RITA scores went out to entrants last night and we have heard the concerns of those who believe their entries were subject to biased judging. This year, one of the major focuses of the RWA Board has been to evaluate procedures for the RITA Contest in light of the existence of bias among some judges. This bias results in an unfair scoring of books representative of marginalized populations, and harms the integrity of the award. At the July board meeting, the Board passed a new policy that we hope will allow patterns of biased judging to be identified and for actions to be taken against those judges if deemed necessary.
Full policy changes to the RITA contest will be posted along with the minutes, but the following language was added in an approved motion.
188.8.131.52.1. In the event there is a concern about a judge’s scoring, repetitive use of the DNF score, or invidious discrimination against content, characters or authors, the judge may be contacted for more information and to elaborate on the reasoning behind the scores.
184.108.40.206.2. If the explanation given by an entrant pursuant to 220.127.116.11.1 is unsatisfactory, RWA reserves the right to remove an entrant from the RITA contest and the future judging pool, which could be for any specified period, including a lifetime ban, depending on the seriousness of the judging issue. These decisions will be made by RWA staff. Decisions can be appealed to the RWA Board.
While these policies only apply to the 2019 contest and beyond, we can begin documenting judging patterns this year. If an entrant feels their submission was judged unfairly due to invidious discrimination against content, characters or authors, we ask that the entrant reply directly to the scoring email with this information. Deputy Executive Director Carol Ritter will review the complaint and will make a record of possible biased judging. These files will be carried over each year and if a pattern is identified, action can be taken as set out in policy.
It is the Board's goal to create a RITA Contest that allows for fair and equitable judging of all entries, and we hope the changes made put us on a path to that reality.