Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


BAAS Code of Conduct


The British Association for American Studies (BAAS) supports and promotes the study and discussion of the USA and its antecedents in schools and universities throughout the United Kingdom. BAAS is committed to providing opportunities for knowledge exchange, discussion, networking and professional development for the UK Americanist community. As such, BAAS strives to ensure that all of its events and activities remain an inclusive, respectful and supportive space for scholars, students, teachers and the general public. 

All members of BAAS and attendees at BAAS events (both online and in person) are expected to abide by this Code of Conduct. It will be circulated upon joining BAAS, renewing membership, at registration for all BAAS events (including the Annual Conference, Postgraduate Conference, and both online and in person meetings), and on the acceptance of BAAS awards, funding, and grants. 

Some of the content and material that we encounter as American Studies scholars can be both academically and emotionally challenging. BAAS expects members to be mindful of the impact their research can have on others, to contribute to fostering an environment which is safe and welcoming, and to promote values of dignity and respect. Our aim, therefore, is to promote open dialogue, academic debate and critical discussion in a way that is both compassionate and respectful. We do not accept racism, colourism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, ableism, transphobia, classism, ageism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, fatphobia/sizeism, or any other form of prejudice.

BAAS’s Code of Conduct (COC) consists of the following sections:

  • Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying, and Anti-Discrimination Policy
  • Reporting Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment Procedure

This Code helps BAAS achieve its goal to enable and guide safe and productive relationships between participants at its meetings, activities and events while at the same time discouraging discriminatory or harassing behaviour. With that in mind, please take a moment to review our Code of Conduct. In addition, we are also bound by the Equality Act 2010.

The Code is a living document and we expect it to change over time to reflect the changes in mind-set, attitudes, and priorities in and beyond academia. The BAAS Executive Committee welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement, so please feel free to contact us at

Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying, and Anti-Discrimination Policy

BAAS seeks to create and sustain a mutually respectful, inclusive, and supportive environment for all members, and thus is dedicated to providing a conference experience where harassment, bullying and discrimination are not tolerated. 

BAAS regards all forms of harassment, bullying and discrimination as unacceptable. Conduct may constitute harassment, bullying or discrimination whether or not the person behaving in that way intends to cause offense. This also applies to people who are not the subject of the harassment, bullying or discrimination, but who may witness and be offended by it. Harassment,  bullying or discrimination creates conditions or an environment about which a person could justifiably complain and where a person’s dignity is violated.

Unwanted conduct can be one-off. It does not need to be repeated to constitute harassment, bullying or discrimination. Unwanted conduct does not need to be directed at a person. It can be witnessed or overhead. It does not matter whether the conduct is acceptable to others or is common in universities, academic conferences, or other work environments.

If unwanted conduct is intended to violate a person’s dignity or create an offensive environment, it does not matter whether it has that effect on the person. If unwanted conduct is not intended to cause distress, it can still have the effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an offensive environment. Factors that affect the creation of an offensive environment include the relative power, seniority, age, race and cultural background of the people involved. BAAS is aware of the power imbalances inherent to academic work and encourages members to be particularly aware of both formal and informal hierarchies of power. 

Bullying or harassment can be one individual impacting one or more individuals or it may involve groups of people against an individual or a group of people. It might be obvious or it might be insidious. It may be persistent or an isolated incident. It can occur in written communications, by phone or through email, as well as face-to-face. Whether or not the complainant raised a concern at the time of an incident with an individual accused is not relevant.  

Harassment and bullying are matters of individual perception; what is perceived as harassing or bullying behaviour will vary on an individual and situational basis and therefore regardless of intent (i.e. “banter” is not an excuse), any behaviour which causes discomfort should be considered inappropriate and subject to investigation and sanction.

BAAS recognises that alcoholic beverages are frequently provided at academic conferences, and emphasises that intoxication (of any party) is not an excuse in cases of harassment. BAAS is working to reduce the drinking culture at BAAS conferences and to ensure that all attendees feel welcome and included at our events. 

Vexatious complaints will not be tolerated and will be investigated in their own right.



The Equality Act 2010 defines harassment as unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of an individual, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Harassment may be connected to an individual’s characteristics, directly, indirectly or via association, one or more of which may be protected under the Equality Act 2010. 


According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), bullying is unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual. The actions themselves may not have been deliberate. It is not necessarily always obvious or apparent to others.

Bullying can also involve the misuse of power. Power does not always mean being in a formal position of authority, but can include both personal strength and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation.


According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than someone else, often on the grounds of a protected characteristic. It can be direct, indirect, by association or by perception.

Behaviour that will not be tolerated by BAAS includes, but is not limited to:

  • Offensive, demeaning, or belittling comments related to gender, gender expression (including misgendering or deadnaming), sexual orientation, disability, age, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion, or career stage; that is to say, comments which reinforce social or academic structures of domination;
  • Sustained interruption or disruption of talks or other events, or the use of Q&A sessions to demean, belittle or degrade others;
  • Deliberate intimidation, stalking, or following;
  • Photographing or recording of an individual without their consent;
  • Inappropriate and/or unwanted physical contact, including inappropriate or aggressive gestures;
  • Unwelcome sexual attention or innuendo, sexual advances linked to reward or threat of retaliation, or requests for sexual favours (see section on Sexual Harassment and Misconduct, below);
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviour.

