Sexual Harassment - A ZERO Tolerance Approach

Wednesday 08-02-2017 - 11:15

My name is Harry Sampson and I am your Student Union President. Today I’ll be updating you briefly on #Respect and the ZERO tolerance approach to sexual harassment in the University and Student Union. For more specific details, please attend one of our sessions, come visit me in the office, email us or wait for the video coming out next week!

Anyway, let’s not pussyfoot around the issue at hand. A good portion of you will remember a Guardian article that appeared last year.

This was, to put it bluntly, not good. I felt horrible at hearing the news, like many of you, and I started to hear many different views and opinions from students for weeks afterwards. I wasn’t happy to hear about it over Facebook in a national newspaper article, but I was even less happy to see that it had happened in the first place.

The only upside to this event was the almost simultaneous appearance of a report from Universities UK. It examined violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting University students. Essentially, this is an update to the frankly outdated Zellick guidelines from the nineties. A follow up report to this more specifically following lecturer-to-student and student-lecturer harassment is coming out soon as well.

You can find the UUK report here:

It makes for encouraging reading, and has informed many of the positive steps we have taken thus far to create an institution-wide tackling of the #Respect issues. The case studies are particularly good examples of best practice.

To quickly summarise some of the progress that is being made as a result of this UUK report and the University & Student Union working together include:

  • Education and Awareness (consent and sexual-related abuse events/discussions for the new academic year)
  • Bystander Initiative Training
  • Anonymous Reporting System
  • Looking into, carefully, limited anonymous marking
  • Respect Contacts – specially trained to deal with these issues and including a Student Union contact.
  • A hard focus on total zero tolerance to sexual harassment and other consent issues in the SU, as many will see around the venue and in greatly lengthened punishment for perpetrators
  • A new part of the SU website, including a very helpful video on consent:

This is just a taste of the changes that are coming in. So far, it all comes under the overall banner of #Respect. We toyed with a more catchy name, but felt that we wanted to state it simply and sensibly so that all could understand what we are aiming for.

Not a witch hunt. Not a University of unhealthy suspicion and mistrust.

Instead, a culture of #Respect across campus and applicable to all.

Sound wide-ranging at all? Good. This campaign was in the pipeline even before I took office. This was not originally, and is not entirely now, just about sexual harassment. It also aims to cover consent, abuse, discrimination of all kinds (including transphobia, etc.) and many more.

I believe even one single incident of discrimination and harassment is a plague on our campus. This is why your Student Union and the University have worked together to provide positive changes. Included in this #Respect banner are education and awareness (the softer approach) as well as a streamlined and more accessible process for redress of issues (the firmer approach). All bases are going to be covered.

It was never and will never be my desire to come to you immediately after a situation with no answers and no solutions. This is why we have waited for concrete steps towards the #Respect project, including evidence of progress towards zero tolerance of sexual harassment.

Where we have been accused of standing by and doing nothing, we have instead been making changes behind the scenes for your benefit. Now is the time we have chosen to tell you all about it in more detail.

On Friday, Cole and I will be filming a video, essentially summing up the progress made so far for the benefit of those who were unable to make the sessions this week. It will provide more concrete detail than I can achieve in a few-hundred word article.

A lot of this could be seen as vague, but I wanted to write down in a brief article some of the changes you can be looking forward to. For more specific details, please come to one of the sessions, email me or wait for the video me and Cole are doing that will be out next week.

#Respect for All

P.S. The article image will be changed as soon as we have an image of Cole & Myself against the above background.


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