Smoky Mountains

Hiking Club

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SMHC Code of Conduct

Statement of Purpose

The SMHC aims to provide an environment for leaders, members, and guests that is safe, inclusive, just, fair, and consistent, and sets an expectation for professional behavior among all who participate in club activities.

This document was developed recognizing that we all hold a stake in what it means to share the culture of care in addressing unprofessional behavior or harmful incidents by responding to grievances through a shared understanding of a SMHC Code of Conduct. The purpose of this code of conduct framework is to:

  • Identify when incidents occur that are unprofessional or cause harm in the SMHC range of activities
  • When appropriate, outline a process for potential resolution
  • Track resolutions

Values Statement

Recognizing that outdoor (and sometimes indoor) activities can be a place of life-changing discovery, the SMHC is committed to the concept that everyone deserves the opportunity for that experience. The various outdoor venues that we visit represent public assets for all of us, and everyone should have an opportunity to care for, advocate for, and recreate in these areas in a way that is relevant to them. Our organization shares a commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as a dedication to professional performance of SMHC duties. The code of Conduct is in place to guide behavior in our recreational areas and inspire a shared responsibility not just to the land but also to each other.

The SMHC believes in, upholds, and ethically values laws that grant protected status to individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, status as a parent, martial status, or political affiliation. Protected activities include reporting of harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory conduct, filing a claim of harassment; supplying evidence in any investigation, or intervening to protect others who have suffered harassment, misconduct, discrimination, or retaliation.

Scope

This Code of Conduct applies across the SMHC network, including, but not limited to: SMHC officers, hike leaders and participants, members, our trail maintaining volunteers, and anyone who partners or interacts with the SMHC. The Code of Conduct applies to interactions that occur across the SMHC operations, including in meetings, in programs, in training activities, on the various trails, at social events, in written communication, including online and social media, and at all other events and activities hosted by the SMHC.

Member Rights and Responsibilities

SMHC members, officers, and others working with the SMHC recognize the rights and responsibilities of working for or recreating with the SMHC.

RIGHTS
  • to be treated with respect
  • to have a workplace free of harassment, discrimination, or hostile conditions
  • to receive a suitable assignment
  • to receive training and necessary support
  • to qualified supervision
  • to have safe working conditions
  • to have their time used effectively

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • to make safety the highest priority
  • to act in a professional manner
  • to follow the policies and guidelines of the wilderness areas we work and hike in
  • to participate in and learn from training sessions and meetings
  • to perform high quality work
  • to care for wilderness resources
  • to seek and accept guidance and support

Standards of Conduct

In every situation, those in the SMHC network will conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their rights and responsibilities and this code of conduct. Safety as a high priority focus of the SMHC includes both physical and emotional safety. To that end, the SMHC commits to inclusive and equitable practices in action, word, and deeds. Officers, hike leaders, trail maintainers, and others in the SMHC network will not conduct themselves in a manner detrimental to others, including members, non-member visitors, various land management representatives where we visit or work, the public, and other volunteers who participate in SMHC activities.

Individuals will:

  • welcome all people
  • uphold a community built on respect, encouragement, and opportunity for all, where issues are addressed in a calm and professional manner
  • conduct and participate in activities with safety as the highest priority, while minimizing risks and impacts
  • respect our natural resources and the ways that other people connect with one another and the outdoors
  • avoid conflicts of interest
  • stay informed of the policies and regulations, including guidelines and regulations, of the land managers where we recreate
  • represent the SMHC in a professional and respectful manner

Misconduct

Misconduct describes actions in violation of the codes Standard of Conduct. Actions that may be detrimental to the SMHC, the public, and natural resources or are in violation of our shared values are considered misconduct.

The following is not an exhaustive list, but provides examples of misconduct.

