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 email@example.com.
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.