I now write on law and regulation facing the pensions sector for Professional Pensions and this portfolio will no longer be updated. Please read all my new articles on the Professional Pensions website.
A fantastic new policy was unveiled by the Guild of Students on Monday, setting out the Guild’s condemnation of harassment in any form on campus.
The policy, accredited by the NUS, was launched by the Guild Vice President (Welfare) Katherine East, NUS Vice President (Welfare) Pete Mercer, Guild Women’s Officer for 2011 Kelly Rogers and Guild Ethnic Minority Students’ Officer, Sacha Hassan.
A key part of the legacy of last years’ Vice President (Welfare), Luke Reynolds, this initiative is a brilliant way of ensuring that students on campus are able to stand-up and resist harassment based on religion, sex, race, disability and sexual orientation.
Pete Mercer introduced the policy, legitimately arguing “we still have sexism in our welcome weeks, homophobia in our halls and racism on our campuses” and spoke about the recent piece of research conducted by the NUS entitled “No Place for Hate”. Horrifically, one in six respondents had experienced hate crime yet less than one in ten actually reported these incidents for fear of blame, worry of shame and discomfort with talking about it. This is the first UK-wide piece of research relating to hate crime and it is so vital and so beneficial.
An article by the Independent highlights how important this policy is as it talks through the misogynistic and sexist events that are organised as part of Welcome Weeks in universities across the country. The article mortified me – harassment has no place in our universities and Students’ Unions should be at the forefront of the fight against attitudes such as this, condemning actions of those who see it as acceptable.
Kelly Rogers stated “sexual and domestic violence does affect predominately female students” and referred to an experience with a women’s association protest against a beauty pageant in the previous academic year; she and other protestors received threats, homophobic and sexist comments, simply for disagreeing with sexual objectification, possibly one of the largest threats to women in the media.
Sacha Hassan, however, rightfully asked whether this policy was simply tokenism or a PR stunt, referring to a recent example of discriminatory behaviour by University of Birmingham students, saying the person in question “made a mistake and needs to face the consequences” and this was a perfect example of why zero-tolerance needs to be a policy that the Guild adopts.
Honestly, I am surprised this policy does not exist as standard policy on all university campuses, let alone our own Guild, based in one of the most multicultural cities in the UK. It is yet another progressive piece of policy that will be vastly important in the stepping stones to equality and tackling discrimination in wider society. Using this policy, I implore students like myself to use this policy to its full potential, challenging any form of action that can be classed as harassment. The best way to defeat discrimination is to challenge it, not to ignore it.