Sexual Harassment and Misconduct 

Members have reported incidents of sexual misconduct at recent BAAS conferences. Sexual harassment and misconduct covers a broad range of inappropriate and unwanted behaviours of a sexual nature. It includes a wide range of behaviour, such as:   

  • Sexual comments or jokes;
  • Displaying sexually graphic pictures, posters or photos outside the context of scholarly analysis;
  • Suggestive looks, staring or leering;
  • Propositions and sexual advances;
  • Making promises in return for sexual favours;
  • Sexual gestures;
  • Intrusive questions about a person’s private or sex life, and discussing your own sex life;
  • Sexual posts or contact on social media;
  • Spreading sexual rumours about a person;
  • Sending sexually explicit emails or text messages;
  • Unwelcome touching, hugging, massaging or kissing;
  • Criminal behaviour, including sexual assault, stalking, indecent exposure and offensive communications.

An individual can experience unwanted sexual conduct from someone of the same or different sex. Sexual interaction that is invited, mutual or consensual is not sexual harassment because it is not unwanted. Sexual conduct that has been welcomed in the past can become unwanted.

People have different reactions to sexual conduct. Behaviour that might appear harmless to one person can be more serious to another. Whether or not unwanted sexual conduct violates a person’s dignity or creates an offensive environment, depends on the perspective of the person making the allegation. The recipient of the behaviour decides whether or not it is unwanted. 

Examples of Sexual Harassment

  • A person imitates a sexual act during a networking reception that makes a colleague feel degraded;
  • A person asks another BAAS member if they are having sex with their partner, which intimidates and humiliates them;
  • A senior academic propositions a junior academic at a conference. The junior academic rejects the advances and the senior academic then refuses to offer them career opportunities.
  • A speaker displays a desktop background that includes a sexually explicit image whilst preparing to present their paper, which creates an offensive environment for other participants.
  • A person overhears another attendee at a conference being subjected to sexually abusive language, and this causes the person offence.
  • A BAAS member has had a relationship with a fellow BAAS member. When one member ends the relationship, the other spreads rumours about their sexual preferences at the conference.
  • A conference attendee is repeatedly subjected to comments about their appearance by another participant at the conference.

Possible Sanctions

The Code of Conduct Team will review all complaints reported to them (see detailed reporting procedure below). If after review a BAAS member or attendee at a BAAS event is found to have breached this Code of Conduct, a range of sanctions may be put in place. The Code of Conduct Team may:

  • Issue a warning to cease the behaviour that breached the Code of Conduct and that any further reports will result in sanctions;
  • End a talk that violates the Code of Conduct early;
  • Not publish the video or slides of a talk that violated the Code of Conduct;
  • Not allow a speaker who violated the Code of Conduct to give (further) talks at the event or future events;
  • Immediately end any BAAS event volunteer responsibilities and privileges held [e.g. as conference organiser; Exec member, or member of the Code of Conduct Team];
  • Require that they not volunteer for future BAAS events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period);
  • Require that they refund any BAAS grants, funding, or awards they have received;
  • Require that they immediately leave the event and not return;
  • Ban them from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period);
  • Revoke BAAS membership;
  • Support the reporter to take their complaint to their employer, police etc. (as appropriate).

Reporting Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment Procedure

Code of Conduct Team

BAAS has appointed a Code of Conduct Team to handle any reports of bullying, discrimination or harassment that breach our Code of Conduct. The Team is made up of members of the BAAS community at varying career stages. They are independent of, but supported by, the BAAS Executive Committee. Each year they will provide an overview report of their activities, including an anonymised summary of reports received and sanctions put in place, and advice for the BAAS Executive Committee around matters relating to the Code of Conduct. This report will be shared at the AGM each year.

The members of the Code of Conduct Team are:

  • Nick Grant (Associate Professor, University of East Anglia)
  • Kiefer Holland (Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Edinburgh)
  • Jade Jenkinson (Postgraduate Research Student, University of Nottingham)
  • Genevieve Johnson-Smith (Postgraduate Research Student, Newcastle University)
  • Chris Parkes (Lecturer, King’s College London).

You can contact the Code of Conduct Team at

How to Report a Breach of the Code of Conduct

You can report a breach of the Code of Conduct in the following ways:

  • By using the BAAS Code of Conduct Report Form. On this form you can report anonymously or you can provide your name and contact information.
  • By emailing
  • In person at BAAS events. Organisers of BAAS events (e.g. the Annual Conference) will have contact details for the members of the Code of Conduct Team attending the event.

All members of the Code of Conduct Team have access to reports submitted online or via email. If you have a concern about individual member(s) of the Code of Conduct Team receiving your report, please contact and we will offer further advice on how to make a report.

Please note that the BAAS Reporting process is not designed for use in emergencies. If you need urgent assistance or would prefer to be supported outside of the BAAS community, please see this list of UK-based sources of support:

  • Emergency: 999
  • Physical injury (non-life threatening): 111
  • Police (non-emergency): 101
  • Shout (24/7 crisis textline): text 85258 
  • Samaritans (24/7): 116 123
  • Rape Crisis: 0808 802 9999 (12 to 2.30pm and 7 to 9.30pm every day of the year)

Last updated: March 2023
Review date: March 2025