1) Dealing with problems
2) Adding a complaints procedure to your constitution
3) Adding a code of conduct / disciplinary procedure to your constitution
4) Serious incidents
5) Gender-based violence or sexual assault
Dealing with problems
It is compulsory that your club or society has a clear procedure for dealing with any problems that may arise, and that your members know where to find these procedures. This should all be documented within your constitution (in Section 7 of the Model Constitution), for which we have a Template model constitution. If any disputes arise, having this documentation will make it far easier to deal with and prevent having to make up the rules on the spot. Remember that the SRC cannot arbitrate or judge disputes, although you can of course always use our Advice Centre for general advice on this.
It is up to your club or society to decide what your procedures will look like, but we have developed some guidance underneath for you to consider. Bear in mind the size of your club/society and the resources available to you. What is appropriate for one club may not be for another.
We recommend you keep things simple and avoid overly formal or legalistic language in any of your policies or procedures. Anyone who reads these must be able to easily understand them, so writing them in ‘Plain English’ Is always advisable.
Adding a Complaints Procedure to your Constitution
Clearly state where a complaint should be addressed to within your club / society
How quickly will you realistically aim to acknowledge / deal with a complaint? (5 working days might be a good starting point for acknowledging – refer to the University complaints process here as a possible benchmark)
Do you want to have a single stage complaints procedure, or a 2-stage process, where a review can be conducted if either the reporting or defending party isn’t satisfied? Be mindful that any 2nd or review stage should ideally be conducted by someone else within the club, who was not part of the initial investigation.
Consider confidentiality and how long records will be kept, and where they will be kept
Consider how you might use any complaints to make your club or society function better in the future
Adding a Code of Conduct / Disciplinary Procedure to your Constitution
Clearly outline what standards of behaviour you can reasonably expect of your members and office-bearers. Examples might include: treating each other with respect, adhering to equality best practice, not acting in conflict with the interests of the club or bringing the club into disrepute. We also recommend that you make it clear to members and office-bearers in the constitution that when attending any events or trips related to the club or society that they are bound by the terms of the University’s Code of Student Conduct. This applies to events both on and off-campus. In other words, they should not act or behave in any way that could be considered a breach of the code or they may face investigation and possible sanctions from the University.
Consider the possibility of having a signed declaration from all current and new members, confirming they have read the constitution in full and therefore have clear expectations of what is expected of them and what might happen if they fail to meet these expectations. This 1 step can alleviate any potential problems of members saying they were not aware of what was expected of them on becoming a member.
Consider how you might deal with minor matters in an informal way, without the need for the full formal procedure being taken forward (eg, you may wish to meet with both parties informally and discuss any concerns, prior to any formal action).
Where a member has breached expectations, who will deal with this? (e.g. the President, the executive, or a small sub-committee)
How will you ensure that the person undergoing the procedure is properly informed and has the right to state their case? (Typically, any member being reported would be made aware of any allegations in full and have an opportunity to provide a statement to clarify their position and perspective)
Consider what sanctions might be available (e.g., a request to apologise, to stop certain behaviour, suspension from the club for a period of time, or expulsion for the most serious cases)
Consider whether you wish to provide a right of appeal (this would need to go to someone within the club who was not involved in the original decision)
In more serious instances, the problematic behaviour may constitute a breach of the University’s Code of Student Conduct. In these cases, the University may be better placed to deal with the matter. Any breaches of the code of student conduct can be made to the University Senate, via firstname.lastname@example.org. The SRC Advice Centre can walk you through this process and make you aware of what to expect. Whilst the University investigate this, you may wish to defer any outcome until this investigation is concluded and instead implement a temporary suspension on any member (made clear in your disciplinary process).
If bullying or harassment is an issue, then it’s helpful to be aware of the University’s Dignity at Work and Study policy, and the Respect Advisors’ Volunteer Network.
You may also wish to make a general report of the incident to the University, using the online reporting tool.
Gender-based Violence or Sexual Assault
If the issue relates to Gender-based Violence or Sexual Assault, you should never try to resolve this internally without first seeking specialist support. If a student approaches your club or society to report this type of incident, you should talk this through with the SRC Advice Centre for advice & support.
The University, in conjunction with Rape Crisis, have trained a group of staff as Sexual Violence and Harassment First Responders, who may also be approached. You can see more information on the First Responders, and how to refer students onto them here. They have been trained to listen to students in this specific situation and are aware of the correct procedures and appropriate support available inside and outside of campus.