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Respect and Inclusion in Learning and Working Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This document articulates Western Sydney University's commitment to a working and learning environment in which mutual respect, dignity and inclusion prevail.

(2) It outlines:

  1. how the University expects its staff, students and visitors to engage with one another with civility to achieve a climate of mutual respect, and the ways in which the University will act to support this climate;
  2. the University's commitment to building a reputation for fair and respectful treatment of staff and students beyond that required by statutory compliance;
  3. the unlawful behaviours, and also a range of lawful but adverse behaviours, which the University will not tolerate; and
  4. describes the ways in which the University can respond to this range of adverse behaviours if they occur.

(3) The University has statutory obligations to ensure a safe and healthy environment that is free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, vilification, and bullying. The University's approach to these unlawful behaviours is elaborated in more detail in the specific policy documents dealing with harassment, discrimination, vilification and bullying.

(4) This policy provides a basis from which to continuously build a positive community environment that is diverse and inclusive and which promotes educational, academic and cultural values.

(5) The University recognises that a just, safe and supportive university environment is essential to its capacity to realise it's guiding values of:

  1. Ethics and accountability
  2. Excellence and quality in all endeavours
  3. Equity of access and inclusiveness
  4. Academic responsibility and freedom
  5. Scholarly rigour and integrity
  6. Collegiality and participatory decision making
  7. Relevance and responsibility to our communities.

(6) This policy stands in support of, but does not exclude or replace the rights and obligations of staff, students and visitors to the University under the law. The expected behaviours and ways of engaging outlined in this policy apply to all of the University's activities whether within Australia or off-shore, subject to the operation of relevant legislation in Australia and overseas.

(7) The policy applies to all people whenever they are:

  1. In attendance at a University campus or facility, whether owned or leased;
  2. Using University equipment, whether owned or leased (e.g. communications, technologies, vehicles, facilities;
  3. In attendance at a University event, function or activity;
  4. Participating in any activity as a representative or student of the University (e.g. field trips, inter-University events, conferences, practica, clinical placements, etc).

(8) The policy applies to any form of contact or communication relevant to University business or activities that is initiated in person, by telephone, mobile phone, fax, e-mail, through another person, agent or by any other means.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(9) For the purposes of this policy:

  1. adverse behaviour - refers to behaviour that a reasonable person would not consider appropriate and includes, but is not limited to, bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification.
  2. bullying - means exhibiting a pattern of behaviour that intimidates, degrades or humiliates a person or persons, or that causes a risk or injury to the persons targeted.
  3. civility - refers to behaviour that shows regard and respect for others.
  4. complaint - refers to an expression of dissatisfaction drawn to the attention of an officer of the University that requires review, investigation or action (as defined in the Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy).
  5. confidential - means that information will only be released to those who have a legitimate 'need to know' and not for general consumption (as defined in the Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy ).
  6. discrimination — means unlawful discrimination a defined by relevant legislation.
  7. harassment - refers to any form of repetitive behaviour that is unwanted and offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, whether intended or not.
  8. misconduct - refers to actions that are serious enough to be regarded as requiring referral to a formal disciplinary process constituted in accordance with a relevant University policy and/or employment agreement or contract (as defined in Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy ).
  9. sexual harassment - refers to any form of sexually related behaviour that is repetitive, unwanted and that in the circumstances, a reasonable person would expect a person to be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
  10. stalking - refers to persistently pursuing a person or persons without any valid justification for doing so.
  11. victimisation - refers to any form of detriment directed at a person/persons for their participation in making, supporting or resolving a complaint, whether that participation is actual, intended or presumed or any form of detriment applied selectively and without justification.
  12. vilification - refers to a public act that incites hatred towards, serious contempt for or severe ridicule of a person or persons on the grounds of their identity or status.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(10) The University is committed to providing and maintaining a harmonious and productive environment:

  1. where all people interact and relate to each other with dignity and civility.
  2. free from discrimination, harassment, bullying and any other form of adverse or inappropriate behaviour.
  3. where staff and students are expected to treat others fairly and respectfully, and with proper regard for their rights and obligations.

