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Opportunity for Growth

Mike Lawson • Percussion • June 8, 2018

A powerful opportunity for growth is often found amid extreme challenges. Such an opportunity has come to Drum Corps International this year.

Most certainly, the DCI community has been deeply affected by the allegations of misconduct reported recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications.

Reading accounts of abuse of any kind is always painful, but even more so for an organization that has prided itself on providing educational and artistic excellence for all participants in the 46 years since its founding in 1972.

But the tragedy has brought with it a chance to make sweeping changes to ensure that these types of incidents never occur again – a chance to focus intently on safeguarding every performer, staff member, and volunteer throughout the entire DCI community.

It’s a chance to change a culture. And the shift is already well underway.

Mirror of Society

Because DCI is made up of a large patchwork of independent organizations touching every region of the country and many countries throughout the world, the same issues that affect society affect the DCI community. DCI recognizes that people around the world and throughout our country are facing the harsh realities of bias, harassment, and incivility – as exposed so powerfully through the #MeToo movement.

While these issues are not unique to any one industry or one place, they are not acceptable. DCI has always prohibited behavior that violates its Code of Conduct, but it is now clear that conduct expectations must be much higher, more detailed, and the DCI community must hold itself accountable to these standards.

Safety and Well-Being

The DCI Board of Directors began working on updating existing policies governing conduct prior to adopting the new DCI Strategic Plan in 2017. The plan’s strategic goals call for detailed action safeguarding health, safety, and wellness standards for all performers, staff, and volunteers. Many of the specific tasks were already taking shape, but DCI is doing more.

Every organization within the DCI framework is an autonomous, independently operating non-profit with its own board of directors, policies and procedures, and state laws. To provide even stronger leadership for a diverse set of participating organizations, DCI has ramped up its own policies to a higher level, so every member of the DCI community can respond accordingly. Health, safety, and well-being come first.

Steps of Progress

At its regular meeting April 30-May 1, the DCI Board of Directors revised some of its existing policies to enhance safety measures – background checks, compliance enforcement, and required document submissions by each organization to DCI.

Next, the board passed a comprehensive new DCI Community Code of Conduct and Ethics Guidelines, which includes clear definitions of many forms of misconduct, measures for individual and organizational accountability, and mandatory reporting guidelines. Consistent with the DCI Strategic Plan, the adopted guidelines set clear expectations for all participating organizations in DCI programs and activities, while promoting greater awareness and clarity of DCI’s values. The code includes conduct-related policies and mutually-shared standards of conduct, professionalism, civility, and respect towards one another.

• Respect for the DCI mission

• Respect for others

• Professionalism and ethics

• Prohibition against discrimination

• Prohibition against sexual misconduct.

• Prohibition against retaliation

With the new guidelines now in place, the leadership of each organization must evaluate them against their existing policies, along with the laws applicable to their individual organizations, and take action to update policies and practice, accordingly. Safety, education, and building an environment that welcomes reporting are all critical components of a positive marching music experience.

As an added step, the entire DCI community paused collectively on Saturday, June 9 for a live internal training session focusing on the DCI Core Value of Mutual Care and Respect, which states, “DCI treats all with dignity, courtesy, attention, and appreciation; and seeks these traits in others with whom it engages.” Examining this core value in detail helped all participants understand the basis for policy involving safety and well-being. The event also allowed everyone to share simultaneously in the explanation of the conduct and ethics expectations, increasing awareness of possible misconduct, improving our fundamentally positive culture, and of course helping to identify and prevent misconduct of all forms.

A Better Organization

While policies and trainings are not a panacea for the challenges that have touched our community, and are facing society more broadly, these steps were put in place to start a conversation that we expect to continue in the months and years ahead. With the immediate action taken to strengthen policies and procedures for safety across the spectrum of activities throughout DCI, the season opens June 20.

As the leading organization in the marching music performing arts, DCI remains committed to doing its part in continuing to provide education and resources for all participating organizations, to learn and share best practices and efforts to prevent misconduct, and to work together to change attitudes and mindsets in marching music programs across the country and throughout the world.

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