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Planning a conference in North Carolina

Citizen Science 2017 will be hosted in Raleigh, North Carolina, “City of Oaks.” CSA is pleased to be working with two strong local host institutions, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Current news out of North Carolina, however, complicates prospects for holding a conference in that state. The recently-signed Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – House Bill 2 (HB2) bans local municipalities from establishing anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. A growing number of states, cities, and organizations are protesting this law, with some protests including travel bans to North Carolina.
The CSA Board has offered the following statement on the issue of HB2 and our upcoming Conference:

“As a community that values inclusivity, equity, and respect for others, we are deeply concerned by the discriminatory nature of the recently-passed HB2 legislation in North Carolina. We are also aware that the implications and repercussions of this law may result in some of our audience feeling unwelcome or unsafe, or be unwilling or unable to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for the upcoming (February 2017) Citizen Science Conference.
We hold out hope that North Carolina will resolve this issue in an equitable and timely manner. In the meantime, we are monitoring the situation and working with our venue partners to ensure that we can provide a welcoming environment for all attendees.”

Our local partners are similarly committed to making this event safe, welcoming, and successful. In addition, the City of Raleigh as a whole is making an effort to distinguish its own attitudes from that of the state government. Nancy McFarlane, Mayor of Raleigh, offers the following sentiments (excerpted from a longer statement):

“Raleigh is a welcoming, diverse city that draws its strength from many areas. We have always been a place where people respect each other’s differences and understand that those differences make us stronger.
… while HB2 may affect some of our legal language, it does not change our hearts.
Raleigh will always be open to everyone. Everyone. We will continue to support all of our businesses, citizens and visitors with the utmost respect, regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”

We thank the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau (GRCVB), one of our local hosts, for directing us towards the Mayor’s statement. GRCBV itself has responded to our queries about HB2 with the following thoughts:

“Thank you for your request for information in regard to impacts from recent legislative actions. We certainly respect and appreciate your concern. Please know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the General Assembly and the Governor reconsider this bill when they reconvene in the short session this month. There are many organizations and businesses in North Carolina that are greatly concerned about the impact of this bill.
As you are aware, Raleigh is a diverse community shaped by a culture of respect and inclusiveness for all of its citizens and visitors. … [HB2] has produced a range of opinions and concerns among the state’s citizenry and event attendees. The staff of the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau is friendly, respectful and open to diversity and believes that it remains possible to host a meeting in Raleigh at which all attendees will experience a welcoming environment. We will continue to work closely with our host partners to ensure safety, support and success for your upcoming meeting.
Thanks for your selecting Raleigh as the host for your conference and we hope to have positive news for you soon.”

We have heard similar commitments, as well as more concrete details, from our second host, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences strives to make the Museum welcoming to all, recently becoming an innovator in the museum field, for example, through its facilities and exhibit galleries becoming accessible with new technologies to the vision and hearing impaired,” states Emlyn Koster, PhD, Museum Director. “Our downtown public facilities include private restrooms available to all visitors, one in each of the Museum’s two wings, the Nature Exploration Center and the Nature Research Center. The Museum’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation in western Raleigh also has a private restroom available to all visitors.”
We are heartened by these statements from our hosts in Raleigh. We will continue to compile here any additional statements from venue partners as they become available.

UPDATE 8 April. We have received the following statement from the Raleigh Convention Center:

“The Raleigh Convention Center will continue to support all customers and visitors with respect and care regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This position is in alignment with our city’s policy of nondiscrimination. House Bill 2, recently passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, does not reflect the values of our facility. We are privileged to serve a diverse public who contribute immensely to the strength and vitality of our area.  It is of the utmost importance that all attendees feel comfortable in our facility; and our staff will make every reasonable accommodation to ensure our guests feel welcome. Our mission is to provide an outstanding customer experience that assures that the needs of all customers are met.”

UPDATE 5 MAY. From North Carolina State University (this lag time represents CSA’s delay in seeking a response, not NC State’s delay in offering one):

“The new law does not affect NC State’s strong equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policy; we remain steadfast in our commitment to welcoming and supporting all people. As I included in my recent annual letter to the United States Department of Education, NC State’s policies ensure that all students, faculty and staff are protected from discrimination, regardless of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status.” From a statement by NC State’s Chancellor, Randy Woodson


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