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WGPO Inclusiveness Survey Report

WGPO conducted a survey in late June to get feedback on ways that we can be a more inclusive and welcoming organization. We also wanted to know if individuals had experienced any harassment or discrimination with respect to race/ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other protected status.

Respondent Characteristics

We had a total of 67 respondents. Sixty-four (64) percent were female, 28 percent were male, and 8 percent prefer to self-describe or prefer not to say. Eighty-three percent (83%) identified as heterosexual, 6 percent identified as gay or lesbian, and 11 percent prefer not to say or prefer to self-describe. No respondents identified as transgender and three selected “prefer not to say.” Nine percent of respondents were Hispanic or Latino. Regarding race, 78 percent were white, 2 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, 2 percent were Asian, 12 percent selected “other race” and 5 percent selected “prefer not to say.”

The first question asked,

Please tell us about your experiences with club and tournament Scrabble®. Have you felt welcome? Have you experienced harassment, bias or discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability status, etc.? Feel free to share any accounts that you feel are important to share. Please indicate whether it occurred at a club, WGPO tournament, or event sponsored by another organization.

The majority of respondents said that they have always felt welcome and have not experienced harassment or discrimination in a Scrabble® setting, particularly in a WGPO tournament. Of those who had experienced bias or discrimination, the majority reported sexist incidents that happened in the distant past. Some examples include:

I have felt welcome at any WGPO tourney! Years ago, at a NASPA tourney, a disgruntled opponent called me a bitch during a game. The incident had occurred with other female players before. The incident was reported to NASPA. He was admonished & warned against this behavior…no more outbursts since!

I have experienced inappropriate comments from male players to me, as I am a female. They occurred at NASPA tournaments either in between games or after tournament play for the day was over. They happened years ago, before the #MeToo movement.

Sexual harassment by an individual who pursued me for several years–years ago…

A few incidents regarding discrimination or bias dealing with religion, size/weight, and disability status were reported:

As a differently able person, I have experienced a GREAT deal of NASTY commentary from opponents when I have asked players to use my large print tiles as they are supposedly NOT NASPA/WGPO tournament tiles that other players use: While I understand there is ‘glare’ or that they are probably NOT easy to adjust to, I have NO OTHER WAY TO PLAY without these OLD tiles as NO ONE makes a current tile style that is easy to READ for me, sigh. And, SADLY, this grumbling has been going on for a LONG time, sigh… Also, I know that I am the MINORbITY here, but I wish ALL Directors would consider LIGHTING issues when choosing a tournament sight as DARK playing areas just further hinders my ability to participate FULLY… (PROPS TO YOU and STEVE P for making announcements about my need to use MY tiles BEFORE games start though!!!!! )

Only one occasion was slurred at a tourney as being “too fat” when I politely asked a male player to slide his chair inward which was blocking the only doorway to the room. It was mean and hurtful. The room was also too small for the number of players. I did report it to the director, as other players had difficulty getting by him. I’m not sure if this resolved the problem, but I think he moved to another board afterwards.

I have always felt welcome in tournament Scrabble® and have found the Scrabble® communities I have been involved in largely welcoming to outsiders. The only instance of bias on the basis of an identifiable category that I recall is one time at a Scrabble® club associated with WGPO, a player was playing a second player who is Jewish. The first player at one point commented that the board was “Jewish” at a time that the board was very closed. It was pointed out that this comment was offensive and I think the player understood why.

A few people pointed out the lack of diversity in our tournaments and clubs:

I’ve been playing in Scrabble® clubs and tournaments since 1974, though I haven’t played as much in the last couple of years. But throughout the years, I have not really noticed any discrimination in clubs or tournaments. It seems there are not a lot of people of color or other minorities among players, at least not in our area, but there are some as well as people with disabilities and differing sexual orientation. It seems to me, at least on the surface, that all players, these included, have been welcome and encouraged to play.

The second question we asked was,

What suggestions do you have for WGPO to make our community more inclusive?

The majority of responses indicated that the organization already does a good job of making the community inclusive and welcoming. For instance:

I think it is very inclusive and welcoming of all.

I have always felt it was pretty and inclusive for those who share a love of Scrabble®.

Some individuals made suggestions for increasing the diversity of our organization:

Another national organization I belong to faces this same question. I think begin by asking current AfricanAmerican players and other minority players to begin bringing friends to clubs and tournaments.

I’d make sure that posters/publicity are put up in places that non straight-white-guys tend to see them

Let new players know we are the free and friendlier choice

Some acknowledged that White individuals may have difficulty seeing where bias or discrimination exists:

As white people, we may not see the blind spots. I personally do not see a problem. But there might be one I just don’t see. I am hopeful players will share candid feedback so if there’s a blind spot, we can fix it.

One issue regarding designing tiles for those with vision impairments was:

Help find someone who could design a LARGE PRINT TILE that is FULLY ‘connected’ in, the letter ‘F’ or ‘B’ are ALL ONE PIECE, NOT lB or where the back of the ‘B’ does NOT MEET the FRONT of the B and the ‘B’ fills the ENTIRE face of the tile: I would be HAPPY to work with someone, ANYONE to make this happens as I KNOW other (older?) Players WILL benefit from this!!!!!

By far, the most common response to this question addressed the current issue regarding the removal of slurs from the tournament word list. This issue will be addressed more directly in an upcoming survey that will lead to a binding referendum. Opinions on this issue were varied.

I suggest we follow NASPA guidelines about whether to remove ethnic slurs as valid plays. It is too complicated if WGPO and NASPA don’t use the same dictionary. And I think would hurt WGPO attendance.  Not all people of color want to remove ethnic slurs. Art Moore has said keep the N word in. As a woman, I’m not crazy about the CU.. word as I view it as insulting, but I still want to keep it in.

I am in favor of using the OSPD rather than the NWL for games since offensive words are just that: offensive.

None, it’s fine the way it is. You cannot remove words because where do you stop? If I’m offended by a word or 2, it’s my issue and I need to get over it. Some of the words being talked about being removed are used by the very population you would be trying to pacify.

I think removing the most blatantly offensive words is an excellent idea. I am white, and cannot imagine how unwelcome I would feel if someone played the “n” word. I think to change systemic racism (which the statement you made says you want to do), white people have to be willing to sacrifice some things that benefit them…the possible word points is incredibly minor compared to people’s feelings.

What’s Next?

We will review these responses and determine what steps we might want to take to make WGPO welcoming to all. Regarding players with disabilities, WGPO is committed to making any reasonable accommodation to players and making sure that players understand why those accommodations are needed. We encourage all WGPO players to report any cases of bias or discrimination. Our Player Expectations policy clearly states that “Harassment, abuse, intimidation and discrimination will not be tolerated.” Furthermore, individuals are encouraged to bring any concerns regarding such issues to tournament directors and to WGPO’s Board of Player Representatives. Additionally, WGPO welcomes any suggestions for ways to make the organization more diverse, open and welcoming to all. The issue of removing slurs from the lexicon is one in which many of our members have expressed an opinion. In accordance with our bylaws, a referendum will be held among our members to decide how we will proceed. Prior to that, we will administer a lexicon survey to see what our members think about the issue and identify the options that have the most support from the members. We expect the referendum to occur no later than December 1, 2020.