Community Norms & Grievance Process

Community Norms

Mission Statement: The WAC was founded in 1916 to encourage the healthful enjoyment of the great outdoors, to preserve its natural beauty, and to promote good fellowship among all lovers of nature.

Land Acknowledgement: The WAC acknowledges that we operate on the lands of the indigenous communities of Washington who have cared for the land we recreate on, and we strive to continue learning how to be allied with the land and its original stewards. We encourage all members to actively learn the history and how to support these communities today.

Purpose and Scope: The WAC is committed to maintaining an environment within our organization and during our sponsored activities that is free of verbal, physical, and emotional forms of harassment and other harmful behavior so that everyone may enjoy membership in our Club. WAC members must be mindful of the fact that in certain settings their individual conduct represents the WAC as a whole. The purpose of this document is to formally establish the Club’s expectations and norms for behavior and interpersonal conduct by members. In the event that a member has concerns about another member’s behavior and the dispute cannot be resolved informally, the Grievance Review Council (GRC) will evaluate alleged behavior against the norms set forth in this document. For more on the procedure, see the Grievance Process below.

Community Norms:

  1. Follow the Law.

    Unlawful behavior of any kind is not acceptable. The Club does not tolerate illegal activity on Club property or in the context of Club activities. In the event of alleged or actual illegal conduct, the WAC encourages members to report to the appropriate civil authorities. The Club will provide appropriate support to any investigation.

  2. Follow Club Rules.

    All members must follow the WAC Constitution and Bylaws. Members participating activities must also follow class rules, Guye Cabin rules, WAC Outings Standards, and any other rules specific to relevant settings and/or activities.

  3. No Violence or Harassment.

    Violence, assault, or harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. 

  4. No Discrimination.

    The WAC does not tolerate discrimination based on differences including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, age, gender identity and pronouns, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, or socioeconomic differences. Discrimination refers to differential treatment primarily on the basis of one of the aforementioned categories, especially when no legitimate reason appears to exist. Due to the nature of some of our programs and the inherent risks with outdoor activities, there may be prerequisites to participation in terms of required gear and physical ability.

  5. Be Respectful.

    Respect means engaging in good faith efforts to understand other perspectives, not drawing undue negative attention to differences, and being courteous and considerate at all times – even during disagreements. The WAC does not expect members to agree on every topic, but does expect members to be open-minded to learning about other perspectives and to show respect to others at all times. All members should make efforts to correct unconscious bias and prejudice in themselves and others in a respectful manner. The WAC operates on the assumption that all members have a positive intent. As such, in the event of a dispute or disagreement, both sides must presume positive intent in the other and engage with each other in respectful manner. 

  6. Mitigate Risks and Prioritize Physical and Psychological Safety.
    • Psychological safety means a shared belief held by organization members that others will not embarrass, reject, or punish them for speaking up. WAC members are expected to ensure their actions and behaviors promote and foster psychological safety within the WAC.
    • Alpine activities carry inherent objective risks. WAC members in group settings are expected to communicate objective risks with other group members transparently, and to the best of their knowledge and ability, when they arise at the cabin, in the classes, and during sponsored activities.

  7. Leave No Trace.

    All WAC members are expected to follow Leave No Trace ethics, minimize impact, and promote responsible stewardship.

  8. No Solicitations for Business.

    WAC members may not use the Club’s resources or activities primarily for purposes of business or other financial gain. Some instances of solicitation, such as offers of housing rentals or engaging in professional conversations with other WAC members, are acceptable, to the extent they arise through the ordinary course of Club social interactions and are not the primary reason for membership.

Appendix: For further reading and background, see the following links:

Grievance Procedure

We expect members to follow the Community Norms described above. If members experience behavior inconsistent with these norms, we first invite members to resolve the issue with each other. If this does not lead to a resolution, or if a member is not comfortable or feels unsafe addressing the issue directly, we invite members to submit a grievance report to the Grievance Review Council (GRC).