(11) The University is committed to demonstrating the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. In keeping with this commitment the University expects all individuals and groups within the University community to behave according to all relevant policies, procedures and agreements.

(12) The University promotes an organisational culture which values respectful treatment of others. The University values equity and diversity and a safe and supportive working and learning environment. To this end the University supports and promotes a range of policy measures to prevent discriminatory treatment and make flexible and inclusive provisions for staff and students, which take account of the needs and interests of the diverse University community. These can be accessed on the University's Policy DDS.

Intellectual Freedom

(13) The University is committed to the principle of intellectual and academic freedom as essential to excellence in teaching, research and scholarship. The University supports and values the presence of informed and robust debate in an academic community which promotes the representation of diverse views. It is critical that alternative points of view can be voiced with integrity and respect for others, and without fear of negative repercussions. All forms of communication should be undertaken having regard to their impact on others, and without intention to belittle, intimidate or cause harm.

Unlawful Behaviour

(14) Some adverse behaviour may be unlawful. Adverse behaviour which is unlawful includes discriminatory, harassing, vilifying or bullying behaviour where it is perpetrated on the grounds of a characteristic (eg race, sex, disability) as defined in legislation. Unlawful adverse behaviour also includes behaviour such as assault or sexual assault, which are criminal behaviours under the Crimes Act.

Lawful but Adverse Behaviour

(15) Even behaviour which is lawful but adverse in its impact on another person detracts from the University's goal of providing a safe, inclusive and productive environment. An action does not have to be unlawful, such as discrimination, harassment or vilification, to constitute a breach of this policy.

(16) Examples of the kinds of behaviour which might be lawful but nonetheless might constitute adverse behaviour includes: sending a demeaning or intentionally hurtful email; undermining someone's personal credibility in public; deliberately excluding staff from relevant meetings; excluding someone by deliberately refusing to speak to them; taking credit for the work of others or using threatening, abusive or intimidating language. These examples are not exhaustive and are intended for guidance only. A pattern of repeated examples of these types of behaviours may also constitute bullying and be dealt with by reference to that specific policy.

(17) The University considers that adverse behaviours seriously impede the effective and efficient fulfilment of teaching and learning objectives. They have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of the University's staff and students. They also distract attention and valuable resources from the University's capacity to achieve its objectives.

(18) The University expects members of its community to take reasonable steps to prevent adverse behaviour from occurring, to take action to redress issues where such behaviour occurs and to protect others from victimisation. With this in mind the University encourages individuals and/or groups to deal with any complaints related to adverse behaviour in a timely and confidential manner, in accordance with the University's Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy.

(19) The University recognises that behaviour often needs to be characterised in the context of a particular set of circumstances, and the context of behaviour is relevant to the process of resolving complaints at all levels.

Providing feedback and Assessment

(20) This policy in no way undermines a supervisor or staff member's ability to make and provide assessments or guidance of the work or performance of other staff or students. The University recognises and supports the need for two-way feedback between staff and students who are in a supervisory or teaching relationship. At times, this feedback may involve identifying shortcomings in their work or behaviour. Constructive feedback, which is based upon the expected level of performance, is a legitimate obligation of supervision or academic assessment, provided that appropriate management or teaching protocols have been followed and assessment is communicated in an objective and professional manner.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Seek Advice

Support respect and inclusion

(21) The University provides a range of specialist units to assist members of the University community to engage with each other in inclusive and positive ways. This might include strategies for encouraging and managing diversity and equity in relationships, processes or programs. Assistance is available in actively improving cultural climates. They include:

  1. Equity and Diversity Unit
  2. Student Welfare Service
  3. Office of Human Resources
  4. Counselling Service
  5. Disability Service
  6. Talent and Leadership Development
  7. Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education Learning and Teaching Unit

