CHRIS SMALL

Societies Need to Be Able to Protect Their Members

It’s not going to be a challenge for any student who’s been part of a society to imagine a situation where someone who’s behaviour makes other people uncomfortable, someone who is either sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, or just a bully but the committee is unable to use official YUSU routes to ban them from events.  

A lot of people won’t even need to imagine it, I’ve certainly been on committees that have spent a considerable amount of time working out how to prevent people who made events we ran downright unpleasant and not worth the time from attending.  In these circumstances because all the evidence was based on the witnesses of those attending the event vs. the word of those we wanted to ban, the society in question just didn’t have the trust in the process that we would get the outcome we wanted. 

Many society chairs and committees are forced to use inelegant work arounds, such as blocking offenders from Facebook pages, Twitter, or manually unsubscribing them from a mailing list.  This makes the actions of chairs and committees more opaque and less accountable, and less effective at the same time.   These workarounds take away valuable time from committees, and still come with the risk of failure.  The bad behaviour of just one individual can ruin an event for months, or completely undermine recruitment of new members in a way a society cannot afford. And throughout all of this any good committee would be worried about how the behaviour of one individual may put off new students from getting engaged.  

The risk of giving society committees the power to officially ban people from their events, without YUSU approval, is that such a system could be used by some committees to bully individuals.  However, I do not believe that this argument holds weight, because the current system makes it difficult for societies to prevent bullies from attending, and if YUSU want to make the new system accountable they can create a system for logging bans, and they can still control the appeals process, it’s just that the default for YUSU would be trusting society officers, elected by their memberships, to run their society.

If YUSU want to make the lives of those who put time and effort into making student life better, and want to protect students from bad behaviour, it needs to accept that it’s centralised complaints process is not currently working, and let society committees ban people.  It is flat out not fair for committees, or students just looking to get involved,  to be expected to put up with sexist, homphobic, racist and transphobic behaviour until they have enough evidence to go through the YUSU process, when they’ve been trusted by the membership of the society to deal with this behaviour themselves.  

Featured image by YUSU

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