The ‘Ask YUSU’ service should not be allowed to get hijacked by those seeking to harass, bully and intimidate , says Adam Sloan
The boundaries between the political and the personal are notoriously difficult to define. Personal attacks are seen in the politics of Westminster and we are seeing them now in the context of our own Students’ Union. While a forum should be provided for students to hold Union officers to account, this must not be allowed to degrade into abuse and harassment.
‘Ask YUSU’ was an initiative set up for the purpose of providing a means for every student on campus to have an easy and effective way of posing questions to their elected representatives. By publishing both the questions and answers on the Union website, all students are able to have equal access. This, it was thought, would make it easier for the student body to keep check on the actions of Union officers.
In this sense the forums have been largely successful. Officers now appear to be far more accessible than they have previously been and many legitimate queries have been answered. In recent weeks however, the focus seems to have moved from questioning policies to personally attacking certain officers of the Union.
The University’s code of practice is very clear on what amounts to harassment, specifically stating “derisory remarks, verbal abuse, insults and threats”.
Aspects of this have clearly been seen present in some of the ‘questions’ asked to SU officers through the forum. Statements from the simply idiotic to downright offensive are being permitted to be aired in public when grievances of a personal nature should clearly only be brought up in private, and through the proper channels.
On top of this, the ridiculous nature of many of the questions posed is serving simply to undermine the service and the Students Union as a whole. If officers are forced to be subjected to bullying and intimidation, then it will only have a detrimental effect on their work. This is the same in any kind of organisation, public or private, or for any member of the university, staff or student.
Reading through the forum, I believe that many students would also be put off posing their own questions to the officers, because of what is taking place. Were it your first time on the forum and you browsed onto a question such as the ones asking certain officers about their sexuality, you would be forgiven for thinking that the forum serves no useful purpose at all.
So, what is the best way to combat all this? Clearly the service needs to be more heavily moderated, but a question lingers over whose duty it should be to determine which questions are and are not appropriate to be aired. There would be concerns that if this were up to the officers themselves then certain legitimate, but difficult, questions may go unanswered.
If a “question” is sent to an officer, or anyone else connected with the University for that matter, which falls within the guidelines of what is classified as harassment, then appropriate measures should be taken through official channels to resolve it. If this means tracing the person responsible and taking appropriate disciplinary action then this is what should be done.
No member of this university should have to put up with personal abuse or harassment, and I would support any means of combating it.
A proposal to trace the perpetrators of the current bombard of abuse was rejected by the SU, but it appears to me that this is wholly necessary. The University and the SU need to demonstrate that bullying, harassment and intimidation will, under no circumstances, be tolerated.