(22) The intent of this policy will be upheld if all at the University exercise their rights and responsibilities to act with equity and respect, demonstrating:

  1. courtesy, consideration and responsiveness to others;
  2. commitment to fairness in supervising and associating with other staff and students;
  3. consideration of the impact of one's decisions on others;
  4. sensitivity and respect towards other people, especially when conveying feedback about performance or other communication which may be sensitive in nature and/or difficult for others to hear or accept;
  5. allowance for alternative points of view to be expressed while retaining respect for the views of others;
  6. avoidance of any behaviour which might reasonably be perceived as harassing, bullying or intimidating;
  7. awareness and observance of equity policies regarding discrimination, harassment, vilification, bullying, flexibility and inclusive working, teaching and learning practices;
  8. timely and effectively responses to any concerns about behaviour which are raised or witnessed; and
  9. respect for the beliefs, culture and customs of others.

(23) University policies specific to a range of equity and diversity issues provide detailed assistance in developing proactive strategies to encourage working and learning environments which are respectful and inclusive.

Responding to Adverse Behaviour

(24) Before action is taken, various sources of advice and consultation are available to help in determining both the nature and seriousness of any behaviour that is perceived to be adverse. Advice may be needed about the actions available to staff and students to resolve the issues of concern. A number of specialist units are available to assist all members of the University community, whether in Australia or offshore, to respond constructively and appropriately in instances where adverse behaviour is perceived to have occurred. They are particularly helpful where there is any uncertainty as to the appropriateness or character of the intended behaviour. They include:

  1. Equity and Diversity Unit
  2. Student Welfare Service
  3. Office of Human Resources
  4. Counselling Service
  5. Disability Service
  6. Complaints Resolution Unit
  7. International Student Advisors
  8. Student Associations
  9. Relevant line managers, or their supervisor as appropriate (for University staff)
  10. Relevant tutors, or Academic Course Coordinators, or Directors of Academic Programs, or Deans (for students)
  11. Staff Unions ( NTEU, CPSU, or elected representatives )

(25) Where people concerned about adverse behaviour feel any uncertainty about how to respond appropriately, these sources of advice should be consulted before any action is taken. This is important, since the University and other external agencies such as anti-discrimination tribunals do not consider ignorance a reasonable defence against allegations of adverse behaviour.

(26) There are a number of options available for dealing with adverse behaviour. Staff or students who feel that they are the subject of adverse behaviour, or who witness adverse behaviour by others, might:

  1. Consider telling the person or people responsible how they feel about their actions and ask that they stop the behaviour, provided that they feel comfortable doing so. Whilst this is often effective, it isn't always easy and they might like to seek advice about how to talk to the person. The assistance of a support person may be sought to be present during this conversation. These conversations should be held in private, and the person feeling aggrieved should describe their problem with the other person's behaviour instead of blaming the other person.
  2. Alternatively, if the aggrieved person would not be comfortable approaching the person or people themselves, or has already done so without successfully stopping the behaviour, they may wish to lodge a complaint. If this is the case they should refer to the University's Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy

(27) The Complaint Handling and Resolution Policy explains how the University deals with all types of complaints from staff, students and the public. It covers complaints about unfair and/or disrespectful actions or decisions, as well as complaints about bullying, discrimination harassment, vilification and victimisation. It provides the processes that are available for the resolution of complaints where no other processes exist, or where other processes, including appeals, have been exhausted.

Making a Complaint to an External Agency

(28) Members of the University community who believe the University's procedures have not produced a satisfactory resolution retain the right to lodge a complaint with an external agency, eg the Anti-Discrimination Board or the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Criminal Behaviour

(29) Where criminal behaviour such as sexual violence, physical assault, threats of violence, obscene communications or stalking has occurred or is alleged, the complaint should immediately be taken to the police.

(30) In the case of dangerous acts and threats of violence, (e.g. threat to health and safety), seek immediate assistance from Campus Security Services.

