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Making all our policies more inclusive
9 months ago
by Ellie Gomersall
Amend all current Union policies (barring this one), bye-laws, forms and documents to replace all instances of the phrase "he or she", "his or her" or similar with a gender neutral pronoun such as "they", "their" or similar.
Why you think it is important
"He or she" is an outdated phrase and doesn't acknowledge our members who do not use either of these binary pronouns.
Is there anything else you think we should know?
Most of our policies already use gender neutral language, but there are some which don't. An example of such a policy which does not use this inclusive language is Bye Law 8 - Code of Discipline.
8:54pm on 5 Jan 21
"All instances of the phrase "he or she""? ALL?
I'm sorry but there are very few students I know of that identify as non-binary or are gender non conforming.
It should be left to the person/persons who the forms, documents, post etc. are relating to to decide what pronouns he/she/they wish to use!
I completely disagree with your statements that ""He or she" is an outdated phrase". Not every student in the University will wish to be identified by a gender neutral pronoun such as "they", "their" or similar.
9:03pm on 5 Jan 21
Hi Matthew! "They" can be used as a pronoun for any individual for whom you don't know their gender. An example sentence: "if you see someone struggling to carry their shopping, you could go and help them".
Unfortunately "he or she" doesn't cover everyone, especially those who don't fit in the gender binary. "They" is an excellent, inclusive alternative which many people use in their daily vocabulary without even realising, and ensures that all our students are included in our policies.
4:56pm on 7 Jan 21
The Accessibility to Education UWS society approves of this policy and encourages student representatives to vote in favour of it.
6:43pm on 7 Jan 21
This is straightforward, the union actively encourages the use of pronouns that the individual wishes to use. It’s a simple change which can be easily implemented and will be more inclusive for all members.
7:41pm on 7 Jan 21
Ellie, other than Bye-law 8 which you have referenced, which policies, forms or documents have you found which are problematic?
11:18pm on 8 Jan 21
Hi Gordon, thus far the only example I have found in a publicly available bye-law or policy is that which I mentioned in Bye-law 8, however the wording of the policy is such that it would apply to internal documents too, including policies I might not have seen, and including forms and documents pertaining to individual societies.
12:04pm on 9 Jan 21
I don't think your proposed wording is constitutional. The council has the power to make, repeal and amend bye-laws jointly with the trustees. It also has the power to set policy, but crucially the articles of association do not stipulate the power to amend existing policy. This is an important distinction. A new policy can be brought forward which contradicts and so replaces an existing policy, but in doing so that policy is fully subjected to the scrutiny of the council. It is absolutely essential to the functioning of our democracy that all policies are treated equally and go through this process. Setting a precedent where policies can be retrospectively amended and the established process circumvented would be incredibly damaging.
If the intended scope of your proposal is only to make sure that Union wording is inclusive, this policy is not needed. “Speak to Everyone – Use Gender-Inclusive Language” passed by council on 12/12/2018 already accomplishes this goal. It would appear to be an oversight that the board of Trustees has not yet ratified this by amending Bye-law 8. You are a Trustee. Use your power and make sure it’s done at the next meeting!
I have taken the time to read every word of the Association’s Constitution. The only use of the phrase “his or her” exists within Bye-law 8. The phrase “he or she” does not exist anywhere within the Association’s constitution. No further similar language exists. I have also taken the time to read every word of every current Association policy. The only current policy which uses specific pronouns is one which I authored last year, which refers to Professor Mahoney calling for him to attend a council meeting. No policies whatsoever use the phrase “he or she” or “his or her” or similar language to the two preceding phrases.
Again, I urge you to use your position as a trustee to push through the change to the problematic bye-law, as the council has already mandated in 2018.
If you feel strongly that the 2018 policy is not a sufficient mandate for the Trustees to amend Bye-law 8 I would strongly suggest that you streamline the wording of this policy to something like "Council instructs the Trustees to amend Bye-law 8. Where the Bye-law reads 'The
accused party shall be entitled to call evidence and make submissions to the Disciplinary Panel relative to any procedural defects in respect of his or her being charged of the offence before the panel.' replace with 'The
accused party shall be entitled to call evidence and make submissions to the Disciplinary Panel relative to any procedural defects in respect of their being charged of the
offence before the panel.'"
