As part of my manifesto, I promised a reform of our Safe Space Policy at KCLSU. I promised to hold an open student consultation on Safe Spaces, focusing on student-led reporting and restricting the use of Safe Space Marshals. I promised to work on a policy that protects the right to freedom of speech as well as the safety of marginalised communities.
Today, I’m launching KCLSU’s Joint Safe Space Review, a project that will involve KCLSU, students and university stakeholders in creating a new approach to safe spaces that works for everyone.
Why are we doing this review?
Our Safe Space Policy as it stands is outdated. It was the result of a decision by the now-abolished Student Council years ago, and it hasn’t been reviewed since 2015. In today’s heated political context, and in light of the serious criticism it has come under, it is sorely in need of an update. The charity commission (our regulator as a charity) has also recently come out with new guidelines recognising that there previous guidance “may have caused difficulty in decision-making for some trustees.”
Our Safe Space Policy is also redundant, both with respect to KCLSU and KCL misconduct procedures. The KCLSU Member Disciplinary Procedures do have a specific provision for “enforcing” KCLSU Policies and Procedures, including our Safe Space Policy, but this is inconsistent with similar policy applicable to behaviour that has a negative impact on other people, including behaviour that would violate the Safe Space Policy. There should be one set of rules and penalties for the same breach.
With respect to KCL’s misconduct guidelines, “abusive comments relating to an individual’s protected characteristics”, “use of inappropriate language” and “distributing or publishing a poster, notice, sign or any other matter, which is offensive, intimidating, threatening, indecent or illegal” are already forms of misconduct that students can be held liable for. Conduct that violates the existing Safe Space Policy is likely to come under one or more of these areas, with appropriate consequences for students.
Finally, our Safe Space Policy as it stands isn’t treating our members like well-informed, reasonable adults. While we have zero tolerance for discriminatory behaviour, we should not expect this to be the norm at KCLSU.
What’s happening next?
The Joint Safe Space Review will take place in phases. Right now, we’re inviting written submissions from students, student societies and Networks on how we should change the Safe Space Policy. Send all submissions by answering these questions by Friday 1st February 2019. We can’t guarantee that we’ll see your responses if you don’t do this.
Once we’ve got your feedback and submissions, we’ll take them away and develop our final proposal based on what you’ve told us, together with the university and the joint KCLSU-KCL Freedom of Expression Standing Advisory Group which is working on freedom of expression at KCL.
We’ll then ask students to take part in a democratic process on the final decision for the policy moving forward.
We aim to get everything done by the end of the Academic Year 2018/19, and hopefully from next September students will be able to enjoy an updated, sensible approach that works for everyone.