Note: The LSA welcomes member comments on this policy via the facility located at the bottom of this page. Members must be logged-in to the website in order to submit your comments. If you wish to provide comments in confidence, please contact LSA Executive Director Alyson Reed.


The LSA annual meetings, Linguistic Institutes, and other LSA-sponsored events are convened for the purposes of professional development and scholarly and educational interchange in the spirit of free inquiry and free expression. Consequently, all forms of incivility and harassment are considered by the LSA to be serious forms of professional misconduct.

The following Civility Policy outlines expectations for all those who attend or participate in LSA events.  It reminds LSA participants that all professional academic ethics and norms apply as standards of behavior and interaction at these events.    

1. Purpose    

The LSA is committed to providing a safe and welcoming conference environment, protecting our community’s rich diversity of age, ethnicity, gender, disability, professional status, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.

“Participant” in this policy refers to anyone present at LSA events, including staff, contractors, vendors, exhibitors, venue staff, LSA members, and all other attendees.

2. Expected Behavior

All participants at LSA events are expected to abide by this Civility Policy in all venues including ancillary events and official and unofficial social gatherings, and to abide by the norms of professional respect that are necessary to promote the conditions for free academic interchange.

Participants who witness potential harm to another conference participant are encouraged to be proactive in helping to mitigate or avoid that harm.  

3. Unacceptable Behavior   

Unacceptable behaviors include:   

  • Coercive, intimidating, harassing, abusive, derogatory or demeaning actions or speech . Note that the latter is distinct from vigorous, reasoned disagreement compatible with norms of civil behavior.
  • Prejudicial actions or comments, related to a person’s identity or group membership,  that coerce others, foment broad hostility, or otherwise undermine professional equity or the principles of free academic exchange. Relevant identities include (but are not limited to) those defined by age, ethnicity, gender, disability, professional status, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.
  • Persistent and unwelcome physical contact or solicitation of emotional, sexual or other physical intimacy, including stalking.

Adopted by the LSA Executive Committee, December 18, 2017


The LSA welcomes member comments on its Civility Policy.

I am surprised by this Civility Policy. I don't remember having witnessed any uncivil behavior worth mentioning at LSA meetings, except maybe a shouting match between two great linguists (in 1969?)!

I entered grad school as the Generative Semantics wars were dying down. That rather extreme period in the field did not prompt LSA to implement a Civility Policy and I have observed nothing in ensuing years approaching that level of fractiousness. So why are we implementing this now? And why does "Persistent and unwelcome physical contact or solicitation of emotional, sexual or other physical intimacy, including stalking" fall under the category of "incivility"? It seems to me this is simply unprofessional conduct.

I also think it would be helpful to know what the context is for this proposal. I can see potential problems in reconciling the "norms of civil behavior" of two parties, given how broad the catchment for the LSA membership is.

Assuming there is a demonstrable need for a civility policy within the world of linguistics, I have a couple of questions. Are the behaviors listed under the third bullet point in (3) not in fact illegal in most states (and in many cases the second bullet point too)? Isn't it a little odd for a professional society to be weighing in on matters that are already law? I can see that the first bullet point relates to professional conduct – if the speech or action is circumscribed to that taking place in professional spaces (LSA surely can't tell people how to talk or act in their non-linguistics lives, though as this is drafted, in principle it could apply to any speech or action). What do the Society's lawyers advise about this?

Finally, the use of "latter" in the first bullet point of item (3) doesn't make sense to me. It could refer to "demeaning speech", "demeaning actions or speech". I suspect what's intended is something like "Coercive ... speech, where this is distinct from vigorous ... [etc.]".

The only incivility I've seen (unnecessarily harsh comments) was at BUCLD. I agree with a previous commenter that sexual harassment is not a kind of incivility, and is already covered by other laws/policies.

Many of the comments to this point are of the "I haven't seen a need for this, so there is no need for this" variety. I'd suggest that we need to beware of falling into an observation bias trap—really, just because any one individual LSA member hasn't seen a problem can't be taken as evidence that there isn't a problem.

For my part, I can say that I've only directly seen any sort of overt racial/ethnic/sexual harassment (that I recognized as such) at an LSA-sponsored event once. However, I have seen a number of small-scale things that may well have been such harassment, but where I didn't have enough information to know for certain. Also, I'm a white male, and thus much less likely to have such harassment directed at me—but I have heard from a number of other linguists about the harassment (sometimes subtle, sometimes overt) that they've been subjected to. It's out there, and it may not be at the point that it's obvious to absolutely everybody, but that just means that (a) it's at a level that we can correct it now if we act, but (b) it's an insidious problem, and so needs to be rooted out and stopped.

At least as far as my own post was concerned, it wasn’t of the “I haven’t seen this, so there is no need for this” variety. It was of the “I haven’t seen this; what is the motivation for the policy?” variety, with no presupposition one way or the other. Plausibly the LSA had conducted a survey, or had received reports through one or more committees indicating presence of a widespread problem within the profession that merited a formal policy. So far, I haven’t seen that kind of discussion, or anything beyond anecdotes. Perhaps the LSA is preparing to circulate such data. In the meantime I myself don’t know how insidious or widespread a problem it is, or how much is going on beneath the surface.