9:04am on 10 Jan 21
Would hugely challenge Matthews assertions that this would impact limited numbers. We do not know how many people would benefit from this policy because sadly many are not out due to horrific views held across large parts of society. This policy would safeguard students, would stop students having to request and state their pronouns which can have major implications and would show SAUWS as the forward facing Society I hope we want to be.
Regarding paperwork several members of the LGBT+ Society have stated not all lecturers are providing an option for them to, at the very least, tick other therefore forcing them to be misgendered. This is not ok. This policy needs to pass.
It is also not ok to task Ellie with doing this work on her own. Yes Ellie is a Trustee so has position of power but this policy gives her views credence and support.
2:13pm on 10 Jan 21
I can only echo what Sarah said that I submitted this policy to council simply to give it a strong mandate and to make it visible and transparent. Although I acknowledge that the policy passed in Dec 2018 does mandate inclusive language in all areas of the Union, I feel that given that we are looking at making a technical amendment to a bye-law here it is important that this new policy is also passed to provide such a mandate.
Regarding the Articles of Association, I would interpret 45.1.2 "...to...set the policy of the Association..." as sufficiently vague that it could allow for amendments to previously passed policy, especially in cases where it is a minor technical detail such as here. Regardless, it has been pointed out that no current instances of passed policy other than Bye-Law 8 which encounter the problematic phrasing.
45.1.3, as has been pointed out, allows for the amendment of a Bye-Law jointly with the BoT, but does not specify procedure for doing so. I therefore would consider my policy to be sufficient as written.
Finally, the reason I wrote the policy to cover "all current Union policies...bye-laws, forms and documents" rather than just Bye-Law 8 was to set precedent for ensuring all our formal documents use such language, and to emphasise that the points raised in the policy passed 12/12/2018 should cover formal documents as well as the more informal examples specified in that policy.
2:14pm on 10 Jan 21
What you have suggested Sarah is already policy and has been since 2018. This policy, as it is currently worded, fails to add anything to what is already there, with the possible exception of highlighting that Bye-law 8 is still non-compliant with existing policy. As I said previously, I checked every word of every part of the Union constitution and every word of every current policy. Every one.
What this policy, as it is currently worded WOULD achieve is to potentially open the door to all sorts of procedural shenanigans by mischievous reps. This precedent must not be set. Again, if a policy is deemed faulty the correct way to cure it is to bring a new policy which will replace it. Catch-all policy amendments are alien to council procedure and can't be allowed to take hold. I would add, well meaning policies have previously reached council but have been rejected due to flawed wording, and the authors been sent away to submit a fixed policy. Where amendments have been made, it has been via discussion on this very forum BEFORE they come up for vote.
Finally I must add that I take umbrage to the suggestion that it is inappropriate to suggest that an office holder makes use of that office to push through positive changes, or that I am suggesting that Ellie does all the work on her own. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam I took the time to read the entire constitution and every single current policy to look for potential problems. That was work. That was extensive, detailed and incredibly time consuming work. That was work I undertook because I support the spirit of this policy, if not it's execution. I am willing to do that work because scrutinising policy is an essential part of the role I chose to accept. I am not a trustee. I cannot amend Bye-law 8 myself. I can support Trustees who want to make a positive change by point out where policy already grants them the mandate to make that change. I have done so.
Trustees wield an immense amount of power on behalf of the student members. It is absurd to imply that it is "not ok" for student members to seek to influence how that power is deployed.
7:04pm on 17 Jan 21
Note from original proposer of the policy:
Although this policy was drafted over the Christmas break in order to meet the deadline for January council, since the Union has reopened I have taken Gordon's advice above and sought an alternative route to amend Bye-Law 8. I therefore strongly recommend that this policy is voted down at Council.