Code of Conduct for Members

Our membership comes from a very wide range of political and personal belief systems. Some are very strongly held and may be part of the everyday life of individuals and groups. As an example, we can see everyday evidence of this in our work in Northern Ireland across all communities. Another example in the Republic is the fact that VAI members had a variety of opinions and stances concerning recent referenda, voting on both sides of the topics put to the population. Therefore, so that we can retain trust as an impartial and independent adviser, VAI must only ever concentrate on the support of visual artists in their professional careers. Our decisions will always be based on that, and our commentary can only be around that very specific area. It is not just a case that it would fail members if we were to step beyond that, it would in fact give rightful cause for concerns to be raised around our status as an organisation with charitable status whose remit is to support the visual artists of Ireland. It is for this reason that we don’t align with non-visual arts campaigns, political parties, and other movements which are outside of the career of visual artists, though we may agree with policies of specific groups where these impact on visual artists in their careers. The Code is based on VAI’s legal obligations as an employer, and to ensure that VAI creates a collegiate atmosphere in which members, executive, and staff can operate in a safe and trusted manner

1. Responsibility and accountability

You should be aware of the ethical, legal and professional responsibilities of Visual Artists Ireland. You should avoid personal and professional misconduct that might bring VAI into disrepute. To achieve this:

  • You are encouraged to advance public knowledge and understanding of Visual Artists Ireland and to counter false or misleading statements which are detrimental to the work of the Society, and to the visual arts community.
  • You will not misrepresent Visual Artists Ireland nor the work undertaken by Visual Artists Ireland. Where required you will ensure that clear context is in place for any statements about Visual Artists Ireland and its work.
  • You should encourage and support other members in the development of their professional careers.
  • You should not speak in the name of the Association, our Executive Committee or sub-committees, without authorisation.
  • Members come from a broad range of political and personal beliefs. You are encouraged to respect the right for members to have different values to your own.
  • Your opinion is important to us, but such opinions may conflict with the work of Visual Artists Ireland. At such times, you are asked to act in a manner that is collegiate and open to understanding.

2. Integrity and honesty

You should:

  • Be honest and accurate in representing your professional profile, including such matters as knowledge, skill, training, education and professional experience.
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that your qualifications and competencies are not misrepresented by others and to correct any misrepresentation identified. Where appropriate, you must recognise and clarify the limits of your knowledge, skills, training, qualifications, education and experience. Professional status will not be recognised until the evidence requested is in place. Without such evidence your application for membership may be declined or placed at an Associate level until it is provided. This is at the discretion of the Executive.
  • Be honest and accurate in conveying professional conclusions and opinions.

3. Respect and fairness

We are committed to maintaining and promoting a collegiate community in which people treat each other with dignity and respect. You should not discriminate against, bully or harass others on the basis of: cultural and role difference, including (but not exclusively) those involving age, disability, education, ethnicity, gender, language, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital or family status and socio-economic status. You should respect the knowledge, insight, experience and expertise of fellow members, (regardless of career stage and length of membership) relevant third parties, and members of the general public.

We recognise as bullying, behaviour that may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient. Bullying does not need to be deliberate; someone may demonstrate bullying behaviour, which falls within the above definition, without intending it. Whatever form it takes, bullying is unwarranted and unwelcome, and can cause embarrassment, fear, humiliation or distress to an individual or group of individuals. Bullying often results from a misuse of individual power derived from status/position, physical strength or force of personality. It can also follow from collective power arising out of a strength of numbers.

We recognise as harassment any unwelcome verbal or physical behaviour, including sexual advances, when the unwanted conduct has the purpose or effect of either violating another person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person. Harassment does not need to be deliberate; someone may harass another person without intending to. In some situations, where the unwanted conduct is serious, a single incident may constitute harassment. In other situations, conduct may become harassment if it is repeated or sustained.

