Omar’s case: An Informal Resolution in Halls
Omar, an undergraduate student, arranged to meet with one of the Harassment Advisers after a number of upsetting incidents had occurred in his residence. Omar is a Muslim student who does not drink alcohol and prefers to avoid some social activities where alcohol is present on campus and in halls. A small group of students on his corridor had started to comment on this and make unpleasant remarks about extremists and terrorism in his presence, which he felt was targeted at him. It went on for over three months and was making him feel anxious about going back to his hall, he often avoided contact with others whilst there and he was starting to feel quite isolated.
Is this harassment?
Omar felt that the comments made were racist, demeaning and ridiculing; the on-going and persistent nature of these remarks and actions subsequently led him to feel bullied. Abusive or insulting words or comments, particularly on the grounds of race, religion or belief, fall under the definitions of harassment. This incident may also be identified as involving micro-aggressions: “Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.” (D.W. Sue 2010)
What did Omar do?
Omar was unsure who to contact as the incidents had occurred in halls and he had not found anyone else he felt comfortable approaching. He decided to contact a harassment adviser to raise his concerns. The harassment adviser met with the student on campus for a confidential one-hour meeting. After listening carefully to Omar, the harassment adviser offered various options that included:
- Asking the student if they were comfortable talking to the offenders themselves and explaining how hurtful the behavior was and how they would prefer it to change
- Raising the concerns with the Residences Manager
- Considering if the student would be willing to raise the concern with an academic member of staff in her department, who might be able to talk to both students to reach an informal resolution
- Considering if Omar would want to make a formal complaint against the other student to seek formal action
- Asking the harassment adviser to talk to the Residence Manager about the issues and consider holding a briefing session for all students at the residence about harassment and bullying. The student found talking through the issues very helpful and went away to consider the options.
What happened next?
After a week Omar got back to the harassment adviser stating that they had contacted their Residences Manager to raise their concerns. The Residences Manager agreed to have a quick and informal chat with the students about their behavior. The Adviser had agreed to have a very quick and informal chat with the students.
How was Omar supported?
After raising his concern, Omar was supported by both the harassment adviser and the Residences Manager to seek a resolution. The harassment adviser was able to provide Omar with a range of options and checked up on him to see whether he required any further support or advice to pursue the resolution he felt best fit. The Residences Manager was able to act as a mediator to help informally resolve the situation.
What was the outcome?
Following the informal chat mediated by the Residences Manager about the offender’s behavior and how it was impacting Omar, things had greatly improved and there were no more instances of inappropriate behavior or comments.