SEXUAL HARASSMENT:
A DEMAND FOR URGENT CHANGE

UPDATE (08/11/2019): The University are looking for up to 10 student volunteers to become panel members on Student Conduct Committees. Sometimes, allegations are made that students have breached the Code of Student Conduct and the University needs to investigate and take appropriate action. Serious cases of alleged student misconduct are considered by a Student Conduct Committee.

 

The Committee is made up of a panel of Uni staff and students who consider the cases of alleged student misconduct and decide the outcome. As a panel member you might be looking at evidence, hearing from witnesses and listening to some sensitive, challenging and emotional situations, whilst ensuring you remain completely confidential.

 

To find out more and apply follow the link below:-

https://gradintel.com/index.php/en/?option=com_ogeneral&_route=attainment.activities-view&id=821

 

(25/09/2019)

Lots of work has happened over this summer. Have a look below to find out the most up to date information. For any questions, please feel free to email me at vpwelfare@essex.ac.uk.

 

(17/09/2019)

Meetings and work on Demand for Change are continuing. Resolving these issues and restoring confidence for our members remains a priority for both the SU and the University.

 

(15/08/2019)

The SU and University continue to meet fortnightly to discuss the issues which have arisen and how they can be resolved.  During these meetings, we are representing the views of students who signed the petition.  The University is working closely with us to look into ways that the views of our members can quickly be turned into actions.

 

(26/07/2019):

The University has established a working group that is meeting fortnightly to implement a detailed action plan to deliver a range of improvements to student conduct arrangements, including ensuring that the feedback given from our members is being prioritised and worked upon over the summer.

The Students’ Union has a number of representatives on the working group and is working closely with University staff to contribute to the action plan and provide feedback and input.  We will continue to work closely with the University and report back to you regularly.

 

(12/07/19):

Dear Members

We have promised to keep you up to date with our demand for change.  We have been working with the University on ensuring that they are considering our demands at every opportunity.  The University has a governance process which needs to consider these demands and how they are implemented.  As part of our roles we have been raising the demands at each opportunity. Under each point you can see what we have done so far.


The recent BBC investigation into sexual harassment has put Essex and its system for handling sexual harassment firmly in the spotlight.  

 

It has highlighted a system that is seriously failing students and on behalf of our 16,000 Students’ Union members, today we’re demanding urgent change.

Whilst efforts have been made in the past to address sexual harassment we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and say that this has not been good enough.

 

Simply raising awareness or putting out statements of support is not going to properly address this issue.  We have to fundamentally change the way we address sexual harassment and this will require dedicated and sustained action from all parts of the University community to succeed.

 

We need to demolish any existing culture of disbelief for a survivor’s story and categorically address failings that have lead to a lack of supports for students at a time when they need it most.

 

We owe it to every student that has ever been affected by sexual harassment to take this moment seriously.

 

So today, on behalf of our 16,000 members, we’re calling for urgent change.

 

Specifically we call on the University to do the following:

 

1. INTRODUCE PROPER SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS THROUGHOUT THE ‘REPORT AND SUPPORT’ PROCESS

Students must no longer be left unsupported or uninformed at any part of the process

UPDATE (25/09/2019): The University has agreed to improve the content for Report & Support, Code of Student Conduct, and Health, Safety and Wellbeing webpages in a way that better helps students to navigate between the various services.  It will include a change to the Incident Report Form that encourages students to contact SU Advice if they need help to complete the form.

The University has agreed an amendment to the online Report & Support which will allow a choice of whether the report goes to the University’s Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service (SWIS), or the Student Conduct Team, or both.  This change is in direct response to feedback obtained from SU members and users of the Report & Support service.

The University has agreed to improve the information provided to students who search for the Report & Support service online.  Examples include the role of the conduct investigator and reporting to the police.  This work is in direct response to feedback obtained from SU members and users of the Report & Support service.

We are working towards a greater link between student conduct and SWIS and SU Advice, with improved methods of communicating to each other and students.

Protocols for sharing headline casework information between staff with roles and responsibilities in student conduct procedures and report and support services will be developed, to ensure that cases are tracked, and appropriate support is in place.

Communications with students involved in the procedures will be improved so that students are clear about the process that is being followed, how they will be communicated with and when, the status of their case and what stage it is in the process, and what information they can expect to receive at the conclusion of their case.

