Follow-Up Statement on Tournament Safety and Responding to Allegations of Misconduct

NAQT’s mission is to run the nation’s premier quiz bowl championships, not only in terms of question quality and logistics, but also in terms of the well-being of all participants. The events of the past year involving former NAQT member Matt Bruce exposed failures in that area, so we would like to summarize the changes that have been—and will be—made to further our goal of ensuring that quiz bowl is a safe, welcoming, and respectful activity.

  1. NAQT joined with the Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE), the Academic Competition Federation (ACF), and International Academic Competitions (IAC) on a project spearheaded by Alex Damisch to provide the community with an online Misconduct Reporting Form that ensures the proper people at each organization are made aware of problems.
  2. NAQT will also seek to establish a formal agreement with PACE and ACF to exchange information about staffers, players, chaperones, and/or coaches whose behavior at one organization’s tournament(s) should preclude invitations to those of another.
  3. Starting with its 2019 events, NAQT will check all national-championship staff against the Department of Justice’s national sex offender registry. This covers all staff members, including those supplied by teams and those working “behind the scenes” (e.g., in stat rooms).
  4. NAQT launched its Advocate Program to ensure that its championships had an easily accessible, specially chosen person available to receive complaints about improper conduct. This was officially debuted at the 2018 High School National Championship Tournament, and it will be in place for all six of NAQT’s national championships (CCCT, ICT, IPNCT, SSNCT, MSNCT, and HSNCT) for 2019.
  5. NAQT will continue to close the comment sections on live video streams from its championships. (Comments may be opened later when we have the time to monitor and/or investigate inappropriate responses.)
  6. NAQT has updated its agreement outlining appropriate behavior for staffers at its national championships. The new language requires professional behavior not only when performing official tournament duties, but also when interacting with participants before the event, in unofficial ways during the event, and after the event. This includes both in-person behavior and online comments.

NAQT wants its events—and quiz bowl as a whole—to be an inclusive activity for everybody interested in “competitive learning.” We hope these changes will move us closer to that goal, and we invite feedback from the community as to additional steps that could be taken.

In parallel with the above changes and soul-searching related to the termination of Matt Bruce’s membership, NAQT has been reviewing its procedures for responding to allegations of misconduct and for organizing grievance committees to weigh charges against NAQT members. This spring was the first instance of a formal grievance in the history of our company, and the machinery laid out in our operating agreement did not provide sufficient direction to satisfy us or the greater quiz bowl community.

We have finalized changes to our governing documents to ensure that responsibilities for the various aspects of an investigation are clearly understood and have definite deadlines. We are also clarifying the standards for when external complaints (i.e., those not lodged by another member) trigger the formation of a grievance panel (which should have happened earlier in this specific case). In addition to those changes, we are defining deadlines for informing NAQT members about complaints, setting standards for future investigations, and lowering the threshold for taking precautionary measures such as preventing a member from staffing a tournament while he or she is under investigation.

This past May’s grievance procedure was the first time NAQT had to use a lot of policies we hoped we’d never have to use, but that’s not an excuse: We should have thought about these policies more carefully to ensure that we could act more effectively and respond more coherently than we did in this case.

In addition, in the aftermath of the grievance panel’s determination that Matt Bruce’s blog posts were incompatible with continuing as a member of NAQT, we also asked the question of whether other NAQT members had contemporaneous knowledge of those posts (or any other expression of similar ideas).

NAQT sought statements from each of its members on the issue and asked a committee to review and check those against available evidence. All NAQT members complied. Most had poor recollections of their past browsing, and none recalled contemporaneous knowledge of the comments that NAQT deemed deserving of termination; NAQT did not find evidence to the contrary. In addition, all members agree that NAQT should have acted more quickly and decisively throughout this affair, despite Matt being a colleague (and, in some cases, a friend).

NAQT will also be updating its governing documents to make explicit the expectation that members report problematic behavior, including public statements, by other members (and that failure to do so can itself be grounds for a grievance).

NAQT’s collective response to the events of this spring fell short of the standards the community—and all people—have the right to expect. In particular, we placed too little emphasis on the standards of acceptable conduct that we expect from all of our tournament staff at events but also in their behavior. We apologize to the quiz bowl community for failing to act as decisively as we should have. We hope there is never a similar opportunity to prove that we’ve learned our lesson, but, if one occurs, that we live up to our (and the community’s) shared expectations.

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