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Equality & Diversity Office

Draft policies for consultation

External Invitations Policy

The following “External Invitations” policy was first discussed at Equality Committee in May 2006. It was agreed that the policy should be made available for a general consultation. A second draft is currently under development.

All students and staff are welcome to consider the policy, if you have any comments please send them to the Diversity Advisor (diversity@soas.ac.uk)

Report from Diversity Advisor, Deb Viney -  May 2006
Topic: External Invitations policy

In early May a small incident occurred in one of the School’s Faculties: an invitation was received from an external organisation inviting SOAS students on a trip to the Middle East. The invitation was circulated to the faculty members and it was only when a member of staff queried why only male students between certain ages were invited, that it was recognised that there could be one or more equality issues attached to such invitations.

Having obtained advice from the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission, the School has become aware that, if such invitations are circulated in future, the School could be liable under one or more of the various pieces of diversity legislation and could face a substantial fine or other outcome.

In order to reduce this risk, the attached policy has been drafted and is presented to the Equality Committee for consideration.

It is proposed that the policy (including any revisions requested by EC) will then be circulated to all staff for a period of consultation. If a further draft is necessary it will be returned to EC in the Autumn Term, before being referred to the ACAS / SOAS policies process for formal ratification.

Draft 1 – 16th May 2006 Author: Diversity Advisor, Deb Viney
Draft policy on external invitations sent to the School concerning potential activities which could be offered to students or staff

Following advice from the Equal Opportunities Commission, in situations where the School receives an offer from an external organisation or an individual regarding an activity which might be offered to some or all SOAS students or staff, that offer will only be passed on to the wider School community if it is open to everyone regardless of any of the diversity issues identified in UK law. i.e. Currently people of any age group; people who have a disability and those who do not; and people of any gender, race / ethnicity, religion or belief / non-belief, sexual orientation or sexual identity.

The offer might be limited on some other grounds, such as only being open to students / staff of a particular course or Faculty, which would not be problematic.

The only exception to this general principal is that an opportunity may be offered to one sub-group of disabled people (e.g. only to students with a visual impairment, or only to staff who have chronic medical conditions) because positive discrimination on grounds of disability is acceptable under the law in certain circumstances. [Note: this clause is based on advice from the Disability Rights Commission].

In cases where the criterion of universal availability cannot be met, the School will respond politely to say that it is unable to pass on the offer because to do so might expose the School to some risk of litigation under the UK diversity and / or civil rights legislation and that if the provider is prepared to broaden their criteria to meet the legal requirements the School will be able to re-consider whether to circulate the offer to students and / or staff.