(17/09/2019): Work has taken place over the summer, and the referral system is being finalised. 

(15/08/2019): At the meetings on 07/08/19 and 14/08/19 we have discussed and agreed on how internal processes will be more closely linked to ensure that students are supported throughout the process when reporting incidents, regardless of where they report.  Regular internal meetings are being set up, and a referral system will be put in place.

(26/07/2019): At our next meeting we will be discussing ways to achieve a more joined up approach to supporting students through the support and report process.  Student support are currently seeking further feedback from survivors on their experience (if they wish to do so) and wish to take into account their experiences in creating the architecture of a system that works for them.  Students who wish to be involved should contact wellbe@essex.ac.uk


(12/07/19): The University are currently working towards gathering experience of survivors (if they want to be involved) to gain feedback/lived experience of how support had been for them (wellbe@essex.ac.uk). We are undertaking discussions on what support looks like from the beginning to the end of the process for students who report.

 

2. URGENTLY UNDERTAKE A DETAILED REVIEW OF THE EXPERIENCE OF STUDENTS AFFECTED BY SEXUAL HARASSMENT

As a Students’ Union we called for this action to be taken in May this year – now demand that this must be acted upon urgently

UPDATE (25/09/2019): The work that has been undertaken to date has been informed by the experiences that students have shared. SWIS are still seeking further feedback from survivors on their experience (if they wish to do so). This is something that as an SU we are still working on, as we wish to represent our student's views as accurately as possible.

(17/09/2019): A joint approach to working was discussed at the previous meeting, and a way forward was agreed. We are continuing to support Student Support in gather feedback from surviviors on their experience.

(26/07/2019): At our next meeting we will be discussing ways to achieve a more joined up approach to supporting students through the support and report process.  Student support are currently seeking further feedback from survivors on their experience (if they wish to do so) and wish to take into account their experiences in creating the architecture of a system that works for them.  Students who wish to be involved should contact wellbe@essex.ac.uk

(12/07/19): The University are currently working towards gathering experience of survivors (if they want to be involved) to gain feedback/lived experience of how support had been for them (wellbe@essex.ac.uk). We are undertaking discussions on what support looks like from the beginning to the end of the process for students who report.

3. ALL INVESTIGATIONS INTO SEXUAL HARASSMENT MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 60 DAYS

Currently only 80% of complaints are resolved within the timescale recommended by the Independent Adjudicator – this needs to be 100%

UPDATE (25/09/2019): The proposed new Code will adopt a new timescale of 40 working days (60 calendar days) to conclude a complaint and a further 30 calendar days to conclude any appeal.  The new Code will reference working days rather than calendar days, in line with University practice, and will treat these new timescales as maximum time-limits rather than targets.  Noting that there may be instances where a case will need to exceed the time limit, these will be referred to the decision maker, with a detailed explanation and a new timeframe agreed, which will then be communicated to the people involved in the case.  The University’s performance against these timescales will also be reported through anonymised data, in order to ensure that they are sticking to their timescales.

 

(15/08/2019 - 17/09/2019): We are confident that the additional resources will mean that cases are dealt with within the timescales suggested, we will continue to work closely with the University to review this during the upcoming academic year. Recruitment for the post is currently live.

(12/07/19): A new full time permanent Proctor role has been created and is currently live on the University webpage.  From September 2019 the current Proctor role will increase to full time. This considerably increases resources.

4. INTRODUCE TRANSPARENT REPORTING OF ACTION TAKEN IN RESPONSE TO REPORTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The University must report regularly to students on the number of cases, the length of time these have taken and summaries of actions taken

UPDATE (25/09/2019): As part of their ongoing work this year, the Uni will be developing ways to make use of anonymised data to increase transparency on webpages, and to build some example anonymous case studies which demonstrate action taken and lessons learnt.

(26/07/19 - 17/09/2019): The University’s Senate and Council will receive a termly report which will be published online so that students can access this.

(12/07/19): University Council are meeting to discuss the demands.

5. INTRODUCE COMPULSORY CONSENT AND BYSTANDER TRAINING FOR ALL UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX STUDENTS

Online training modules are not enough. These sessions have to be in person and must happen in the first week of the new academic year

UPDATE (25/09/19): A programme of consent and bystander training for students has been agreed for introduction in 2019-20 AY. Training will be compulsory for ALL STUDENTS.                      

