And yet I must write this. There's already a heated debate going on in my local community, and most of the participants don't know what the topic of the debate is. All of those dancers deserve to know what's happening, and to make an informed decision about how their dance operates. Meanwhile, the larger contra dance community is trying to figure out how to promote consent-based culture and create safe spaces at dances, and this data point is too important an example of that process going wrong for me to stay quiet. So I have to accept my role as the center of controversy and try to make this conversation as constructive as possible for everyone involved.
Last week, I was permanently banned from the Mt. Airy contra dance. The board that runs that dance did not give me details about the complaints the decision was based on, did not give me a chance to respond to them before coming to a decision, and most importantly, did not articulate any policies I had violated. In fact, a couple months earlier, the same board alerted me that there had been complaints, but that the board had found them categorically unactionable: none of the complaints alleged violations of consent or unsafe dancing. Rather, they were complaints about my personal life.
I want to clarify my goal in writing this before I continue. I think that creating safe, consent-driven spaces at contra dances is important. I think that boards should investigate every complaint, and should be willing to hear complaints anonymously. I think that everyone, including popular or influential dancers, should be subject to the code of conduct a dance community establishes. I don't want to pressure the Mt. Airy board into making public details of complaints they received in confidence.
I do want to make the information I have about this situation public, so that local dancers know the process being used by their board. I hope anyone else reading this will feel more equipped to have discussions in their own communities about consent, misconduct, and the implications of ostracization. To that end, I am going to include complete copies of emails between myself and the Mt. Airy board, with names redacted. None of these emails reveal private information that is not my own, and I believe this is the only way to enable an informed discussion.
I think the decision of the Mt. Airy board is wrong, but my real focus is not on their faults. The board is earnestly trying to respond to and respect the needs of its community, and I am hopeful that they will soon take a step back and recognize on their own that this action was counter-productive. Rather, my focus is on the much more dangerous underlying trend – that broad confusion about the goal of consent-based culture will lead to shifting harm instead of eliminating it. This is part of the conversation we've all started on creating safe spaces.
In June, I was alerted by the Mt. Airy board that a complaint had come to them, second-hand, about a young woman who no longer attended dances because of me. They arranged to talk to me in person about it, and asked me not to call until the investigation was concluded (but that I was still welcome to dance). I was frustrated by some of the process, but understood how difficult it was to respond adequately to complaints, being on two other regional dance boards myself.
In July, following the in-person conversation, the following email exchange took place:
I was wondering if the Mt. Airy board has had a chance to discuss the complaint against me. It's now been a month, and if the board is not planning on any kind of penalty (which I hope is the case after speaking to me), it would be nice to have the option of calling dances again.
Please let me know.
I apologize that it has been so long since you've heard from us. We meant to contact you sooner. We finally came to a decision late last week. Another email to follow shortly!...
The investigation and discussion surrounding this complaint disclosed some extremely unsettling patterns which have clearly resulted in several young ladies no longer participating at our dances. We have grave concerns related to the nature and consistency of the stories in which you were specifically referenced. While they were not directly related to the formal complaint, several board members have direct knowledge of cases where young ladies have been persistently booked ahead, and serially engaged for very intense waltzes or danced with in a style that is more appropriate to Blues dancing -- until they fall out of favor. Once the initial enthrallment passed, these young women no longer felt comfortable dancing with you or sometimes even in your proximity.
That said, you will be relieved to know that after our review of the reported problem, we do not find it actionable. You continue to be welcome as a member of the dance community, and may resume calling activities at PATMaD events.
The behavior attributed to you is not illegal or currently prohibited, but it is resulting in significant distress for some of the young women involved. It is damaging to the community when they choose not to return because they no longer enjoy your close attention.
The PATMaD board are not moral police, and we recognize that contra dancing is a social activity where people meet, and relationships go where they go. By all accounts, there was no non-consensual sexual behavior. But the damage lies in what is perceived as a disregard for the emotional well being of the junior participants, and their subsequent choice to no longer dance where they do not feel comfortable. These young women talk to one another, and part of the reason they enjoy dancing is to be with their friends. When one or more decides she is no longer comfortable in the community, then we lose her circle of friends as well. As you are aware, the vitality of the contra community depends on active participation by young dancers. if there are not friendly peers at the dance, young people are much less likely to return.
