No business wants problems, but it certainly can happen to any company, in any industry. And when situations arise that violate a code of conduct or offend your audience, the problem can quickly blow up into a crisis.
Omaha Code School, an intensive, 12-week program that teaches web coding, faced the issue this week. A posting on their Facebook page on Tuesday pointed out an issue – or rather, three—that happened the evening of February 25 during their hosting of Startup Weekend: Nebraska. The post included a link to a full briefing of the events on their website by Sumeet Jain, co-owner of Omaha Code School.
Jain quickly laid out the three violations of the code of conduct in his write up:
- During the first night’s pitches, a presenter made a joke that alluded to slavery.
- During the final demos, a presentation included a stock photo that objectified women.
- During the group photo at the end of the event, a man who was part of the group photo made a joke that alluded to his arousal.
Omaha Code School was simply playing host for the event, and although Shane Reiser, the lead organizer of Startup Weekend: Nebraska posted his own summary and is sharing it with the global Startup Weekend community, Jain said he “felt responsible as the hosting venue for the events that occurred and want to be as forthright as possible.” Bravo, Sumeet!
How often have we seen issues blow up into a crisis because a company is unwilling to face it head on? Omaha Code School could have tried to ignore the issues, or lay the blame on someone else, saying they were simply hosting the event and didn’t have any ownership over what happened during the course of it. But they stepped up because they knew people were hurt by these actions, and they wanted to take a stand against the activity. By saying that they won’t tolerate such behavior, they are building a better environment for their students.
In addition to working quickly to get ahead of the issue, Omaha Code School also used every avenue to spread the word. By posting the apology on their website and linking to it on Facebook, they are showing that they want it to be seen, read and understood.
The Facebook post describing the events and the actions taken as a result has several likes and a comment by one Facebook user, Stefanie: “Thank you for being so transparent and proactive about this. It’s refreshing to see people like Sumeet Jain and the folks at Omaha Code School who go beyond just talking about inclusivity and actively work to promote it. Grateful for your existence.”
I couldn’t agree more.