(17/09/19): Dates are being agreed with the University and training will be rolled out from the start of term 1.                                                  

(15/08/2019): We are working with the University to discuss how the training can be delivered and how to ensure attendance by students.

(26/07/2019): In order to fulfil this demand, the University is currently consulting external training providers with a view to deliver training at the start of term

(12/07/19): The University are looking at the options around this and will update at our next meeting.

6. INTRODUCE COMPULSORY SEXUAL HARASSMENT RESPONSE TRAINING FOR ALL FRONTLINE STAFF AND PERSONAL TUTORS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX  

Before the start of the new academic year, all members of staff in student-facing positions must be properly trained on how to respond to reports of sexual harassment and provide support to students in these circumstances

UPDATE (25/09/19): Guidance has been developed to support staff in student facing frontline roles with how to respond to reports of incidences that fall under the University’s Zero Tolerance Policy. This includes sexual harassment, violence and hate crime. This guidance will be provided to these staff ahead of the start of the new academic year. Further training is also being developed to support this group.

Access to resources to support broader staff awareness will be included in the University’s new ‘How we work at Essex’ essential training which is compulsory for all staff.     


(17/09/2019): Discussions are ongoing with the University as to how and when training will take place.

(15/08/2019): We are working with the University to discuss how the training can be delivered and how to ensure attendance by all relevant staff. 

(26/07/19): In order to fulfil this demand, the University is currently consulting external training providers with a view to deliver training at the start of term.

(12/07/19): Meeting to be set up with colleagues in the University to look at this.

7. ALL OF THE SERVICES THAT OFFER REPORTING OR SUPPORT RELATING TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT MUST BE PROPERLY COMMUNICATED TO STUDENTS

From the start of the new academic year, support services such as Student Support or SU Advice can no longer be hidden away or not clearly visible to students that need to access them

UPDATE (25/09/2019): The new Code of Student Conduct has been drafted to improve clarity and understanding.  Language has been simplified, and the document has been restructured to improve navigation.  A flow chart and a glossary of terms has been added to aid understanding.  In response to student feedback, more detail and greater visibility is now given to the section on support.

(26/07/2019 - 17/09/2019): The University is currently working with the SU on how to improve communication of services available to students.

(12/07/19): Meeting to be set up with SU and colleagues in the University to discuss this.

8. ESTABLISH A SINGLE PROCESS BETWEEN THE UNIVERSITY AND THE STUDENTS’ UNION FOR MANAGING INCIDENTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Immediate changes are needed as the current two-tier system is disjointed and confused and leaves students lost and unsupported

UPDATE (25/09/2019): When complaints are received by the Students’ Union that could relate to a breach of a regulation that falls under the University’s zero tolerance policy, the case will be referred directly to the University, to be dealt with under the Code of Student Conduct. 

(15/08/2019 - 17/09/2019): We are working towards how this system will work, how we train our staff and what needs to take place to ensure that this works. We are in the process of drafting a document which explains what we do and how, and what policies/procedures need to be updated to reflect this.

(26/07/2019): We are still working on this. 

(12/07/19): We are working with the University to seek sector wide guidance/good practice to identify how other SU’s and Uni’s work on this and to use this information to inform our processes going forward.

9. PRIORITISE CASES OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

The University owes it to those affected to prioritise cases of sexual harassment over minor student conduct or academic issues

UPDATE (25/09/2019): The proposed new Code includes a set of revised regulations to align with the behaviours that fall under the Zero Tolerance Policy.  This will include a specific regulation relating to sexual misconduct. Any breach of these regulations will be considered to be serious and following investigation will be referred for a decision on whether to convene a Student Conduct Committee. 

The Student Conduct Team will be adapting their operating procedures in order that they are able to identify and prioritise cases in accordance with the circumstances of each case.

The proposed new Code includes a new Early Resolution procedure which seeks to deal with minor and straightforward cases in a quicker and more streamlined way.  This will free-up capacity for the Student Conduct Team to focus on more serious cases.


(17/09/2019): The University has reviewed their operational practices.                                                                                                                         

(26/07/2019): As part of the work taking place currently, the University is working with the SU to review their operational practices.

(12/07/19): The University prioritises serious cases and with the introduction of additional resource will be reviewing their operating practise to ensure this continues. 

