The Manchester Debating Union, herein referred to as the ‘Union’, commits to ensuring that our events are inclusive to all regardless of identity. We aim to make debates fair and impartial so that no one is mistreated or feels unsafe because of who they are or how they present.
Our Inclusions Officer advises on matters of equity and inclusion. They are to run and maintain projects to improve the inclusion of parts of the student community who are currently under-represented in debating. Their role is overwhelmingly to act as a mediation mechanism rather than a punitive one.
The Inclusions Policy inherits the power of the Union Constitution, which details the procedure for amending the document. For disputes regarding the interpretation or remit of the Inclusions Policy, please ultimately refer to the Union Constitution.
The Union operates a preferred gender pronoun policy to make sure people of all different gender identities feel welcome. The policy is the same for every competition our members participate in, from local to international competitions.
Before a debate starts, all participants will be asked to state their preferred gender pronouns (for example, he/him, she/her, they/them, et cetera). Participants are free to decline to answer or state ‘no preference’.
Misgendering is often an honest mistake. If you misgender someone, please seek to rectify your mistake as soon as possible. If you feel misgendered, you can communicate this to the person who caused it.
Participation in debates
We will force no one to speak, listen, or participate in a debate. Kindly note that the motions set in training and at competitions can always be argued in rational and non-offensive ways, and discriminatory arguments or sweeping generalisations are not considered persuasive.
Kindly note that speakers may argue positions from which they disagree.
The Union will not record speeches unless participants give their consent. It is highly unusual for speeches in training sessions to be recorded. It is common for certain rounds of a competition to be recorded and uploaded, contingent on the speaker’s consent.
Likewise, it is not acceptable for anyone (for example, speaker, judge, audience member, et cetera) to record any part of the debate without receiving explicit consent from the individual(s).
We aim to ensure participants avoid comments, gestures, or any behaviour that can be seen as attempting to exclude an individual from meaningfully taking part in the Union or may threaten their safety. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Intimidating or threatening behaviour towards any individual, such as yelling, harassing, threatening, stalking, and acting physically or verbally aggressively. This includes using recreational drugs to excess, pushing others to do so, or making derogatory comments about those who abstain from alcohol or other substances;
- Attacks against an individual’s identity, person-hood, or a framework of beliefs. This includes but is not limited to derogatory remarks about an individual’s race, class, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, language status, religious affiliation or lack thereof, and political ideology. This is still true even if you believe (or even think you know) that they do not apply to an individual who is in attendance. In a debate, arguments referring to different groups do not inherently constitute equity violations, and it is understandable that, in debate, generalisations may be made. Keep in mind that sweeping generalisations might make an argument unpersuasive. This might constitute an equity violation only where the remarks are derogatory;
- Use of inflammatory or triggering language, particularly in debates where discussion of sensitive and difficult subjects such as mental health, rape, violence, abortion, or abuse might be necessary. Kindly note that there is a distinction between passionate, emotive language and triggering language, but we urge you to err on caution when in doubt. Arguments referring to such sensitive subjects do not automatically constitute equity violations and can be helpful persuasive mechanisms in certain debates;
- Unsolicited sexual advances and attention, or behaviour that contributes to a sexualised environment. Please be mindful of power dynamics in any situation and whether an individual may feel coerced into consenting or not objecting to invasive or threatening behaviour. Please adopt a stance of positive (not presumed) consent that may be withdrawn at any time;
- Unwelcome physical contact which includes, among other things, touching a person without permission, such as sensitive areas such as their hair, pregnant stomach, mobility device (for example, wheelchair, scooter, et cetera), or tattoos;
- Attempts to belittle the Inclusions Policy or parts of it will also violate the Inclusions Policy.
How are mistakes resolved?
The first step to consider is to speak to the individual who has upset you. Debating can be a high-stress activity, and all of us have, at some point in time or the other, said or done things that we have later regretted. The individual may not have intended to cause hurt or offence, or may not have realised why their behaviour upset you, and talking might help.
If you are the person who has said something that might be an equity issue, please self-correct and apologise.
If you do not feel comfortable discussing it with the individual in question, or if you do not feel it was resolved sufficiently once you have discussed it, please approach a member of the committee or the Inclusions Officer. We will treat all discussions and complaints with a high level of confidentiality. Where it is necessary, information might be shared with third parties, but only once the party involved has been informed.