On SCA’s Dubai Decision & Deferred Candidate Policy

A copy of this email was sent to the SCA Board on November 13

Hi SCA Board,

I’m writing to express my extreme frustration, dissatisfaction, and disappointment at your recent announcement regarding hosting a world event in Dubai.

This email is three-fold:
1) The decision itself
2) The communication of the decision
3) US biases

1) The decision itself

There is a severe lack of transparency on how the Board operates and what has driven the decision. At the first announcement of Dubai as a host location, I hope several of you questioned what happened in the decision-making process of venue vetting.

With the initial pause of event planning, I saw a few Board members online reach out to members for gathering opinions. In your email in September, you said that the review panel “will seek input from the executive councils and working groups of the SCA’s guilds, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the specialty coffee community in Dubai and beyond.” It didn’t say how the input would be sought after and I received zero emails for gathering information.

With plenty of documentation on the valid fears that have been brought up about visiting Dubai, the decision essentially reads as “we thought about it and we don’t care much about your fears.”

2) The communication of the decision

Where do I start?

Timing. The announcement read as if you had intended to release this far enough ahead of the Seoul Cafe Show to give competitors a chance to use the Deferred Candidate Policy. Except it wasn’t timed then and the words were not revised. Furthermore, the policy is unclear on what happens if someone *does* decide to defer. What’s the actual process? What happens the year after if they compete again and win the nationals again? Will there be two same-country national champions in one world competition?

Competitors. I am honestly confused on how you could’ve thought that those who were protesting the decision were only competitors. What about sponsors? Members who attend the event? Coaches? Exhibitors? SCA staff? There are more than competitors who attend these global events and who would also be fearful of visiting Dubai. Budapest’s event drew almost 7,000 people. The competitor count is a drop compared to the event attendees.

Transparency. Or really, lack thereof. There are zero reasons given for deciding to stay in Dubai. Was it because there was a survey and the majority of members thought it’d be better to stay in Dubai? Was it because you thought that the LGBTIA+ and slavery issues that were being brought up were being overblown and were not as important as “fostering local communities”?

Deferred Candidacy Policy. Not only do you equate sexual orientation and identity in the same sentence to losing a loved one, you add on a request for them to basically prove to their national bodies and the WCE championships committee that their reason for not attending is just and valid. You’re asking them to out themselves when they may not want to be outed and to have that identity be questioned and evaluated. It’s the equivalent of asking a victim of assault prove that it really was assault.

Where is the Board? In the time since Thursday, I’ve observed a few people on the Board make themselves open to feedback online and engage their membership. In fact, they’ve taken a big brunt of the criticism and that is wholly unfair to them. However, note that I only said a few, because I don’t know what the rest of the Board is doing. You’re absent from social media and you’re not present in listening to online discussions. Most of the names and faces on the Board’s page remain unknown to me, because I don’t see communication from you. And if your reason for not participating is because you don’t have a social media account, then may I recommend you temporarily use the SCA’s account and sign off with initials or a full name.

Upholding SCA Values. Your About page says that the SCA is an “association built on foundations of openness, inclusivity, and the power of shared knowledge.” There is no openness in your statement, nor is there even an apology or acknowledgement that you caused harm to many of your LGBTQIA+ members by not considering them in the initial venue decision. The decision and announcement combined are exclusive, not inclusive. From asking people to out themselves to being unconcerned by member safety, you are excluding people.

3) US biases

According to this article, there are thoughts that the outrage is more from the US than any other location. There are also questions of “why now.” Social justice issues have reached a boiling point in the US. Social media and the current political situation combined have fueled desires to speak up and speak loudly. LGBTQIA+ issues & people are not limited to the US, but perhaps it’s loudest over here, because their basic human rights are routinely being evaluated in laws and many have had enough.

Our industry is also at the cusp of normalizing discussions of harassment and I’m sure there were dissidents on previous location choices. My guess is that there were not enough voices to question the decisions. And if it really is the case that there was dissonance and the Board knew about it, why did it take until now for the Board to decide on a venue vetting process? I am not advocating any international event be based in the US. If Seoul really is the first location that every competitor has been able to attend, then keep it at Seoul.

I currently serve on the SCA Membership Council. I was asked at one meeting why I thought there were so many grassroots local organizations in the US (I am currently part of one in San Francisco and was in one in Chicago). Initially, I’d say the US is very large and having regional / city-specific coffee organizations is natural. Secondary, but just as important, I’d now say it’s also because the SCA has become a faceless conglomerate where members don’t appear to have a voice and if they do, it does not appear they are listened to. And if you ask the Membership Council for their thoughts on what the community is saying, I would tell you that community organizers around the US are in discussions about SCA boycotts, new grassroots organizations, cancellation/ non-renewal of memberships, debates on if the SCA even cares about its members, and creations of new [inclusive] events.

I do not believe the Board has done its duty in upholding SCA’s values of inclusivity and openness. Somehow, in the same year, you’ve created a harassment policy for hosted events and disregarded a good portion of your membership’ fears of harassment at a global coffee event. It’s really quite a feat.

P.S. I had to find the Board email on a comment thread on SCA’s Facebook Page. See point about being transparent — how do you expect members to even contact you?

P.P.S. This is a forward of my initial email, because board@sca.coffee bounced back and now I’m really questioning how a member is supposed to contact the Board. I only have this email address, because someone was so kind enough to provide it to me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading,





SF-based freelance coffee marketer, writer & photographer. Inspired by donuts, colors, and culture. https://JennChen.com / @thejennchen

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Confessions of an Imperfect Ally

He Promised to First Do No Harm. Then He Did

Let’s talk about Harassment.

Yes I am an Indian woman and NO I do not love to cook

Dallas Justice Now’s ‘College Pledge’ for White Parents Is Absurd

Running for yourself: sex and gender in women’s sports

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jenn Chen

Jenn Chen

SF-based freelance coffee marketer, writer & photographer. Inspired by donuts, colors, and culture. https://JennChen.com / @thejennchen

More from Medium

The Dynamics of the Brain and how to increase brain function

Deeper Problems at the Oscars

CS373 Spring 2022: Brock Moore Week 6

The Road to Data