Does anybody even know what the University’s “Zero Tolerance Policy” towards harassment and bullying is? No, of course not; it’s buried deep within the labyrinthine Students’ Association website, right next to our constitution (which nobody’s read), a well-hidden disciplinary procedure (which not enough people have read), and standing orders so captivating that I can now recite the difference between a substantive motion and a procedural motion ad verbatim, and now I also know how to conduct a Union meeting both with a necessary quorum and with proper decorum. Why more people aren’t familiar with these thrilling works of modern literature, I’ll never know.
However, despite this modern tour de force of suffocating bureaucracy, our Zero Tolerance Policy still manages to stand out as a true masterpiece of technocratic managerialism; that is, of course, once you manage to decipher the various errors in grammar and punctuation. For, in a manner that would make the British Civil Service proud, our Zero Tolerance Policy was last updated six years ago, directs you to a Students’ Representative Council member who doesn’t even attend St Andrews anymore, and is worded so clumsily that I’m not particularly convinced that the SRC could even read the motion that introduced it, let alone understand it.
All of this pales in comparison to the content of the actual policy, of course. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t really consider “leaving people out of social activities” to be an egregious form of harassment. You’d best watch out the next time you turn someone down a drink to focus on your studies — you’re actually harassing (and bullying!) them, at least in the eyes of our enlightened despots in the Students’ Association.
I was also rather shocked to see that “focussing on a person because of their disability” was another form of heinous bullying. Take note, fellow good Samaritans, for whenever you offer to help someone who is differently-abled, you’re actually harassing them. So stop it, you big bullies!
I was also really rather surprised to find that jokes are considered one of the most grievous forms of harassment; their (mis)use is mentioned at least a dozen times throughout the so-called policy. This Holy Writ deems jokes based on, but not limited to, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, political conviction, socio-economic background, disability and age to be absolutely unacceptable. Which, of course, means that you can’t tell any jokes within the confines of the Union, lest the all-powerful Students’ Association smite ye down.
But what if an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scot all walk into the Union Main Bar? What are we expected to do? Keep our mouths shut, and deny the huddled, St Andrean masses the comedic gold that will inevitably ensue? Why, it would simply be a crime to do so! And this, I think, is my main gripe with the Zero Tolerance Policy as it is currently constituted. The policy is well-intentioned, but in trying to account for every possible scenario it has actually muddied the situation. The policy is trying to regulate everyday life and, even if we consider this a price worth paying, I’m not particularly convinced that it would actually work. You can’t stop people from telling jokes, after all, and accusing some — one of harassment when all they’ve done is commit a social faux pas seems rather extreme. To me, at least. Thus, our Zero Tolerance Policy is unfit for purpose. Maybe our benevolent SRC members will do their jobs and endeavour to improve it — not that I’m holding my breath.