The following list provides examples of the types of behaviour which can amount to harassment, although the list is, by no means, exhaustive:

  • Unwelcome physical contact or physical interaction: This may range from unnecessary touching or brushing against another’s body, physical assault, coercive sexual relations, physical threats, insulting or abusive behaviours or gestures. It may also encompass invading someone’s “personal space” by standing very close to him/her where this is unnecessary.
  • Unwelcome verbal conduct: This may include the making of remarks and comments about appearance, lewd comments, sexual advances, innuendo and banter, the making or repetition of offensive or stereotyped comments, jokes or songs, the making of threats and the making of patronising comments.
  • Unwelcome written or visual interaction: This may include sending unwelcome emails, notes or pictures, and displaying or sending offensive material on any VAI social media/websites/blogs etc. See VAI’s Social Media Policy for further details.

Harassment, bullying and victimisation of staff, executive, members, or by staff, executive, members by electronic methods

Given the current reliance upon electronic means of communication it should be specifically noted that harassment, bullying and victimisation by electronic means is also unacceptable. For example, this might involve:

  • Sending emails (with or without attachments) which breach the terms of this Code.
  • Inappropriate copying of emails to parties not seen as relevant to the discussion, as a way of intimidating or inappropriately gaining leverage over other members, guests, volunteers or staff.

VAI Staff may request to end an engagement if they feel uncomfortable due to any of the above. In extreme cases, a request for the expulsion of a member may be put to the Board.

VAI has legal obligations as an employer. You must ensure that all interactions with VAI staff and executive are in keeping with current employment laws and best practices. Members are requested to respect VAI’s No Blame culture. This is a recognition that people are human and make mistakes, and as long as the mistakes are not intentional or in conflict with the other policies in place in the organisation, and can be turned into opportunities for learning, we do not make judgement on each other.

4. Privacy and confidentiality

You should respect the individual and collective rights to privacy and maintain confidentiality in compliance with GDPR and Irish/EU law and regulations.

5. Avoidance of personal gain

You should neither offer nor accept bribes or inducements either on a personal basis or on behalf of the Society.

You should not seek to have personal gain, financially, reputationally, or professionally or act in the name of Visual Artists Ireland without authorisation from the Executive.

6. Conflict of interest

You should declare to the VAI Executive any competing professional or personal interests that may be pertinent to your activities within VAI and VAI-supported events and working groups. All activities undertaken in the VAI name must be consistent with our vision, strategic objectives and the principles.

If a conflict of interest does arise, you must inform the VAI Director immediately the matter becomes apparent and should take the following actions:

  • abstain from the activity in question
  • stand down/withdraw from the activity in question.

Failure to do so, may lead to the imposition of actions, including a ban on attendance/participation at specific VAI events or activities and ultimately termination of membership.

7. Personal Missions

VAI acts an an advocate for the visual arts. It does this through feedback, research, and engagement with a wide range of parties. Our Advocacy programme will not engage in personal missions which can be misconstrued as vendettas or personal attacks.

Members should not assume VAI support for any Advocacy programmes that have not been passed by the Executive, or which do not carry the VAI name. Although members may have advocacy areas akin to VAI’s work, they should not assume support and should make contact with VAI asking for support before making any public declaration of VAI support. This ensures that they can be made fully aware of the current status of VAI’s work in these areas. Advocacy may require specific approaches, and when negotiations are in an advanced stage, VAI may consider other approaches to be damaging to the status of their work.

8. Lapsed Members Policy

If a member’s membership expires, and they choose to rejoin, their join date/expiration dates will be changed to reflect the new month/year of when they rejoined.

A member will be deemed to be lapsed, and not eligible for membership benefits on the first full day following their renewal date if payment has not been received and recorded.

A member joining for the first time, or renewing a lapsed membership, will not be considered as a member of Visual Artists Ireland until they have been provided with confirmation from the Executive, and/or a membership card.

Lapsed members who do not pay their annual subscription fee will be deemed to be a former member if the payment is not received within 3 months of their renewal date. Former members will be deemed eligible for deletion from the membership database after that date. Former members profiles will be deleted from the membership database after a period of two years has lapsed.

Summary

This Code of Conduct specifies principles to which all VAI members and associates should adhere. It is intended to encourage trust and respect within our community. While the Code is comprehensive in scope, it may not cover every issue that may arise. If you have any doubts or queries as to its contents or purpose you are free to contact the VAI CEO to discuss.

Adopted: August 2019
Re-Adopted: May 2020

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