ESHC Safer Spaces Policy – 2021

We strive to make Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative a safe and welcoming community with zero tolerance of discrimination – a space where everyone can feel welcome and able to participate fully.

Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Behaviour we aim towards
  4. Behaviours we do not accept
  5. Safer spaces Procedure
  6. FAQ
  7. Glossary

Summary

Upon entering ESHC spaces, you are committing to:

  1. Abide by ESHC’s Safer Spaces Policy;
  2. Engage in constructive conversation;
  3. Be self-aware and respectful.

ESHC, as an organisation, is committed to:

  1. Responding to complaints in a thorough and considered manner;
  2. Continually improving of the inclusivity and safety of our spaces.

We do not accept:

  1. Physical abuse
    1. Violence or threat of violence (unless in self-defence)
    2. Sexual assault
  2. Non-Physical abuse
    1. Verbal abuse
    2. Oppressive behaviour
    3. Emotional or psychological abuse
    4. Harassment

Introduction

ESHC members and visitors are expected to conduct themselves according to this policy, and to respect the rights declared within, so all can enjoy and participate in ESHC as a safer space. This is defined as a space which aims to be welcoming and prohibits abusive, discriminatory, and intimidating language and actions.

Safer spaces policies aim towards creating and maintaining supportive and friendly environments in general. An important way that they do this is by helping groups recognise, remove, and prevent the problems that people from marginalised and oppressed groups face. This is so that everyone can feel comfortable and can participate fully. This means that people are educated about oppression and held accountable for actions that maintain structural inequalities (see frequently asked questions 4, and glossary for a definition of ‘oppression’, ‘privilege’ and ‘structural’). It doesn’t mean that debates, criticism, and changes to the policy are banned.

Why do we have this policy?

ESHC is a wonderful place full of lovely people. This policy aims to foster an environment in which people feel protected from potential harm, and to establish a fair procedure for members and visitors to bring complaints forward with the knowledge that they will be taken seriously. In particular it allows people who have suffered oppression to be involved in a safer environment.

When, where, and to whom does this policy apply?

This policy applies to all interactions within the boundaries of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, and/or at official ESHC events, including meetings, online communication, socialising in communal areas and in individual flats. As it applies to non-members as soon as they enter the co-op, members should ensure their guests aware of this policy, and the SSP summary must be displayed somewhere accessible and visible to all visitors (for example; hallway noticeboards, walls of shared spaces). All events should make clear in any invitations or advertisement there is a SSP at ESHC that attendees will be required to abide by.

Who can we contact with questions relating to the Safer Spaces Policy?

The Welfare working group can be contacted by email at eshcwelfare@gmail.com for any queries or suggestions relating to this policy, for conflict mediation, to report policy breaches, or for a friendly chat and support.

Behaviour we all commit to

A. Following the Safer Spaces Policy

We’d like everyone to abide by common standards of practice to make a fair community for all.

B. Engaging in constructive conversation.

As a co-operative the purpose of debate is to learn from each other, exchange ideas, and try to reach a conclusion that everyone accepts. We do this best when we listen attentively to each others’ points, ask for clarification if someone’s position is unclear, and remember that everyone can contribute valuable insights. We encourage a step-up/step-back approach. This means, if you are a person who feels very comfortable sharing, take note of how often you are sharing, and consider giving time for for others to share. By all means, be present and active in this conversation, but make sure others have the time to as well. If you tend to be a quiet participant, take a chance and “step up” with your idea, share your concerns, your ideas, concerns, and excitement with the group.

C. Being self-aware and respectful.

We ask everyone be aware of how their own actions, both intentional and unintentional, affect others. This includes respecting people through being aware of noise levels and taking care of our environment. Members should also be aware of how their language, such as not being mindful of impairments others may have, assumptions about cultural norms, use of slurs or gendered insults, may impact others. This also includes an awareness of the status and power we have just by virtue of being part of a particular social position.

The coop commits to

A. Responding appropriately to complaints.

Respecting one another involves holding each other accountable. We do not expect each other to be perfect, and mistakes present opportunities to reflect. So whenever someone is faced with a claim that their behaviour has violated the safer spaces policy, they are responsible for taking the claim seriously. This means that the person being accused of violating the policy should consider the reasons why they are being accused. This may require taking time to reflect before one responds. However, there is also a responsibility for those making a complaint to remember that it is harmful or unfair behaviours that the safer spaces policy prohibits and challenges, and we should not use it to attack a person’s character.

