Medical Students for Choice is committed to the safety of our members. On occasion, an MSFC member or chapter may experience threats or harassment due to the controversial nature of our work. If you or your chapter receives any harassment, please notify MSFC HQ as soon as possible so we can help you navigate next steps.
Threats: Threats can come in physical, verbal, or written form. Any communication is deemed a “threat” if a reasonable person would interpret the communication as an intention to create the fear of bodily harm. Threats are a rare experience for MSFC chapters but should be taken seriously if they occur.
Harassment: Harassment by mail, email, or in person is the most common type of potential safety issue faced by our chapter leaders. Harassment can include threats, but are most often communications or actions that hinder your efforts by forcing you to turn your energies elsewhere. Examples of harassment include:
- Tearing down or defacing flyers posted to inform your fellow students of an MSFC-sponsored event or meeting.
- Nasty emails on your chapter’s listserv or personally to chapter members.
- Verbal argumentative behavior at an MSFC event (heckling).
Guidelines for Responding to Threats or Harassment
Document the Incident
It is important that you keep a careful record of any incident involving threats or harassment to establish a pattern for future consideration by your school’s administration or security office.
- If the incident occurs at a meeting or event, have those MSFC members who witnessed the incident write up a description of the event and save the reports for campus security. Include the name of the person causing the problem, the general content of the threat or harassing comment, and any other elements of the incident (such as the number of persons involved) that may inform an assessment of the seriousness of the incident.
- If the incident is by online or written communication, save the harassing or threatening message and show it to campus security.
Alert Campus Authorities to the Problem
Once you have documented the incident, you should discuss it with campus authorities, including the student affairs office, and the dean of students. There are two reasons for this:
- It ensures that there is a record of the incident if additional incidents occur and an official response is appropriate.
- It provides context if an incident of harassment escalates to a threatening situation.
Most schools have professionalism standards to which their students must adhere. Behaviors by anti-choice students can often be addressed in the framework of these standards.
Alert your Chapter Members to the Incident
Because any of your chapter members may be exposed to threats or harassment from the same group or individual, officially informing chapter members of the incident is important.
Notify MSFC Headquarters
We are here to support you.
Special Note on Picketing: Picketing is a legally protected activity in most countries where MSFC is active and is not considered to be either a threat or harassment. There are legal parameters around picketing activity in some cities, however, so it would be useful for you to be aware of any “bubble zone” legislation in your town or city that requires picketers to maintain a certain distance. Picketers must generally stay on public property, so they may not be permitted to picket on your campus.