October 22, 2019
R-Ladies Global's response to the 3rd-party review of DataCampcommunity
DataCamp’s CEO Jonathan Cornelissen sexually assaulted an employee by making “uninvited physical contact” in October 2017. This became public in April 2019, after which we released a statement on our blog. For a comprehensive account of events, please see this article by Davey Alba for BuzzFeed News published in May 2019. DataCamp commissioned a third-party review which has now been released. This blogpost is to add some clarification around references to R-Ladies made in that report.
As in our previous blogpost on DataCamp, views expressed here are the views of the R-Ladies Global Team signing at the end of this post and do not represent the R-Ladies community at large, but the R-Ladies Global organisation.
R-Ladies Global never had a formal partnership with DataCamp for a scholarship
The report makes repeated reference to a scholarship program between DataCamp and R-Ladies, e.g.,
The company […] sponsored and/or partnered with several initiatives and events promoting women in data science and tech, including working with R-Ladies towards launching a scholarship program to promote gender diversity.
For example, DataCamp was in the process of co-sponsoring a scholarship program with R-Ladies, a global organization whose mission is to promote gender diversity in the R community.
After initial conversations with R-Ladies Global, a DataCamp employee started setting up a scholarship program. This prompted R-Ladies Global to do due diligence on DataCamp. Upon learning about the sexual assault and how it was handled, R-Ladies Global halted the initial conversations about the scholarship program and severed all ties with DataCamp.
Mischaracterization of R-Ladies Global’s response
The reaction from certain segments of the instructor and data science community was swift and decisive, and in some cases, without outreach to or engagement with DataCamp. For example […] R-Ladies leadership issued a statement via their blog condemning DataCamp’s handling of the incident and suspending all collaboration and partnerships with DataCamp. Our understanding is that R-Ladies had indicated to some of its members that they had verified that the incident of sexual misconduct was true and had significant concerns with DataCamp’s response. According to the company, DataCamp leadership did not receive any communications from R-Ladies before or after the post requesting verification of the incident or any other information. DataCamp made several efforts through multiple channels to meet in person or set up a call with R-Ladies leadership directly. Yet, R-Ladies unilaterally suspended the process of establishing the scholarship program; ended all partnerships and sponsorships from DataCamp; and several DataCamp instructors who are leaders in or members of the R-Ladies community asked for their DataCamp courses to be taken down and encouraged or directed other instructors to do the same.
After halting the conversations about the scholarship program, R-Ladies Global shared with its organisers that there would be no collaboration with DataCamp on an organisational level due to a verified incident of sexual misconduct and DataCamp’s response to it. R-Ladies Global explicitly stated that this applied to their roles as organisers only and that members were to make their own decisions about their personal association with DataCamp.
The public blog post by R-Ladies Global condemning DataCamp’s handling of sexual assault was posted after DataCamp’s public admission of the assault (“uninvited physical contact”) and included options for anyone wanting to express disapproval of DataCamp’s actions and response. This part was even updated to explicitly state that it was up to the community members to decide what they want or can do, given their personal situation.
The report singles out R-Ladies Global, omitting similar responses from other organisations and companies
R-Ladies, a volunteer organization, is mentioned 8 times in the report, in an inaccurate way as laid out above. Other organisations and companies in the R and Python communities which also criticized DataCamp for its handling of the sexual assault by CEO and co-founder, Jonathan Cornelissen, and largely cut ties with the company such as RStudio, Anaconda, PyCon, and SatRdays are not mentioned in a similar way. RStudio is mentioned in the form of their conference, the other three are not mentioned at all.
General issues with the report
Last, but most certainly not least, the report continues with the victim-blaming, and amongst other things, mentions the power imbalance between the CEO Jonathan Cornelissen and the employee only once, and mentions the no-index flag to hide the initial blog post from search engines only once, all while mentioning the target more often than the perpetrator.
The Instructor Advisory Board has collected further issues with the report and we are hoping their response to the report will address the issues comprehensively.
Being an organization that promotes gender diversity in the R Community, first and foremost entails being a safe space for women and gender minorities. We will always do our best to be a safe space, particularly for women and gender minorities who have been targets of assault. Any women or gender minorities who may have been affected by or need to discuss this report (or any other topic) with other R-Ladies, please join our community slack.
Let’s keep working on a safe community for everyone!
– The R-Ladies Global Leadership Team (Claudia Vitolo, Erin LeDell, Hannah Frick, and Laura Ación) with Athanasia M. Mowinckel, Christin Zasada, Maëlle Salmon, and Yanina Bellini (members of the R-Ladies Global Team)