The Manchester Debating Union is committed to ensuring that our training sessions, competitions, and socials are inclusive to all regardless of identity. We aim to make debates fair and impartial so that no one is treated unfairly or feels unsafe because of who they are or how they speak.
Our Inclusions Officer advises on matters of equity and inclusion. They are in charge of running and maintaining projects to improve the inclusion of parts of the student community who are currently under-represented in debating. They also act as a liaison between the Student Union’s Diversity Officer and the Manchester Debating Union. Their role is overwhelmingly to act as a mediation mechanism, rather than a punitive one. You can contact them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MDU operates a 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.
All participants before a debate starts will be asked to state their preferred gender pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, et cetera). Participants are at liberty to decline to answer or state ‘no preference’.
Misgendering is often an honest mistake. If you misgender someone, please seek to rectify your mistake at your earliest convenience. If you feel misgendered, you can communicate this to the person who caused it.
Participation in debates
We will never force anyone to speak, listen, or participate in anything they find sexist, racist, or classist in a debate. However, 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.
Please note that speakers may be arguing from positions they do not personally agree with.
Speeches made will not be recorded by the Manchester Debating Union unless consent is given by the participants. It is very unusual for speeches in training sessions to be recorded. It is common for certain rounds at a competition to be recorded and uploaded, or streamed contingent on the consent of the speaker.
It is not acceptable for anyone (speaker, judge, audience member, et cetera) to record any part of the debate without seeking 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 participating in the MDU or may be threatening to their safety. This includes but is not limited to:
- Intimidating or threatening behaviour towards any individual such as: yelling, harassing, threatening, acting in a physically or verbally aggressive fashion.
- Attacks against an individual’s identity, person-hood, or 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 attendance. In a debate, arguments referring to different groups do not inherently constitute equity violations and it is understandable that in the context of debate generalisations may be made. Do keep in mind that sweeping generalisations might make an argument unpersuasive. This might constitute an equity violation only in cases where the remarks are derogatory in nature.
- 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. Please note that there is a distinction between passionate, emotive language, and triggering language, but when in doubt we would urge you to err on the side of caution. Arguments referring to such sensitive subjects do not automatically constitute equity violations, and can be useful persuasive mechanisms in certain debates.
- This very strongly includes unsolicited sexual advances. 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.
How are mistakes resolved?
The first step to consider is to speak to the individual who has upset you. Debating is a high-stress activity and all of us have, at some point of 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 potentially 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 successfully 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.