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Department of Sociology

 

Research by The 1752 Group has identified that many institutions appear to be “making it up as they go along” when responding to complaints of staff sexual misconduct.

Speaking to Wonkhe, Co-founders Dr Anna Bull and Dr Tiffany Page said “When students attempted to report their experiences they found that there was no documented process being followed or communicated with them, and this led to inadequate responses, a lack of just outcomes, and serious adverse consequences for the complainants.”

Launched yesterday, The 1752 Group has developed new sector guidance to address staff sexual misconduct in UK higher education, including recommendations for reporting, investigation and decision-making procedures relating to student complaints.

The key principles that motivate the guidance is that disciplinary processes must be modified to ensure they are fair, and award equal rights to complainants and respondents.

The guidance builds on prior research by the 1752 group and falls against a backdrop of just three universities in the UK that prohibit romantic and sexual relationships between lecturers and their students: UCL, Greenwich and Roehampton.

University College London (UCL) became the first Russell Group university to introduce such a ban in February 2020. The ban follows in the footsteps of policies in place in place at Ivy League universities in the US, such as Princeton, Harvard and Yale.

The aim of UCL’s new personal relationships policy is to protect against potential abuses of power and conflicts of interest, as well as developing a safe learning environment built on trust.

The need to review institutional responses to sexual harassment has been thrown into particular relief in Cambridge by the ongoing situation at Trinity Hall College. Detailed reporting on three serious cases of alleged sexual assault at the College was published by Tortoise last month, prompting both the master and senior bursar of the College to step back from their roles while internal reviews into management procedures take place.

In comments to the Guardian, Page added: “The spotlight needs to be shined on Cambridge colleges, which have so far managed to escape investigation into their treatment of students and accountability for preventing sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination against their students.”

Trinity Hall is currently conducting reviews on both governance as well as disciplinary, harassment and other associated processes, in order to consider any deficiencies in their procedures. The reviews are due for presentation in October 2020.

About

The 1752 Group is a UK-based research and lobby organisation working to end sexual misconduct in higher education through research and national conversation.

1752group.com | @1752group


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