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NUDC England Equity Policy and Code of Conduct

a) What is the purpose of this policy?

A key feature of debate is the ideal that all should be able to take part in a free exchange of ideas, and be treated with respect. All participants should meet respectfully. No debater, adjudicator, organiser, coach or observer should be hindered or prevented from competing or otherwise participating in the competition by unfair discriminatory practices. All participants should be free from harassment and intimidation at competitions convened by English institutions.

By producing a standardized NUDC Equity Policy and Code of Conduct, we hope to provide guidelines to ensure that the art of debate can be enjoyed by all.

Further to this, we hope to show all individuals who wish to partake in debating that they are a member of a community which has rules and guidelines which will protect them.

b) What is equity?

This Code of Conduct applies to all events associated with the competition, including, but not limited to, debates, social events, and accommodation.

No participant will engage in any behavior that could undermine or attack the purpose of debating or this Code of Conduct, or unduly impair other participants’ ability to enjoy it. Such behavior may include, but is not limited to:

a) Making denigrating comments towards others. These can include both attacks on an

individual, or can be attacks which concern identity characteristics including, but not limited to, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability or marital status;

b) Harassing, threatening, intimidating others in any way, or detracting from their ability

to participate in the tournament, including through direct abuse or gross insensitivity;

c) Damaging or destroying any property that does not belong to them

d) Allowing prejudices or subconscious bias to impact upon the way in which they treat or

interact with other members of the competition.

Clearly, the word ‘equity’ covers a wide range of issues; whilst it is perhaps easy to identify overt breaches of acceptable behavior, many behaviors sit in a “grey area”. This is because equity is particularly concerned with the way in which speech or behavior is received by participants; for example, an offensive joke made in private is not an equity offence if those against whom it is directed to not feel alienated or in any way denigrated. It is the responsibility of each individual to ensure that their actions do not offend, denigrate or alienate other people; we must all be conscious of the way in which our behavior can impact upon other people.

It is also important that participants to speak up when they have been made to feel uncomfortable, or been offended. This allows the community to reflect upon behaviors which may inadvertently impact on others in a negative way. The mechanisms for this will be outlined later.

c) What is an equity issue?

There are a few key areas which have been shown to be particularly problematic at this current time in debating, and have contributed to participants feeling unable to participate in debating:

Overgeneralised argumentation made from a position of ignorance or dismissiveness. For example, religious people have previously been generalized and described as uniformly ‘bigoted idiots’. Whilst it is acceptable to make arguments criticizing particular groups, or indeed the idea of religion, the language people have frequently used to do so is alienating. As a general rule, participants should aim to show respect towards those who may hold different worldviews to their own.

Unreflected command of language. Examples of this could be the use of the word ‘mental’ to describe opponents’ arguments, or telling female speakers to ‘grow a pair’. Most people who make such comments do not do so with the intent to offend, but it is a habit which has been widely picked up. There are a large variety of words in the English language available to point to the inadequacy of another person’s arguments- for example, illogical or irrational- so it is completely unnecessary to use pejorative terms which relate to mentally ill people. As individuals partaking in debating, we are responsible for considering the language we use, and the impacts it may have on other people. We understand that this kind of language is often used unintentionally and unthinkingly; should you accidentally use such a term, you should apologize and self-correct.

NUDC England Equity Policy and Code of Conduct, 2013 NUDC Executive: Thomas Jackson (Chair), Eleanor Angwin (Secretary) and Jennie Hope (Women’s Officer)

Subconscious bias against certain groups. It is well-known throughout debating that many of us have subconscious prejudices; for example, many find women less convincing as speakers than men, or respond more negatively to women showing aggression as speakers than they would if a male spoke in the same tone. By agreeing to take part in a debating event, participants acknowledge their responsibility to be conscious of the prejudices they may have, and should seek to correct for them (please note that this does not mean that a judge should actively give extra credit to arguments, or invent analysis that does not exist). Clearly, this is an area which is very difficult for an Equity Officer to be directly involved in; thus, we must all take personal responsibility for correcting the biases we may have.

However, we note that seeking to correct for the above need not prevent a group being critiqued. Provided that an argument critiquing a group is made in a reasoned and well informed manner, that does not resort to personal attacks, it is highly unlike that a member of that group will feel their equity has been violated.

d) What is the procedure if you believe you have been the victim of an equity violation?

If you believe you have been a victim of an equity violation, you should consider the intent of the act which has caused you offence. In the majority of cases, equity violations are inadvertent and the consequence of an individual misspeaking in the pressure of a debate, or sometimes not understanding the connotations of their comments. Please consider whether the act you believe to be an equity violation is still offensive if interpreted as charitably as possible. If possible, try to reach an agreement with the party who has offended you; explain why you were offended, allow them the chance to clarify their behavior. If an apology which you feel is adequate and sincere is forthcoming, please accept it. Hopefully you will thus be able to solve issues without the need to involve other parties.

