The Round Complaints Policy

The Round is a small club, and generally we are lucky in that the majority of our dancers are kind, considerate and happy to be corrected. Because of that we hope that if a situation does occur when a member of the club is unhappy or uncomfortable, we will be able to resolve matters quickly and informally. However, it can be hard to raise issues if it is not clear what is likely to happen. This policy sets out how complaints will be handled by the club.

In general, the Round will aim to

  1. Work with the person with the complaint, to try to resolve their problem in a way they are comfortable with.
  2. Ensure that the person complained against does not feel they are punished or excluded without being given a full explanation of the complaint, a fair warning and an opportunity to change.
  3. Make sure all formal complaints are dealt with transparently.
  4. Put the safety of club members at the heart of our decision making.

This policy aims to cover issues that may arise during the routine running of a folk dance club. It could be applied to behaviour by one club member that makes another feel uncomfortable, to inappropriate language by club members that is upsetting or distressing, or to breaches of the club etiquette guide. Any major issues, such as criminal acts, are outside the scope of this policy. If a major issue arises, it is recommended the committee call an emergency meeting and work with the university and police.

It is expected that generally, if a club member has a problem, an informal complaint will be raised first, and then a formal complaint can be made if the issue has not been resolved and needs to be escalated. However, there may be circumstances where the nature of the complaint means that the complainant wishes to immediately make a formal complaint.

Informal complaints

An informal complaint:

  1. Provides a channel where people can raise issues in confidence with the committee, which can be passed on in the hope this will resolve the issue.
  2. Provides an opportunity for the committee to talk to the complainant, and offer support and advice.
  3. Raises the committee’s awareness of the problem, so they can be observant in case things do escalate to a formal complaint.

The process for an informal complaint:

The complainant should contact the committee and explain their problem. This can be an email to the full committee, or more privately to one of the named committee members. If the person complained about is on the committee, the rest of the committee should act to preserve the anonymity of the complainant as much as is reasonable.

The committee should identify someone who can lead on resolving the informal complaint. This would usually be the person the complainant first contacted

The lead should talk to the complainant about what they would like to happen. These wishes should be met if they seem reasonable and proportional. The complainant should be clear whether they wish to remain anonymous. The committee should say that at this stage they are happy to pass things on, such as ‘someone has said that you did $thing which made them feel uncomfortable’ in the hope that it will resolve issues quickly, but they are not at a point where they are taking a committee position on what has happened – although they can say ‘if that happened, it is unacceptable’.

Usually, the response should be that the lead on the complaint has a quiet word with the person complained about. This should be, as much as possible, in person and not in front of other club members — asking someone out to the corridor in the break may be appropriate. The response should try to focus on talking about behaviours, and how they make others feel, not whether there was bad intent — for example ‘someone has said it makes them feel uncomfortable when you keep your arm around their shoulders for a long time after the music has finished’ rather than ‘someone has complained that your behaviour is creepy’, or ‘someone has said it makes them feel criticised when you say ‘no, don’t do that, stupid dancers’’ not ‘someone has complained you are a bully when calling’. During this conversation the lead should be clear that this is an informal chat, and that they really hope that things will be resolved if the person complained about can make changes. Ideally, the lead will have constructive and specific changes they can suggest.

If the person complained about says that they do not acknowledge there is a problem, the response should be that this is only an informal conversation, and that the committee does not involve itself in conflict resolution unless a formal complaint is made.

A few weeks after the complaint was made, the lead should contact the complainant and check if they are happy with the way their complaint was dealt with, and see if things have improved. They should discuss the options for formal complaints if this is appropriate.

Formal complaints

Formal complaints should be very rare, and the process may need to be tailored to the situation. However, the following should be an approximate guide:

As formal complaints may lead to formal warnings, and potentially to a ban from the club, it is generally the case that these should not be made anonymously. It is a small club, and in such a situation rumours and gossip can cause more harm than transparency. Also, while our sympathy is always with the victims, it is hard to resolve a situation if you cannot talk about the specifics of what has happened.

The complainant should contact the committee and explain their problem, and that they wish to make a formal complaint. If the formal complaint follows an informal complaint, which will be usual, then it is helpful to have a reminder of what happened previously, and whether there was any change after the informal complaint,

The committee should identify someone who can lead on resolving the formal complaint. This may usually be the person who led on the informal complaint.

The lead should talk to

  1. The complainant — to understand what they say happened, what has happened since the informal complaint (if a previous informal complaint was made), and how they would now like to see things resolved.
  2. The person complained about — to understand if they agree that what the complainant says happened happened, whether they have tried to do things differently since the informal complaint (if a previous informal complaint was made), and how they think things could be resolved.
  3. The wider club membership — if there are contradictory stories, to see if there is corroborating evidence of inappropriate behaviour.

The lead should present their summary to the committee, stating what they think has happened and what appropriate next steps could be. A majority of the committee should decide whether the complaint is upheld or not, and approve the way forward. If the committee does not uphold the complaint the outcome should still be communicated clearly to all concerned

Possible options for next steps if the complaint is upheld include:

  • The person complained about is given a formal warning, and told that if another formal complaint is made more severe action will be taken.
  • The person complained about is asked to refrain from specific behaviour or using particular language. This is documented. If they do not refrain from this behaviour, it is made clear that the committee will meet again and more severe sanctions may be imposed..
  • The person complained against is asked to apologise to the person who complained..
  • The person complained about is asked to avoid interacting with the person who complained (for example, asking them to dance, or sending them emails).
  • The person complained about is told they cannot take certain roles in the society (eg calling).
  • The person complained about is asked to leave the society, either for a time limited period or indefinitely..

The lead should contact the complainant and the person complained about to communicate the committee’s decision.