If you are unsure as to the reason your behaviour was inappropriate or offensive, you may politely request that the complainant explain, with the understanding that they do not owe you an explanation. The Welfare Team may be able to direct you to a resource that could help if the person does not wish to explain.

B. Improving our inclusivity and safety

We don’t have all the answers and come into this with a series of privileges, perspectives, and partial knowledges that means we often reproduce the terms of the oppressive society we live in. As an organisation, we are continually working towards improving as our knowledge grows.

We aim to help everyone to participate in democratic processes through the facilitation and welfare systems of the coop. If you feel you could use support with this, you can email welfare or ask a member of ESHC.

Behaviours we do not accept

We have a zero tolerance approach to:

  1. Physical abuse
    1. Violence or threat of violence: deliberate action likely to cause physical pain or discomfort, or the threat of such an action. This includes physical intimidation and invasion of personal space. This includes pets to which you have a responsibility of care.

      This does not include self-defence or preventive action.

    2. Sexual Assault includes, but is not limited to, non-consensual sexual advances, acts, and gestures.
  2. Non-Physical abuse
    1. Verbal (spoken and written) abuse refers to terms that have caused hurt, intimidation, or humiliation. This is regardless of intent.

      All members should remember that discussions should be respectful. In meetings or discussions this often looks like critiquing a point or proposal, rather than an individual. If it looks like a discussion is getting tense or difficult, the GM co-convenors can help you get in contact with an effective facilitator to help. If an issue is proving hard to resolve, consider contacting the Welfare WG about conflict mediation.

    2. Oppressive behaviour. Members should avoid talking, behaving, or dressing in ways that express prejudices or reinforce preconceptions of minorities and groups oppressed within our society. Oppression is an effect of behaviour, so it can occur without intent.

      Oppressive behaviour reproduces harmful and unjust social structures that lead to inequalities between people in different positions in society. It comes in many forms and you should evaluate how your behaviours may effect others in different societal positions – particularly those who experience intersecting oppressions. We should all be working to undermine the current power structures in society.

      Oppressive behaviour includes, but is not limited to, homophobia, biphobia, sexism, racism, ableism, heteronormativity, transphobia, fatphobia, classism, islamophobia, trivialising violence, xenophobia, antisemitism, and age-based discrimination.

      If somebody requests that you change your behaviour regarding topics about their oppression, please be respectful and change your behaviour. If you are unsure as to the reason your behaviour was inappropriate or offensive, you may politely request that the complainant explain, with the understanding that they do not owe you an explanation. The Welfare Team may be able to direct you to a resource that could help if the person does not wish to explain.

  3. Psychological and Emotional abuse: This includes behaviour that undermines the targeted person’s confidence and credibility, including but not limited to: patronising, dismissing, ridiculing, ignoring, isolating, manipulating and other bullying behaviours.

    Bullying does not include every situation where a person expresses anger or frustration. Situations where someone has perceived an injustice towards themselves or others are often such cases.

    Everyone must be considerate of other people’s trauma and triggers (see glossary). If someone tells you that something triggers their own trauma response, you must take it seriously. Sometimes, triggering behaviours can overlap, and what is harmful for one person may be valuable to another- so be aware that we can’t always reach a satisfactory solution for everyone. Please be considerate of the different trauma responses that people can have, regardless of medical/diagnostic situation.

  4. Harassment: this is defined as repeated, persistent, unwelcome behaviour targeted at a person.

Safer Spaces Procedure

Please note that there may be cases where the safer spaces policy is breached and none of the below procedures are suitable, please still get in touch with the welfare working group if you have concerns.

How to report a breach of safer spaces policy

If you want to report a breach then you can contact the welfare working group, or a person who you would like to mediate the procedure below. Bear in mind that it is often helpful to choose a mediator who can stay relatively neutral, rather than a close friend. If you report a breach or initiate conflict mediation, it is important that you are willing to explain, at least briefly, how you think the safer spaces policy has been breached, or have someone else do it as your representative. This is so that those involved with mediation understand the situation they are dealing with, and so that the person accused of the breach has the best chance of learning from past mistakes.

Immediate Action

Implementing the safer spaces policy at co-op events

Public events will have a copy of the safer spaces policy on display. Co-op members and event organisers (whether members or not) are responsible for making sure that guests see and understand it. These people are responsible for explaining the policy and, where necessary, asking non-members to leave an event. Welfare WG can be contacted in the case of a safer spaces policy breach. If it is appropriate, any issues arising at ESHC events will be followed up by a conflict mediation process or victim/survivor-led process (see below).