  • All grievance reports will be taken seriously and addressed promptly and investigated thoroughly as appropriate.
  • All investigations will follow the same overall process  
  • In order to mitigate further harm to those involved, in cases of serious allegations, the GRC may recommend that the Board suspend parties from participating in WAC events and activities until the conclusion of the investigation.
  • A grievance report will not automatically trigger a report to law enforcement unless the WAC is legally obligated to do so (e.g., in cases where mandatory reporting requirements apply). 
  • As a general matter, it is beyond the scope of the GRC to investigate criminal allegations. In those instances, members will be encouraged to make a report to law enforcement. The GRC may still issue recommended actions to the Board independent of any criminal investigations.
  • Anonymity will be preserved if desired and to the extent possible. Note that investigations will be limited if parties choose to preserve anonymity; thus, outcomes of these investigations may be limited as well. In all investigations, the GRC will prioritize confidentiality.

Grievance Review Process:

  1. We invite members to first attempt to resolve an issue with each other. 
  2. A behavior or incident of concern is reported (preferably through the form) to the GRC.
  3. The GRC begins an investigation.
  4. Mediation between the parties involved will be suggested and pursued where appropriate. (Note: in rare cases, a professional mediator may be contracted, for a maximum of three sessions, pending recommendation by the GRC and Board approval. Costs will be covered by the WAC up to a maximum of three sessions at a rate standard for the industry.)
  5. The investigation will include a discussion with the reporter, the person (or people) of concern, and other witnesses.  
  6. The investigation will consider the impact of the situation on the club and will make a recommendation to mitigate other potential issues related to the concern in the future. 
  7. The GRC will document the incident and produce a report and recommend an outcome to the Board within 30 days of submission of the grievance report.
  8. The Board will vote on the GRC recommendation within 30 days of receipt. The Board may decide an alternative outcome.
  9. The outcome will be communicated to all parties involved.

Grievance Review Process Outcomes:

  • No action is taken if mediation is successful in satisfying the reporter’s concerns.
  • A warning is issued in instances where less severe misconduct has occurred.
  • A member may be put on probation for one year if they have received two warnings.
  • Membership is revoked in instances of grave misconduct or in cases where a member has received three warnings.
  • The reporter may be encouraged to report to law enforcement in cases of criminal allegations.

Should a subject of a complaint investigation wish to appeal the finding or the corrective action, they may respond in writing to the resolution notification within 30 days. Appeals should be submitted to the Board of Directors.

If an appeal is submitted, the Board of Directors has a maximum of 60 days to review the previous report, conduct any further investigation as necessary, and take a decision based on a vote. The Board of Directors will communicate in writing to the subject(s) of the complaint the resolution of the appeal.

The verdict of the appeal is final regardless of the initial finding. Any documentation generated during the appeal review will be added to the final documentation retained by the WAC.

Grievance Review Council:
The GRC consists of 3 members. As of October 2023, Amanda Helfer, Ira Rushwald, and Laura Holcomb sit on the GRC. Recommendations will be made on the basis of majority ruling. Council members must be WAC members and will serve for a period of 1 year, aligned to the Board of Directors term. The GRC members will be selected by the President and approved by the Board of Directors. If the grievance includes a member of the GRC, the WAC President shall appoint a replacement if deemed necessary.

All documentation generated during an investigation is considered confidential. The final report is only visible to the reporter, the accused and reporter and members of the GRC for final review and record retention, and the individuals handling appeals if necessary. Documentation is subject to disclosure in any civil or criminal proceedings. The final report should include at minimum the following elements:

  • Timeline of events related to both the complaint and the investigation;
  • Members of the GRC with an acknowledged statement that they have followed the Grievance Review Procedure;
  • Summaries of findings and interviews with subjects of the complaint and any witnesses;
  • Copies of any pertinent documentation such as trip reports, the initial written complaint, or text messages;
  • If unable to make a definitive recommendation the process should still be concluded and the attempt at an investigation documented and filed;
  • Dissenting opinions if any within the GRC and/or Board of Directors;
  • Recommendation, including if the complaint was considered justified, and corrective/coaching action as necessary;
  • Appendix of email communications with subjects of the complaint and others as necessary;
  • All documentation will be kept for three years from the date of the outcome, except in cases involving child abuse, where documentation will be retained until three years from the date the child turns eighteen.