Opinion: Hotel management doesn't care what your fursona is
In 2002, I wrote an article here about the problematic side of furry fandom, and what we needed to do about it. In 2007 I gave the fandom positive grades for progress made. In 2011 I praised the fandom for it's growth and outreach while also cautioning that growth can also come with its own difficulties. But now I fear that I need to talk to the fandom again.
The fandom has grown. With that comes a growth in the number of idiots and trouble makers, so risk isn't a hypothetical anymore. Damaging chairs, wrecking public areas, inappropriate conduct and a return to the "squick the mundanes" attitude that I'd hoped we'd moved beyond. This has already resulted in the failure of one major convention, Rainfurrest, and we need to all act to prevent it from happening to another.
Rainfurrest's collapse was not due to a sole incident of vandalism. The hotel had already become exasperated with the conduct of attendees when one of them blocked up the public hot tub with towels to cause it to flood. As explained in a letter to attendees, five people had been ejected from the hotel, three people had been taken to hospital and the police were called out twice. After sustaining more damage and mess to their public areas than every other event at the location that year, the hotel's management were on the verge of evicting Rainfurrest's attendees immediately on any further complaints. This is not a case of one bad apple, but a series of failures which stacked up to disaster.
This needs to be taken as a wake-up call for the fandom. We need to take a close look at the standards of conduct expected from fans, and from those who organize big events.
In 2002, I talked about how we needed to stop tolerating those who "squick the mundanes". It's sad that this attitude has raised its head again, with groups intentionally causing trouble and individuals out to see what they can get away with. Furry is a very tolerant fandom, but we need to stop being tolerant of the harmful. If you see someone getting up to this kind of stuff at a convention, it's not okay to shrug your shoulders and turn a blind eye. You must report it to the convention staff.
The convention staff need to have formal policies on handling these reports. They must take serious records of them, and make note when the same names turn up over and over. Conventions also need to talk to each other to identify those who should be declined a membership.
Conventions also need to have professional security. It is no longer acceptable to have amateur attitudes towards this. Security should be handled by trusted people with experience, preferably professional qualifications and appropriate insurance bonding. Conventions need to budget for this, and be aware of the general rule of thumb of needing to have a minimum 1:50 ratio of security staff to attendees. A convention of 2700 people like Rainfurrest should have been covered by at least 54 guards, probably more to ensure 24 hour coverage.
Further to that, these staff need to act professionally. They should certainly not all go to the ending ceremony and leave still public areas unguarded as I have heard reports of. Hotels should be expected to require individual insurance bonds covering all security staff, and this may even be a legal requirement in some jurisdictions.
Conventions can be safe, secure, and fun places. There are many conventions that already accept and operate by these ideals. But they do so through applied effort by the people who put them together, and by attendees accepting codes of conduct.
I would like to appeal to the Rainfurrest board to perform a review and failure analysis, to fully identify particular issues that need to be addressed, and provide this information publicly so other conventions may learn from it.