Callers, Organizers or volunteers, we are all stewards of the PATMaD community and that requires that we conduct ourselves at events in a way which supports and builds our community. To the extent that you continue to call at PATMaD events, and hold a position of authority within our group, we expect you to treat all dancers in such a way as to honor them as people and encourage their enjoyment of dance and inclusion in the community. We strongly encourage you to reconsider how your behavior might be perceived by other dancers. Dance flirtation should be a matter of friendly play, not single minded pursuit; Please do not overwhelm the young ladies with intense attention such that they are made uncomfortable or to feel preyed upon.
The PATMaD Board...
Thanks. It's good to have some kind of resolution, and the larger feedback is legitimate. It's tempting to be defensive or nitpick, but the truth is I do want to be a positive influence in the community as a whole, and it has been a process to fully appreciate how much all my actions affect others, even outside of dances. I want to be receptive to feedback and for you guys to feel comfortable bringing issues like this up.
I know I was frustrated by the length of time involved here, but I do appreciate that this was a hard thing for you to broach. Thanks for caring as much as you do.
I was disturbed by some of the language in the board's response, but the core idea made sense - informally alerting me to feedback was appropriate, but formally taking action wasn't appropriate when the feedback was about my personal relationships. I also do recognize that it's difficult for the board to say anything about my personal life that doesn't sound awkward or paternalistic, and that they were trying in earnest to be balanced and sensitive.
Still, the email contained a very stereotypical gender narrative that the board didn't seem interested in questioning. Phrases like "until they fall out of favor" created a strange message. Was the implication that once I waltzed with a particular dancer, I should feel obligated to continue waltzing with them at future dances?
Shortly thereafter, the Princeton dance committee, which I was part of at the time, received the same complaint. Their process proved even more frustrating than that of Mt. Airy, especially since I thought the matter was already resolved, but I don't want to get side-tracked by the comparison. Eventually, both complaints were resolved, and I was still welcome to participate in both dances. A couple months later, however, I found that it was difficult for me to shake off the stress of being accused of wrongdoing, or the problematic tone of the two committees' approaches, and actually enjoy local dances.
In late September, I sent this message to a member of the Mt. Airy board:
Hope you're well (and ready for YDW!). You might have noticed during the last dance tonight (when we were shadows) that I was pretty distracted, and I thought it might be a good time to bring this up. Something triggered me to think about the investigations by Mt. Airy and Princeton a couple months ago, and I ended up unable to concentrate on the dance for much of the night.
I expected that after the Mt. Airy board decided that nothing actionable had happened and a little time had passed contra dances would feel normal again. I don't know if it's because of the investigation restarting with the Princeton dance, or something else, but the truth is that nearly half of the dances I come to now, I end up thinking about the accusations, and start questioning how welcome I am at dances, and once the thought crosses my mind, it becomes difficult to relax and enjoy the dance for the rest of the night.
To be clear, you and most of the Mt. Airy board have been friendly and gracious recently, and I know that you all tried your hardest to be sensitive about the matter, and I really do appreciate it. That said, the more time has passed the more problematic I think a number of the comments of the board were, and the harder it is to shake them off and feel totally comfortable at dances.
I have not called at Mt. Airy since this issue first arose, even though I'm theoretically welcome to. The fact that both Mt. Airy and Princeton cited my calling as a reason to scrutinize me more harshly has left me feeling uncomfortable calling at either dance. I have in fact stopped attending Princeton dances entirely because I was so offended by their handling of the matter (which was much less graceful than Mt. Airy's).
The reason that I have consistently danced contra, every week, when there have always been more hip and cool activities available to me, is because there is a rare sense of community that can emerge from dances, where people odd in a hundred different ways can all feel accepted for who they are. The ability to let go of the stress and expectations of the outside world and respond directly to music has been a powerfully healing thing in my life. For me, responding directly to music often looks really flirty, which is something that surprised me when I started dancing, since I'd been extremely introverted most of my life, but it was an honest expression of music and motion, and discovering that within myself transformed me.
Tonight, when I started questioning how welcome I was at this dance, I felt a suddenly sharp sense of loss of the kind of community and safe space that brings me back to contra, and I nearly broke into tears in the middle of the dance.
I don't have anything specific to ask from you, and I don't know what I can or should do about this. I'm not even sure if I'm contacting you as a member of the board or just as a friend, but I needed to talk to someone, and I hope you get something from knowing what my experience is like. I hope I'm able to figure this out and feel comfortable being a member of the local contra community.
Sorry this is so long and heavy. Once again, you and the community overall are very welcoming, and I'm glad that I've been part of it. Thanks for hearing me out.