Unfortunately, sometimes such measures will be insufficient. If you feel the offence needs further attention, or you do not feel confident in politely confronting the individual(s) who have offended you, it is then appropriate to discuss the issue with the Equity Officer.

It is perfectly acceptable to discuss the issue with another person you trust, perhaps to seek advice as to whether the complaint is worth pursuing. If is also perfectly acceptable to ask a person you trust (perhaps a member of your society’s committee) to go with you to speak to the Equity Officer. However, it is important to keep in mind that no one can complain on your behalf.

The Equity Officers shall handle all equity issues confidentially. Where appropriate, the Convenor and/or the Chief Adjudicator shall be consulted. Complaints will only be investigated upon sufficient severity. When investigating, the Equity Officer(s) shall invite all concerned parties to participate, and investigate all relevant factors, especially the circumstances in which the alleged act took place, the intention of the accused person, the extent and reasonableness of the offence taken, and any relevant issues of culture and/or nationality.

If the Equity Officers determine a breach of the Code of Conduct, they will order appropriate disciplinary action. This may include but is not limited to, a formal warning, a demand for a formal apology, or a recommendation to the Chief Adjudicator that the individual be removed from the tab or tournament.

Should an investigation into an action, or sanctions against an individual/individuals be necessary, these will be carried out and applied regardless of the status of any individual, or their current or past successes in debating, or their closeness to the Equity Officer.

e) What is the procedure if you believe you have witnessed an equity violation?

It is important to note that you may not complain on behalf of someone who you believe may have been offended.

You may however complain if an act has offended you personally, even if you were not the intended recipient of the behavior. However, please respect the rights of individuals to engage in private conversations.

However, you are welcome to warn the Equity Officer that there may be an issue that they will have to resolve.

As chair judges are responsible for ensuring that the rules of debating are implemented, they are also entitled to remind participants that standards of behavior are required; just as they would if people were offering Points of Information in an inappropriate manner.

NUDC England Equity Policy and Code of Conduct, 2013 NUDC Executive: Thomas Jackson (Chair), Eleanor Angwin (Secretary) and Jennie Hope (Women’s Officer)

f) What are the responsibilities of convening societies?

Convening societies should appoint an Equity Officer, or Equity Officers, in advance of the competition starting, and should make the appointment public (where possible, this should happen at least a week in advance of the tournament starting). For smaller competitions, it is perfectly acceptable for the Equity Officer to be a member of the Adjudication Team; what is important is that it is clear before the competition starts that equity will be taken seriously. The Equity Policy (hopefully this one!) should be published in advance of the competition.

Concerns have also been raised concerning the quality of crash at many events. At competitions where crash is offered, convening societies must reach certain basic levels. Most fundamentally, crash should be a safe space for all involved.

If a competition is providing crash, there should be specified individual(s) who are responsible for ensuring that crash is safe, and can be contacted at any time by an individual who is concerned about their crash situation.

Provisions should be made in advance of the competition for the ‘worst case scenario’ of an individual needing to leave an unsafe crash situation.

Please also read the document NUDC Crash Guidelines.

g) What are the responsibilities of individual societies?

Societies must discuss equity and established expectations for conduct prior to sending teams to competition; even if this means explaining it on the train to the competition, it is important to establish a basic level of understanding and expectations.

Wherever possible, senior members of the society should be available to other (often younger) members who have been made to feel uncomfortable, and should also be willing to go with people to talk to the Equity Officer if this makes them feel more comfortable; approaching an individual you’ve never met to potentially make a complaint against their friend is, quite reasonably, intimidating to some people.

h) Advice for Equity Officers

An equity officer should, as a minimum, do the following:

a. Make it clear that complaints will be dealt with in confidence (although an individual may not make an anonymous complaint).

b. Give people an opportunity to defend themselves before passing judgment; it is just unfair to disallow someone the chance to explain their case.

c. Be widely visible throughout the competition, and remind people throughout the day that the Equity Policy is still in force (for example, it may be appropriate to remind people before the final round that the Code of Conduct applies at the social).

You may also wish to publish a phone number in case individuals do not feel comfortable being seen talking to the Equity Officer. However, it is again important to stress that complaints cannot be anonymous, and each party involved will be expected to fully explain their side of the story.

NUDC England Equity Policy and Code of Conduct, 2013 NUDC Executive: Thomas Jackson (Chair), Eleanor Angwin (Secretary) and Jennie Hope (Women’s Officer)