10. RECOGNISE THAT THE UNI IS GROWING QUICKLY AND SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS NEEDS TO GROW WITH IT

Additional support cannot afford to be a short-term fix: it must continue to grow in order to keep pace with Essex’s growing student population

UPDATE (25/09/2019): Additional support was secured to increase the capacity of the Conduct Investigator Team.  This includes the increase of the existing Conduct Investigator from term-time only to full-time, and the addition of a new full-time permanent Conduct Investigator for which recruitment is underway.

(26/07/19 - 17/09/2019): The University is increasing resources and prioritising the work needed to ensure students are properly supported and have confidence in the systems and processes in place.

(12/07/19): University Council are meeting to discuss the demands.


It is critical that all of the above actions must be applied equally to all three University of Essex campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton – this is an issue that affects all students equally and no campus should be unfairly prioritised.

 

As the Students’ Union we also need to look at our own services and the actions we can take as an organisation to properly address the issue of sexual harassment.

 

So today we commit to delivering the following by October 2019, ready for the start of the 19/20 academic year:

 

1. TO INTRODUCE COMPULSORY SEXUAL HARASSMENT RESPONSE AND BYSTANDER TRAINING FOR ALL FRONTLINE STUDENTS’ UNION STAFF

To include all staff working in SU bars and venues (including door staff), SU reception, SU Advice, and Sports and Societies  

UPDATE (30/09/2019): First training took place last week. More training scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday this week!
(26/09/2019): First training is taking place today at 11:30.
(17/09/2019): Training will take place in Sept/Oct, prior to the start of term, ensuring that all frontline SU staff will have been trained. 
(15/08/2019): Essex Police have offered to deliver bespoke training for us on sexual harassment response, bystander training and consent.  We are in the process of setting up times and date to ensure that all our staff receive the training

(26/07/2019) We are gathering together lots of information and ideas on how we implement this.  Many of our staff have already undertaken some of the training already.

(12/07/19): Meeting set up to look at this (Tuesday 16th July)

 

2. TO UNDERTAKE AN ORGANISATION-WIDE REVIEW OF THE STUDENTS’ UNION’S PROCESSES FOR HANDLING REPORTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

This must lead to the introduction of a new, more efficient system that links directly to the university’s system, ready for the start of Term 1

UPDATE (26/09/2019): We have developed our new system that links directly to the university system. Internal procedures have been issued to relevant staff who will also be delivering training on this. 

(15/08/2019 - 17/09/2019): We have reviewed our processes for handling reports of sexual harassment and are in the process of drafting a document which explains what we need to do and how.  We will deliver training to all our staff on or revised processes.

(26/07/2019) We are undertaking a review of what already exists within the SU for how we handle reports of sexual harassment.  We are also contacting colleagues at other institutions to find out how other organisations work together and will use this to develop our own services.

(12/07/19): Meeting set up to look at this (Tuesday 16th July)

 

3. INTRODUCE CONSENT TRAINING FOR CLUB AND SOCIETY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

To ensure that all activities and events run by our clubs our societies fit within a framework of respect

UPDATE (26/09/2019): Training will be delivered to SU club and societies executive committee members on Tuesday and Thursday next week.
(17/09/2019): Training will take place in Sept/Oct, prior to the start of term, ensuring that all relevant SU club and society executive committee members will have been trained.     
(15/08/2019): Essex Police have offered to deliver bespoke training for us on sexual harassment response, bystander training and consent.  We are in the process of setting up times and date to ensure that all our club and society execs receive the training.  Although we have agreed to deliver consent training we feel it would be beneficial to offer the same training that we are giving to our staff.

(26/07/2019) Following our meeting on 16th July the first step we are taking is to review our current training in clubs and societies.

(12/07/19): Meeting set up to look at this (Tuesday 16th July)

 

4. UPDATE MEMBERS ON PROGRESS WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE ACTIONS

In keeping with our ‘no bullshit’ philosophy, we will publish all of these commitments on the SU website and report progress in an open, transparent open way so that our members can hold us accountable.

 

These demands are being made by the Students' Union Sabbatical Officer Teams of 2018/19 and 2019/20, on behalf of our 16,000 SU members. 

 

UPDATE (30/09/2019)
(26/09/2019)
(17/09/2019)
(15/08/2019)
(26/07/2019)
(12/07/2019)