I didn't get any response before or during YDW, and danced amicably with this person (and other members of the Mt. Airy board) at that weekend. Then, October 6th, during a meeting of the Contradelphia board, I received this email:
Since our last correspondence, we have received additional complaints and we have had to reevaluate our stance on the situation previously discussed.
These complaints, comprising further incidents very similar to the original complaint against you were conveyed to us from different individuals. These dancers felt they had to remove themselves from the PATMaD community (and other regional dances). They explicitly referenced unpleasant feelings toward you and not wanting to be in the same place with you, due to your emotional and physical manipulation of them, as their reason not to return.
Beyond the original specific complaint, we have had additional input in the form of direct personal testimonials, multiple second hand reports, and observation of your behavior at our events. We are basing our decision on those specific behaviors and complaints. Now that we are more fully aware of the scope and severity of the situation and your involvement, we will not allow this behavior to be conducted in our community.
After much discovery and deliberation the PATMaD board have decided that, effective immediately, you are no longer welcome to participate in PATMaD at an organizational level or to attend our events. This includes but is not limited to Thursday Night Contra, ContraCopia, Medley Marathon, Techno dances, and New Year's Eve. This is the recourse we are going to take at this time.
PATMaD's primary charge is to provide a safe and fun place to dance for all individuals. Our obligation is to protect the well being of the members of our community.
If you would like to respond, representatives of the board will be available to speak to you.
PATMaD will keep all matters regarding this decision confidential. It's on you to decline any invitation received from the coordinating callers.
[names of board members]
I spent the rest of that meeting trying not to meet anyone's eyes, and feigning interest in the discussion. Afterward a couple of my housemates noticed I was unresponsive, and I eventually told them what had happened. They spent the rest of the night trying to comfort and distract me. The next day a housemate and a partner took me to a concert and then came home, held me, and let me cry. That Thursday, when I would have gone to the Mt. Airy dance, I stayed in with a partner, watched Blades of Glory, and ate ice cream.
I felt that the only option available to me was to turn my back on the entire contra dance community. I felt like I had been betrayed, judged, and rejected. I didn't want to organize anymore. I didn't want to join in conversations about how to merge modern and traditional culture, or how to think about gender roles in dancing. I just wanted to be left alone.
A few days later I started getting contacted by friends, acquaintances, and even old lovers who heard what had happened to me, or heard that something had happened and figured out that it was me. They were overwhelmingly supportive, and most expressed outrage about the decision. Eventually, I pulled myself together enough to respond to the board:
I decided to take a few days before responding to this letter, because I needed time to process, because I was too hurt to trust myself to word it properly, and because I needed to decide whether it was worth the pain to even try to fight this action. I have taken that time, and I have decided that this community does matter to me, and that this decision is too important and too dangerous to accept silently. There are many things I have to say, so I will try to be as organized and clear as possible.
As an individual, I am utterly shocked and heartbroken. I know every single person on this board, and think of many of you as friends. Your readiness to accept negative stories about me at face value, judge complex emotional situations from my past without speaking to me about them, and ban me without articulating any actual misconduct is among the most hurtful things to happen in my life thus far. Perhaps what makes this even harsher is that I just reached out to xxxx a week beforehand to talk about my own discomfort at the dance, and my concerns about some of the board's language. I expected a dialogue and hoped for some reassurance. Instead I received a wall of willful ignorance of the problems I was trying to raise.
What's more, as a fellow dance organizer, I am deeply disturbed by the precedent the Mt. Airy board is setting. The board has established that it can permanently ban dancers without giving them any specifics about the accusations against them, without giving them a chance to respond, and without articulating any policies they have violated. What's more, this same board formally decided just a few months ago that none of the complaints they had heard were actionable, noting that there were no claims of non-consensual or unsafe behavior, and that the board were not “moral police.” Now the board has made a 180 degree turn on that supposedly final decision, a few months later, without a formal change in policies, a warning, or a real explanation. Would any dancer feel comfortable at a dance knowing that this is the same lack of process that they could be subject to?
It is difficult for me to respond to the specific complaints, to say the least, because I have no idea what specifically has been said, who it was said by, who it was said about, or when the incidents are supposed to have happened. Some facts, however, seem fairly clear from the language of this letter, the July letter, and related conversations, and I can speak about what I do understand.
I understand that the complaints are about my personal relationships, and about people, mostly young women, mostly from 3-4 years ago, who felt rejected, disappointed, or otherwise hurt. They were hurt that I did not want to date them, or that I did date them and the relationship didn't work, or just that I stopped dancing with them as frequently. The background facts about me – that I'm a flirty dancer, that I tend to get a lot of attention from people of all genders, that I am male, and that I am poly – all make the narrative that I am heartless seducer that much easier to believe.