Action for obvious violations of policy online

This refers to times when the safer spaces policy has been breached online; for example hate speech, harassment, or inappropriate conduct (see glossary). Any violations will be deleted by the current online moderators, and the individual may be removed from the web service (e.g. Swap & Share Facebook Group, Zulip) in certain circumstances. It may also be raised with Welfare WG by any involved party.

Serious Action

Conflict Mediation

This procedure is for when people have not been able to resolve a situation themselves, or feel that it would be useful or necessary to involve a mediator. This includes cases where a member is uncomfortable engaging directly with the person/group they have brought a complaint against. However, for cases of physical and sexual harassment and assault a victim/survivor-led process applies.

Be mindful of the limitations of internal conflict mediation- for certain circumstances, external mediation or help will be necessary.

You are entitled to see the written conflict mediation procedure that Welfare WG follow.

Victim/Survivor-led process

Physical violence and incidents involving rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are extremely serious breaches of the policy. We know that sexual violence and harassment are extremely common and very often go unreported, despite being likely to have long-lasting effects on the victim/survivor, and therefore in these cases we will follow a victim/survivor-led process. Through this, we aim to restore power to victims/survivors of physical and sexual abuse by providing a space in which it is safe for them to come forward, where their confidentiality will be respected, and they will have control of the process.

We will ensure that those facilitating and participating in survivor-led processes have a good understanding of the political analysis of sexual violence, so that we do not put survivors in a situation in which they are made to feel powerless, or where they are judged or blamed for what has happened to them. A victim/survivor-led process is approached with the aim of restoring the safety of the space, primarily to the survivor/victim, and then to the collective and other users of the space. This process could take the form of legal or police action if the victim/survivor desires.

Frequently asked questions

Why is it a ‘safer’ space rather than a ‘safe’ space?

We recognise that we are not able to completely eradicate the behaviours we oppose. Rather than declaring this space safe, we use the word ‘safer’ to indicate our aims. We aim to mitigate abusive and oppressive behaviour, and take these issues seriously when they do occur.

Could this policy be misused?

Yes, any policy can be misused. However, our safer spaces procedure is flexible and open – this is to encourage critical engagement in our attempts to support people who believe there has been a breach as well as those who have been accused of a breach. The conflict mediation policy therefore allows breaches to be approached with sensitivity to context.

Why can’t individual flats opt out of this policy?

Those behaviours outlined in this policy as unacceptable are understood to be unacceptable in all circumstances. So if a member of the ESHC feels that they have been harmed because of a violation in the policy, it should be the case that they are able to raise a complaint. Members neither wish to, nor have the power to, get involved in flat issues, unless at least one person in the flat desires action.

Glossary

Accessible: Easy to understand, approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.

Assumptions: Something expected or taken for granted without sufficient/appropriate evidence.

Hate Speech: Hate speech is defined as derogatory language that perpetuates an imbalance of power.

Inappropriate conduct: Conduct that is unwarranted and is reasonably interpreted to be demeaning, harmful, or offensive.

Marginalise: To exclude or ignore, particularly by pushing someone to the outer edge of a group or by diverting a group’s attention from them or issues pertinent to them.

Mediation/to mediate/mediated: Where communication between groups or individuals goes through a third person or party.

Member/Non-member: When we say ‘Member’ we are referring to a person who has paid for a share of ESHC and currently holds a lease within ESHC. Non-members are anyone else.

Privilege: An advantage that only some people have.

Structural inequality: Ongoing relationships that are unequal because of an accumulation of individual situations – which may not appear unequal in isolation – combined with the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society.

Triggers (e.g. being triggered, that is triggering): A trigger is something that, due to being related to a persons traumatic experience, leads them to experience an extreme emotional and/or psychological response. People may experience being triggered in a variety of ways, for example inducing a state of high anxiety, flashbacks, or altered states of mind.

Unsafe (e.g. feeling unsafe): It refers to the feeling that you are currently in a threatening and hostile environment and may involve feeling acute anxiety. It is a common experience in response to a trigger.

The Welfare Team/Welfare WG/Welfare: A group of people given roles within Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative who helps keep everyone safe and provides some forms of care for people in the coop. The roles are frequently rotated, and their tasks include organising conflict resolution or mediation and upholding this Safe Space Policy for ESHC. They can be contacted at eshcwelfare@gmail.com
or anonymously through this form: https://tinyurl.com/2tmw8w53. Everything you tell them will be kept confidential, unless otherwise discussed, or if they believe harm may come to you or someone else if they do not seek immediate external help.