Union introduces wide reaching reforms to Zero Tolerance Policy

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The Students Association Council (SSC) is changing its policy on harassment in the Union, it has been announced.

The previous policy was considered to be gendered by the SSC as it only encompassed male to female sexual harassment, with a motion passed by the council saying that this left many forms of harassment unaccounted for.

The changes were proposed by the Association LGBT Officer, Sigrid Jørgensen, who said that “the changes to the Zero Tolerance Policy are important because the Union is supposed to be a space where students can come and relax and not be afraid to be in a situation that’s uncomfortable for them.”

Following its last amendment to the Zero Tolerance Policy in September 2013, the Student’s Association now defines harassment as “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour of any kind that is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient and violated people’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

There have been seven additions to Zero Tolerance Policy, as well as the change to also consider female on male sexual harassment. Students can now expect to be disciplined for harassment or bullying based on race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion or belief, disability, age, or socioeconomic status.

When commenting on the changes, Ms Jørgensen added that “we are not trying to limit peoples freedom of speech, it’s a guideline to make sure people aren’t being disrespectful. It’s like the golden rule, treat others the way you would wish to be treated.”

St Andrews’ recent downgrade in the free speech ranking by Spiked! Magazine is attributed to the Student unions’ aims to protect students from possible harassment on issues regarding sexuality, race and religion and its Zero Tolerance Policy.

Following the passing of the motion, Omar Ali, Association Equal Opportunities Officer said that: “anything that makes students safer at St Andrews is something that we definitely get behind, we want the policy to be accessible to everyone and it needs to be strengthened so that it reflects the Union takes these issues very seriously at all events.”

Joe Tantillo, who is also co-sponsor of the amendment, said that: “The Zero Tolerance Policy already comes into effect quite a lot in the Union, typically on nights out.”

All staff will be trained and briefed on the new policy and how to effectively deal with an incident. Students also have the opportunity to report incidents through emailing union@standrews.ac.uk.

Mr Tantillo continued “now people can go to the bouncers and report that they have been bullied or harassed in many number of ways. “Hopefully it will improve student safety within the building.”

When asked by The Saint on how much of a step up this change would be he said, “It’s a pretty significant change considering we’ve incorporated quite a lot of harassment to the policy outside of just sexual harassment, so things that may have previously been overlooked”.

Ms Jørgensen remarked that the “Zero Tolerance Policy that was there beforehand was very limited in scope. There were parts of the policy which were previously very difficult, if not impossible to implement”.

Luke Shaw, a member of the LGBT+ committee affirmed his support for the changes, saying “Seems like a good and logical thing to me, particularly as the current policy only includes gendered harassment. The new policy seems to be more all encompassing and I think it a great step forward.”

The changes were passed by the SSC on Tuesday 9 February and by the Student Representative Council (SRC) on Tuesday 16 February.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Who exactly decides what is unwanted behaviour, verbal or otherwise? Is there a process of defence at all? Or is it a case of A says B did this, A is offended, please discipline B?

    The security staff at the Union do a great job, but this is starting to get a little absurd.

  2. The novel ‘1984’ depicts a very “safe” society. I’m glad we’re making ‘progress’. “We are not trying to limit peoples [sic] freedom of speech”. Wow, what a terrific failure then, to have successfully managed to limit people’s freedom of speech, WHILE DELIBERATELY TRYING NOT TO. Bravo!

    OK, bullying is bad and people need to stop being assholes (especially those who buy VIP tickets to events).

    But legislating bouncers to be The Union’s playground anti-bullying Student Support counselors, comes off as a bit childish. Should they also pass a motion to require a bell to ring at 2AM to indicate the end of recess?

    #snarky

  3. I think this is dangerously close to a “safe space” that’s been making its way around America. No one should be worried about being harassed in the Union – but over-legislating this as I think the reformed policy does can lead to an environment where no one feels welcome except those that wrote the policy.

  4. The policy, as outlined in the link below, is absolutely insane:

    http://www.yourunion.net/pageassets/union/zerotolerance/Zero-Tolerance-Guidelines.pdf

    ‘unwelcome sexual invitation’ and ‘unwanted behaviour’ both amount to harassment. Punishing an unwelcome invitation is ridiculous. The purpose of an invitation is to establish whether or not something is welcome. Continuation when a lack of interest has been established may well be harassment, depending on the circumstances, but this rule bans flirting, so long as the other party is not interested.

    Furthermore, somebody accused of the egregious crime of flirting will receive no due process whatsoever. There will be no attempt to establish the truth of any allegations made against them, but rather they will be forcibly removed form the premises and banned thereafter pending a disciplinary process.

    This process required they then be contacted at an indeterminate point in the future and asked for their views on the incident, although ‘the normal expectation is that no personal details of the alleged victim will be disclosed to the person accused’. How they are supposed to defend themselves of an offence the details of which they are forbidden from knowing is not explained. They may then be banned for life.

    There are no penalties for making any of this shit up, although there are very obvious incentives.

  5. As I often tell maths students, the problem here is you haven’t written down a clear definition. If the policy clearly defined that “unwanted/unwelcome” means that you have informed the person making the comments that you don’t wish to hear that stuff, then this would be fine.

    However, since it is undefined, it leaves it open to the abuse that Allen outlines. The Union can make this policy a lot less ridiculous by simply adding a one-line definition.

  6. So, if Bible-believing Christians go to the Union and see a gay couple kissing, which creates in the Christians a “situation that’s uncomfortable for them”, will they be able to report the gay couple to the bouncers? Of course not – this new set of regulations are just PC fascism designed to promote and propagate a particular world view.

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