  • Unwelcome, discriminatory, or exclusionary behavior towards others of any kind based on identities including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, physical ability, mental ability, socioeconomic background, physical characteristic, nationality, age, religion, or beliefs.
    • This includes, but is not limited to, unsolicited judgements on a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, things like food, health, parenting, and employment
  • Physical or sexual assault, including violence or threats of violence toward others
  • Harassment that is sexual, physical, or psychological. Harassment may be verbal (including language that is derogatory or demeaning), physical, digital, deliberate, unsolicited, or unwelcome.
    • This includes, but is not limited to, physical contact without consent and/or a refusal to honor a request to stop
  • Failure to prioritize or willful disregard for, personal and group safety during participation in SMHC activities whether through disregard for stated policies and rules or through negligence
  • Disregard for Leave No Trace principles and/or for the rules and regulations of the trail or wilderness area visited
  • Failure to interact with our various land management partners in a professional and respectful manner
  • Stalking
  • Illegal or unethical activity while participating in SMHC activities
  • Misuse, misreporting, or embezzlement of SMHC related funds or other assets

Reporting Misconduct

SMHC members, visitors, and volunteers are encouraged to discuss issues that arise with others in an open way to help lead to improved communication and stronger working relationships. If those efforts are unsuccessful or if individuals do not feel comfortable discussing issues with the person responsible, the steps outlined below offer available procedures for reporting misconduct. All reported complaints will be handled through an issues management and resolution process. Discretion is taken to protect the identity of the complainant and other alleged involved parties during the course of the investigation and any subsequent determination and resolution.

Reporting Pathway

Because the SMHC conducts activities involving several organizations, reporting may take place through several means.

  • Through the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Board of Directors who are on the Compliance Committee at the email address compliance@smhclub.org
  • If involving activity on the AT, email to ljoyner@appalachiantrail.org
  • If involving activity in the national forest, call (844) 815-8943 
  • If involving the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, contact Christine Hoyer at 865-436-1264 or christine_hoyer@nps.gov

A person wanting to report a breach of the Code of Conduct is encouraged to have available the following information:

  • The name and contact information of the person making the report 
  • The type of misconduct
  • The name of person or persons breaching the code of conduct
  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • Details of the incident
  • The names of any witnesses and contact information if known
  • The organization sponsoring or hosting the event if not the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club   

Issues Management and Resolution

Investigation, determination, and resolution are the essential steps to being accountable to grievances and closing the loop on issues of misconduct. Our goal will be to provide an objective and fair analysis while maintaining process integrity and individual privacy as much as possible. Throughout the process, discretion will be taken to protect the identity of the complainant, so that in the course of the investigation, and any subsequent problem solving, including education, and resolution, the reporting person’s identity is anonymous. During the process, discretion will also be taken to protect the identities of other alleged involved parties.

In response to any reported grievance, the SMHC compliance committee is mobilized to investigate and make recommendations to the SMHC Board of Directors for resolution. The team will consist of the chairperson of the Compliance committee, the chairperson of communications, and a third member of the SMHC Board of Directors. This team of 3 individuals may seek participation of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Forest, or another land management entity, depending on where the purported grievance occurred. During the course of the investigation, members of the team may speak separately with the complainant or complainants, and with the respondent or respondents. The team may interview others as deemed appropriate. The team will make recommendations to the entire SMHC Board of Directors.

At the conclusion of the investigation, a decision will be made by the SMHC Board of Directors as to the need for any discipline, including but not limited to education, mediation or counseling, loss of membership, exclusion from activities, revocation of leader or volunteer status, termination of employment, or legal prosecution.

As appropriate, the SMHC will inform the complainant(s) and the respondent(s) of the investigation’s outcome. Resolution or action taken as a result of the findings by the SMHC will be documented and shared (if appropriate) with the land management partner where the alleged breach occurred.

Once the SMHC Board of Directors has reached a conclusion, the investigation shall be considered to be complete. No appeal will be considered.

For information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the NPS website or call the information line at (865) 436-1200.

Smoky Mountains Hiking Club

PO Box 51592

Knoxville, TN 37950-1592

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