lots of common ground.
And if you find your anger rising because of someone else’s actions or words, always assume ignorance rather than malice. It’s possible they just don’t understand their impact. Talk to them with an open mind. If you find yourself on the receiving end of anger, take a moment to examine why, including your own actions and words. Take a breath and respond with an open mind. Remember that sincere apologies, both giving and accepting, go a long way.
We’re all in this together.