The obvious reality that is being avoided, however, is that I am a human being. The person the board has taken action against is a dehumanized caricature of myself. The real me has been hurt, rejected, disappointed, and even harassed and physically abused by other dancers, just as often as I have disappointed anyone else. I have come to dances where I feel uncomfortable because of the presence of dancers who I have had difficult interactions with outside of the dance. And yet I come back. For me the dance floor is a separate, and sacred, space. Dance is a way to heal. Dance is a way to build community among people who would otherwise be too different or too individually awkward to come together. I, too, have to accept the full range of emotions I feel and come to peace with them in order to be part of a community made up of sometimes thorny, sometimes lovely humans.
Every single interaction between myself and other dancers is complex and subtle, and it simply isn't possible for anyone hearing one side of a personal story to make a moral judgment about it, unless the story indicates a clear violation of someone's rights. I don't know who has contacted the board, or what they said about me, but it's fair to assume that every single story would sound different coming from me. Some of the stories might be downright false, exaggerated, or twisted about, and there is no way for me to know.
In fact, I have very good reason to believe that some of the reports to you are exaggerated, even without knowing the details. I brought to the board's attention back in June that a particular young woman was intentionally trying to harm my reputation in my social circles. This person called my girlfriend in January, out of the blue, to tell her not to date me because of how manipulative a person I was. When I confronted this young woman, she admitted that she'd had a positive impression of me just a few months earlier, but had changed her mind after hearing stories from someone else who was once a good friend of mine but who I hadn't seen in months. When I in turn confronted this one-time friend, it again became apparent that the stories they had told were second-hand or pure conjecture.
Gossip breeds gossip, and I have been the subject of speculation and wild stories for as long as I've been dancing. I know that many young people in particular have felt social pressure to join in and contribute to a group narrative about me that was appealing because it conformed to their gender expectations and because it knocked a very popular dancer down a social peg. I know that some young women even built up these stories with the specific goal of discouraging others from dating me, either out of resentment or competition. I have historically ignored gossip entirely, and only addressed it with close friends or lovers who had a genuine interest in knowing about my personal life.
There's something else about the stories here that should have triggered some scrutiny. As I understand it, there were a variety of unsolicited reports that came to the board that led to the recent decision. Doesn't it seem strange, however, that a large number of reports concerning stories from years ago would all come to the board at once, during a confidential investigation? The board did not reach out and ask for these stories, and hardly anyone knew that the board was looking into the matter. These are not organic complaints, but coordinated ones. Doesn't that necessarily mean that a particular person who became aware of the board's interest has been orchestrating the response? It's disturbing to imagine that some vindictive person is trying (and succeeding) to use the Mt. Airy board as a personal tool to harm someone from their past that they resent.
All of that said, I do admit that I have had complicated interactions with some dancers, and I do believe that there are dancers who feel awkward around me. I have never violated anyone's consent, danced or behaved in an unsafe manner, lied to anyone, or intentionally hurt anyone's feelings. That said, I did realize several years ago that some people had been hurt anyway, and that merely failing to do anything “wrong” wasn't good enough. I became more introspective about the total affect that I had on the communities around me, and realized that I had become a role model, for better and for worse, and that I had more influence than I ever asked for or expected.
At a Princeton dance two years ago I addressed the community about my own desire to make the culture more welcoming, and vowed to stop booking ahead aggressively, to make marginalized dancers feel included, and to give other dancers the opportunity to ask me to dance rather than immediately initiating after each dance. I started calling more actively, and used that role to think about and start conversations about gender roles, and how to make young dancers feel safe. I insisted at Princeton on a more comprehensive policy about consent, and my own frustration with the slow pace at which regional dances were modernizing motivated me to start my own dance series in Philadelphia, which uses gender-neutral calling, is accessible and welcoming to young dancers, and addresses consent explicitly in beginner's lessons. I also had a shift in my personal life, and found myself in more stable relationships, and with a more explicit sexual identity I felt comfortable with.
The implication that I am actively causing more harm than good to the local contra community is simply false. You don't have to agree with my own thoughts about gender-neutral calling or other ways to modernize contra to recognize that I am actively part of conversations about the future of this tradition, about creating safe spaces, and about the importance of a culture of consent. I want to cooperate with the Mt. Airy board in figuring out how to improve contra dance culture, not fight with you about it.
