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

British Association for American Studies

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BAAS Code of Conduct

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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 harrassing 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 chair@baas.ac.uk

BAAS is committed to ensuring that we have a robust reporting process so that our members can be sure that complaints will be dealt with in a timely and fair manner. This remains a work-in-progress, which we aim to complete during 2022. 

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.

Definitions

Harassment

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. 

Bullying

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.

Discrimination

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 of a topless woman whilst preparing to present their paper, which creates an offensive environment for other participants.
  • A man overhears a female attendee at a conference being subjected to sexually abusive language, and this causes him 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 her appearance by another participant at the conference. BAAS does not take any steps to prevent the situation from happening again.
                   

Possible Sanctions

  • Nothing [only if is not considered that the behaviour breached the Code of Conduct]
  • Warning the harasser to cease their behaviour and that any further reports will result in sanctions
  • Ending a talk that violates the policy early
  • Not publishing the video or slides of a talk that violated the policy
  • Not allowing a speaker who violated the policy to give (further) talks at the event
  • Immediately ending any BAAS event volunteer responsibilities and privileges the harasser holds [e.g. as conference organiser or Exec member]
  • Requiring that the harasser not volunteer for future BAAS events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Requiring that the harasser refund any BAAS grants, funding, or awards they have received.
  • Requiring that the harasser immediately leave the event and not return
  • Banning the harasser from future events (either indefinitely or for a certain time period)
  • Revoking BAAS membership of the harasser
  • Supporting the reporter to take their complaint to the harasser’s employer, police etc. (as appropriate)

Reporting Bullying, Discrimination, and Harassment Procedure

BAAS is developing a robust reporting procedure, which will include both anonymous and named reporting options both online and in-person at events.

BAAS intends to appoint a Code of Conduct Team to handle reports. This team will be drawn from the BAAS membership and will be separate from, though report to, the Executive Committee. BAAS will seek to appoint a diverse team representing our broad membership in terms of both social position and career stage. A call for expressions of interest to join the team will be circulated later in 2022.

While we continue to develop our reporting process, if you would like to report any breaches of the Code of Conduct, please contact Dr Emily Brady, Dr Lydia Plath, or Dr Rachel Williams.

Dr Emily Brady
(University of Oxford, BAAS ECA Representative)
emily.brady@baas.ac.uk
Dr Lydia Plath(University of Warwick, BAAS Chair)chair@baas.ac.uk
Dr Rachel Williams(University of Hull, BAAS Secretary)secretary@baas.ac.uk