Building A Safe and Respectful Culture

The Mountaineers is committed to building and maintaining a culture where everyone feels safe and respected. Each of us plays an important role in making this goal a reality. To support this goal we have established specific expectations and a transparent process for what to do in the event of a behavior complaint.
Tom Vogl Tom Vogl
Mountaineers CEO
September 13, 2018

One of our Core Values is Community. We provide opportunities for all because we believe a diverse and inclusive outdoors inspires unity, respect, and passion for the places we love. To be true to this value, our commitment to treating one another respectfully must be iron-clad. When we do this consistently, day in and day out, we build the kind of culture where all people feel safe and can enjoy outdoor experiences to their fullest.

From my own experience, I sincerely believe we do this well at The Mountaineers most of the time. One of my mentors is fond of saying, "You don't have to be bad to be better."And I believe we can always strive for improvement. In the past year we've focused on establishing specific expectations around our processes for reporting bad behavior to foster a safe learning environment. 

policy updates

In support of this commitment, the Board of Directors chartered a project last year to evaluate our policies and processes for standards of behavior. A graduate student at the UW Evans School of Public Policy, Lynsday Gordon, led this project with the support of staff and the Board of Directors' Governance Committee. The project recently concluded with the Board's approval of three new policies:

These new policies replace three policies previously in place:

  • Harassment Policy
  • Problem Behavior Policy
  • Discrimination Policy

The new policies are more clear and comprehensive so that all participants in Mountaineers activities understand behaviors that are acceptable, expectations for how we should treat one another, and how we handle complaints of inappropriate behavior. 

Our sincere hope is that these policies will reduce the likelihood inappropriate behavior will take place in Mountaineers activities. We also hope the Prohibited Behavior Investigation Policy will ensure that, in the rare instances of a behavior complaint, an investigation and related actions are handled swiftly and objectively. We take behavior complaints seriously and are committed to being empathetic, transparent, and fair to everyone involved.

#SafeOutside

While the incidence of behavior complaints in Mountaineers activities is very low, research suggests harassment or sexual assault has been much more frequent in the broader climbing community. A recent study published in Alpinist magazine concluded that 16% of men and 47% of women have had experiences that could be classified as sexual harassment or sexual assault while engaged in climbing or climbing related activities. This research sparked a grassroots movement called #SafeOutside designed to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault (SHSA). The Mountaineers is a partner organization of the #SafeOutside movement.

Our recent behavior policy updates were already in the works before the #SafeOutside movement, but our commitment to a safe, respectful culture won't end there. For example, in the coming year we will continue to incorporate SHSA topics into member communications and leader training to raise awareness and ensure our activities are safe and free from harassment of all types. 

The Mountaineers has a long legacy of safe, responsible outdoor education. We have the opportunity to build on this strong reputation by including zero tolerance of SHSA in our definition of safety. As on organization we're committed to this goal. I hope every person in our community  will individually make the same commitment to a safe, respectful culture.

Photo of Shi Shi Beach by Rafael Godoi.