(31) Consult the After Hours Access and Safety Policy for guidance in safe practices on campus.

Potential Outcomes of Adverse Behaviour

(32) In cases where concerns about adverse behaviour arise between members of staff, independent mediation may be sought through the Office of Human Resources.

(33) The sanctions available to the University under it s misconduct policies and relevant industrial instruments are outlined in those relevant policies and industrial instruments, which are available on the University's Policy DDS (eg student misconduct, staff misconduct).

(34) It is important to remember that certain types of adverse behaviour are also unlawful and people participating in these acts may find themselves subject to legal proceedings.

(35) You will find a list of the relevant State and Federal laws on the Associated Information page for this policy. These are linked to a website where you can access the actual legislation. Information is also available on the Anti-Discrimination Board and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission websites. Links are provided on the Associated Information page.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

Supporting a Climate of Mutual Respect

(36) Developing and maintaining a working and learning environment in which mutual respect, dignity and inclusion prevail is the responsibility of every member of the University community.

(37) All members of the University community can contribute to a respectful and inclusive climate by:

  1. Assessing their own behaviour and considering how easy it can be to be an instigator as well as a target of disrespectful behaviour. Civility and respect in interactions with others tend to self-perpetuate, so that when a person treats another more respectfully it often elicits an in-kind response.
  2. Acting with an awareness and sensitivity to the ways others may perceive one's actions or words and couching them in ways that don't risk misunderstanding or offence. If in doubt, seek advice.
  3. Raising the issue of civility and respect for discussion within the workplace or learning space. Raising awareness and creating the space for people to discuss their expectations about behaviour allows for the creation of agreed group norms of behaviour.
  4. Dealing with adverse behaviour when it occurs, whether as a recipient, supervisor, colleague or friend. However it is important to first regulate the emotions of anger or defensiveness which are often the first responses to adverse behaviour. Modelling civil and appropriate behaviour when speaking to the person concerned is usually the most effective approach. Issues should always be raised in private and described in terms of the behaviour and the impact that it is having, rather then criticising and blaming the person.
  5. Showing leadership and support for principles of equity and fair treatment by undertaking training and education available in these areas, or providing it for staff and students for whom you are responsible.
  6. Using respectful language, and avoiding the use of language that stereotypes, labels or emphasises differences, for example unnecessarily mentioning a person's race, sex or ethnic background, or generalising an image of a group based on common characteristics such as physique or culture.

Avoiding Adverse Behaviour

(38) Adverse behaviour very often happens when people fail to consider the other person's position, responsibilities, work, efforts, knowledge, skills or particularly their feelings in a given situation. Taking the time to consider the perspectives of others and the context of the situation before acting will assist in avoiding adverse behaviour and create a respectful and inclusive approach. Considered approaches are also likely to be more effective ways of interacting.

(39) In many cases of harassment, discrimination, bullying or other one-off incidents of incivility or adverse behaviour, the person often 'didn't mean to offend'. It is sometimes difficult to know how one's behaviour affects others. If in doubt, pause for consideration before speaking or acting. Reflection after an event where behaviour or intent may have been misunderstood, can often assist in rectifying the situation. If in doubt, seek advice and consult the documents and specialist staff associated with this policy.

Associated Information

(40) The Associated Information page contains a listing of the key documents, policies and legislation that regulate the University's operations. The University is also subject to the general 'laws of the land' and a range of Acts dealing with registration for particular professions.

(41) The listing includes links to the key policies that relate to the issues covered in this Code of Conduct. The list is current at the time of publication but is subject to change. Existing policies are amended and new policies are added regularly. Reference should always be made to the Policy DDS website in order to access the most recent policy information.

(42) The listing of State and Federal legislation under Associated Information refers to the most frequently cited legislation in the University context, but should not be taken as a comprehensive listing of all relevant statutes. State and Commonwealth legislation can be readily accessed via a number of Australian web sites including those of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) and the NSW Parliamentary Counsel's Office. All references under Associated Information are linked.