Indeed, there is something unsettling and culturally regressive about the underlying message in this recent action. The previous email from the board about reports noted that many young women experienced an “initial enthrallment” to dance waltzes with me each week, “until they fall out of favor.” If the basis of action against me is merely disappointment that consensual behavior with me, including waltzes, “blues-y” swings, and dating, did not go as far as a female partner of mine wanted, then the implication is that I, myself, do not have a basic right of consent. My own ability to decide exactly how intimate to be with other people is being judged less important than the immediate desires of women around me. Once again, the assumption that consent is not a pressing concern for me, as a man, is dehumanizing. If the genders were reversed in this narrative, it would probably seem obvious that punishing a woman for failing to give a group of aggressive men what they want is sexist and repulsive. I am not particularly blaming you for failing to recognize the heavily gender-enforcing tone of your message, because it's a common issue, but I am asking you to take a step back and earnestly think about this.
I could continue, but I think I'll just make one final point. I don't think it is appropriate for this conversation to remain confidential anymore. So far I have only told a few close friends, but many people have already become aware of the situation and have contacted me to express their support and outrage. I think that this action is too extreme and problematic to stay silent on. The community has a right to know what kind of precedent the board is setting, and to know why a prominent member of the community is suddenly absent. I am inclined to bring this conversation to an even broader audience, in fact, because the entire national contra community is trying to figure out what it means to create a culture of consent, and this decision is too important a data point about such efforts going wrong to ignore. This process won't be easy for me, but like I said at the beginning of this message, this is too important for me to leave alone. Knowing how many people are already upset about it, I feel I have an obligation to step forward and speak out, and plan to do so in some form soon.
My goal here is not to make you out as villains. I really do respect you all, and I believe that you are all earnestly trying to do the right thing. I can only assume that this situation has been overwhelming for most of you, and that you haven't been able to think through the full meaning of this action. I imagine most of you volunteered for the board expecting mainly to help set up dances, book bands, and do the day-to-day tasks needed to keep a dance running. You probably didn't realize you had signed up to be in the middle of a dramatic conversation about the nature of consent.
I am writing this long and detailed of a message to you because deep down I still believe that you're all good people, and that you will want to hear what I have to say and take a second look at your own assumptions and decisions. I am going to be a continuing presence in the Philadelphia contra scene whether or not I am welcome at the events you organize, and I want us to be able to have an open dialogue. I want you all to feel welcome at events I organize, and I want you to recognize that at the end of the day we all want the same thing.
I have some very fond memories of the Glenside dance, and of the new Mt. Airy dance. I hope that you will be able to remember me fondly, as well. I also hope that you will be prepared to talk to me further in the near future.
Thank you for this thoughtful communication. I'm writing at this point mostly to acknowledge receipt, and will not specifically address the content of your message. That will have to wait until the "Troublesome Behavior" committee can meet. The President and another member of that committee are traveling for the next two weeks. Presumably it will be at least that long before a proper response can be formulated.
The timing of your note to xxxx was unfortunate, as the PATMaD letter to you had already been written and approved at that point. The points you raised were discussed, but did not change the board's decision. We assumed there would be further discussion, and are prepared to have that conversation.
A very active facebook thread notwithstanding, the board will not make any public statement about the details of this issue. Within the limits of confidentiality we will discuss them with you personally.
In an effort to minimize inbox clutter and fracturing of the thread, I'm dropping the rest of the board from the "to" list, but will bcc them on my reply. I will update them on any ongoing communication. Feel free to copy everyone if this is not satisfactory.
PATMaDI appreciated the response, but knowing how active this topic is now, I couldn't wait several weeks to have a private conversation before writing something.
The Goal: Are We Really Interested in Consent?
There seems to be consensus that the boards in charge of contra dances should be doing more - but more of what? If board action is haphazard or reactionary then it's not likely to move contra culture in a productive direction. Step one is figuring out what qualifies as a productive direction.
Is the goal to maximize the number of people who are happy at a dance? Is it to avoid offending anyone? Is it to make the dance a safe space where consent is respected? The problem is that those are different goals, and they cannot always be equally emphasized. For example, when a new dancer comes to a dance scene for the very first time, they may hear either of the following sentences: (1) "You can always say no to a dance, for any reason or for no reason at all," or (2) "It is polite to always accept invitations to dance, and if you do say no to one person, you should sit that dance out." I have heard both of these sentences told to new dancers, and they are fundamentally incompatible.
