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APA Good Practices Guide Public Discussion Series, Part 6: Social events, alcohol, and accessibility

by Amy Ferrer

This post is part of a series of posts soliciting public comment on the APA’s new Good Practices Guide. In the first post in this series, I provided some background on how the APA Good Practices Guide came about and presented its preface and first section. For more on the guide and this series, go back and read that post.

In this sixth post of the series, I’m covering section 6 of the Good Practices Guide, titled “Social Events, Alcohol, and Accessibility.” This section discusses approaches to these separate yet related issues in departments and provides guidance on how to make a department and its events as inclusive and welcoming as possible.

The section begins with a discussion of department social events and how they, especially when alcohol is present, can create or exacerbate alienation of some members of a department. “Good practices in the area of social events and alcohol are called for not only to mitigate the possibility of unprofessional or dangerous behavior, but also for reasons related to inclusiveness.”

The GPG provides recommendations for both formal and informal department events. These include making sure that even when alcohol is served at an event, it is not a focus of the event, so that those who do not partake (for any reason) are not made to feel excluded, and setting up beverages so that alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are given equal prominence and ease of access. In regard to informal events, the GPG suggests that when class or seminar discussions continue in informal settings, faculty should take care that those settings vary: perhaps a bar one time, and a coffee shop or café the next, so that faculty and students who do not wish to go to bars are not routinely excluded from such informal departmental interactions.

The section then goes on to describe how department events, whether formal or informal social events, conferences, or meetings, can be made more accessible, with a focus on planning ahead of time to ensure necessary accommodations are made and those organizing the event are prepared for a variety of possible needs. It includes an extensive checklist adapted from one developed for the 2015 Hypatia/APA Committee on the Status of Women conference at Villanova University.

Section 6 focuses primarily on accessibility for those with disabilities, but many of its recommendations help make events more welcoming to all. For example, the recommendation to ensure there are accessible washrooms, preferably single-stall, gender-neutral, “family” washrooms, is beneficial to many event participants: those with mobility impairments, those with personal care assistants, parents of young children, and trans* and gender non-conforming attendees. Similarly, providing a designated quiet room and/or care room can help many event participants: those with sensory processing disorder and chronic fatigue, those who need a private space for medication or injection, and those needing a private space to nurse or pump breastmilk. I highly recommend anyone involved in planning department meetings or events take the time to review the suggestions in this section, as well as the additional resources provided at the end.

Conversations around making events more welcoming to all have become more common in the philosophical community in recent years, and we hope that this section of the GPG will contribute to those conversations and help each of us think through steps we can take to ensure we aren’t unknowingly excluding or alienating some members of our community or making it harder for them to participate fully. As recommendations in this area continue to evolve, we anticipate updating and revising this section of the GPG, and your experiences and suggestions are crucial to that. I look forward to your comments on the following questions and more related topics:

  • Have you participated in department or other professional events that have done a particularly good job on accessibility? Were there things they did that are not included in the GPG’s recommendations?
  • Have you participated in department or other professional events that haven’t been as accessible as they should have been? What steps could they have taken to improve that aren’t covered in the GPG?
  • Are there other steps departments and other professional events might take to make themselves more welcoming to those who do not or cannot drink alcohol?

Amy Ferrer has been Executive Director of the APA since 2012.

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GPG Public Comment Series: / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

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