At PyCon US 2013, it was brought to our attention by an attendee that we scheduled PyCon US in conflict with Passover in both 2014 and 2015.
Obviously, this kind of scheduling error is a major failure on our part, but our response to the incident was mishandled, and we'd like to fix that now, in full view of our community.
Here's what happened:
Planning an event as large as PyCon requires a lot of lead time. In 2012, Python Montréal (in conjunction with Tourisme-Montréal) proposed a series of dates that were available for the conference in 2014 and 15. Nobody involved in the planning phase was mindful of the major Jewish holidays. We failed to note the conflict, and proceeded to sign multiple binding contracts for those dates, each specifying stiff financial penalties for moving or breaking the engagement.
When the date conflict was brought to our attention, we frantically reached out to our contacts to see if there was any way to move the conference dates. There were no free dates at the contracted locations for the conference, and changing locations would have triggered a breach of contract. We worked as best we could to find a solution, brainstormed to come up with creative workarounds, and came up empty.
There's simply no magic wand for us to wave and fix this.
It's a bitter pill to swallow, but we are stuck with these dates for 2014 and 2015, both legally and practically. The only alternative is to break our contracts, which would expose the Python Software Foundation and our organizer volunteers to massive legal and financial liability. As a foundation, we have flirted with financial ruin of this type before—in the wake of PyCon missing contractual obligations to our host hotel in 2008. We're unwilling to roll the dice again when the stakes are the foundation and PyCon itself.
We're moving ahead with the only practical choice left to us—holding the conference despite the dates, incredibly saddened that we are excluding our friends and community members, sadder still that we won’t get to see them there. Sometimes the worst mistakes come not intentionally, but through simple ignorance.
We've already taken steps to ensure that this kind of failure doesn't occur again. Getting thousands of people together in a single location always involves some amount of scheduling conflict, but we'll be more mindful of major religious and ethnic holidays when selecting sites and dates. Moreover, in our role as mentor to smaller regional conference, we’re letting them know about our experience, making them aware that they must give scheduling its due diligence or risk excluding entire groups from their events.
Our second apology is for failing to keep you, our community, apprised of our efforts. We should not have remained silent on a matter of exclusion — not for one minute, not for one month — and yet we are only making this announcement now, almost a year after it was brought to our attention. Given our track record on matters of diversity and inclusiveness, this scheduling failure is compounded by our inability to live up to our community standards. That we made efforts behind the scenes is good, but not enough — by being opaque, we've let a lot of you wonder if our ideals were conveniently forgotten in this case.
They weren't, and we're sorry.
The Codes of Conduct (PyCon, PSF) we strive to adhere to and the goals they outline provide no guarantees of perfection, only guidelines. They represent what we want to be, and sometimes we fall down on those promises. The road to where we are now was paved with good intentions and hard work on the part of everyone involved. We very much want to get back on the right track with our community.
We're seeking suggestions when it comes to making amends to those excluded from the conference due to our oversight. Nothing we can do can reattach those we've severed from our community due to this incident, but if you've got an idea for something we can do, we'd like to hear it. You can email Jesse Noller directly (or via twitter) with thoughts which will be communicated to the rest of the Foundation and PyCon organizers.
Chair PyCon 2012/2013
Vice President, Python Software Foundation
On behalf of the PSF Board of Directors and PyCon staff