As communities we make similar decisions about what it means to be inclusive and tolerant. There are people who are uncomfortable seeing men in skirts or apparent men dancing with each other, and they have come to contra dances. We can't make such a person perfectly comfortable and also expect dancers to respect the gender identities and orientations of other dancers. We have to make decisions about our values. Of course most of the time we hope that as many dancers as possible will be comfortable and that all will have their identities respected, but when there is a conflict, one goal has to give.
I believe that the most critical values for a dance community should be consent and safety. Notably, when I say consent, I'm not just talking about sex - consent happens every step along the way of a dance. Every time one dancer asks another to dance, consent is needed. Every time one dancer initiates a flourish, consent is needed. It doesn't have to be verbal, but it has to be enthusiastic, or else the flourish should stop.
The right of people to say "no" to things that make them uncomfortable is necessary for creating a safe space. The other necessity is assurance that people won't be harassed and won't be targeted, excluded, or judged because of their identity, their skill level, or other features that are inherently personal. They can be excluded for their actions, when those violate the consent or safety of others.
Other goals can and should be promoted, but should never override these two. I support intergenerational dancing, for instance, but would never insist that a dancer meet a quota of partners from different age ranges.
As I said in my response to the board, being punished for rejecting the desires of other dancers is itself a way of denying me the right to consent, and the frustration experienced by those rejected dancers is not an equal or greater harm. This isn't just rhetoric. I have had a woman explicitly threaten to hurt my reputation in the community if I refused to date her. I'm not suggesting that the same person is one of those who complained to the board, but that the threat was live, and that the action of the Mt. Airy board gives that kind of threat teeth.
I want to clarify, again, that I'm not accusing anyone who complained against me of lying, nor am I trying to deny their experience. If someone were going to intentionally lie, I assume they would accuse me of a more clear violation of some sort. What I'm talking about is the framing of the issue. Being emotionally hurt is awful, but if a dance committee starts acting on personal issues that can't be traced to misconduct at or around dances, they will necessarily be abandoning other more critical principles, and start down a murky road into the private lives of their dancers.
What Does Good Committee Action Look Like?
I want this controversy, and this post, to ultimately be productive if at all possible, so I will outline the kind of committee action that I do think would be valuable. These are just my own thoughts, but hopefully helpful to anyone struggling with this topic.
1. Make Explicit Policies, including a code of conduct. This is the single most important thing a committee can do, because it makes clear what kind of dance culture is being sought. It is the foundation of all other committee action. As I said before, a good code of conduct should have consent and safety as its cornerstones. Policies should focus on a specific dance community, and codes of conduct should only respond to behavior outside a dance that is fundamentally inconsistent with safety, such as violence or harassment.
2. Communicate Aggressively about those policies. That means more than just making them available on your website. A good committee will informally remind dancers of their policies frequently, and immediately if they think a policy has been ignored or violated. A really good committee will figure out how to organically work the language of their policies into the everyday language employed at the dance. Policies should be understood to be part of a positive goal of improving the dance, and are not only relevant when things go wrong.
3. Talk to Potential Problem Dancers early and often. Most dance committees wait until there is a critical mass of negative feedback or a particularly egregious violation before taking any action at all, and then are driven to extreme action. If you instead make the expectations of your community clear and consistent, it gives dancers an opportunity to reform and join the cultural shift. Meanwhile those true problem dancers who will never reform will leave on their own if they know that the culture will not accept their conduct.
4. Take Feedback from anyone and everyone who has it to offer, anonymously or sourced. However, weigh the feedback you receive. If feedback is surprising, actively look for the other perspective. If feedback is second-hand, recognize that your ability to respond to it is more limited. Make sure that the community as a whole has a chance to understand and provide feedback to any actions the committee is taking.
5. Cite Specific Misconduct if you do have to take action, and always give an accused person an opportunity to respond or conform. If you cannot give a dancer sufficient detail about a complaint for them to meaningfully respond, you haven't established the basis for action. If you cannot articulate what a dancer should have done differently, you aren't shifting the culture in any direction, except toward stress.
6. Mean it. If your committee comes to a final decision on a particular case, stick to it. If your committee decides on a particular policy, stick to that policy until you've enacted and notified the community of a change. If a committee appears unpredictable, it will create instability in the community and undermine whatever kind of good they are trying to promote.
If you've made it this far, thank you for caring as much as you do, however you feel about the situation I've described. As I said, I'm hopeful that the situation at Mt. Airy will take a turn towards reason soon, and that in the long run, the drama will help push multiple communities toward constructive policies and healthy dance environments.