SEXUAL HARASSMENT:
A DEMAND FOR URGENT CHANGE

UPDATE (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.

 

It is totally unacceptable that complaints of sexual harassment can take several months to be investigated, leaving students that have been directly affected to suffer enormously.

 

The toll this has taken on the students affected cannot be overestimated and cannot be undone.

 

It is not acceptable that students are confused over who they should go to at such an extreme moment of need.   Nor is it fair that students who have reported incidents of sexual harassment have been left unsupported due to a lack of training for staff in how to handle these situations.

 

This leaves those affected feeling unsupported or not believed at a potentially defining moment in their life.

 

To add to this confusion there are currently separate reporting and investigation processes for the University and the Students’ Union, which can lead to incidents effectively being investigated multiple times by different bodies with confusing outcomes.

 

And to add insult to injury, the current system has little or no accountability, making it impossible for anyone within the university community, especially those directly affected, to see whether complaints have been acted upon and what the outcome has been.

 

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 (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 (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 (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 (26/07/19): 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 (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 (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 (26/07/2019): 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 (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 (26/07/2019): As part of the work taking place over the summer, 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 (26/07/19): 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 (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 (26/07/2019) 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 (26/07/2019) 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 (26/07/2019)
More updates to follow.

(12/07/19)

 

Who have we spoken to in the Uni / Where are we in the process

When

What was discussed

Next Action

Welcome 2019 Optional Programme

Tuesday 12th June

Consent and bystander workshops being requested as part of freshers/term 1 activities

 

Professional Service Group (PSG)

Tuesday 19th June

Accepted the demands

 

University Steering Group (USG)

Tuesday 25th June 2019

USG accepted demands

 

Safeguarding Group (SAG)

Tuesday 18th June

The demands made by the SU would be looked at by University Council/Senate at their next meeting.  The University would be looking at where reporting of cases would happen

Await response from Council

Tackling Sexual Violence Steering Group

Monday 24th June

Discussed the demands made from the University and particularly the consent training.  Awareness of the demands being sent to University Council/Senate

Await response from Council

Welcome Planning Meeting

Tuesday 2nd July

Noted that consent training needed to

be face to face

Await response from Council

Senate

Wednesday 3rd July

Paper passed to Council

Await response from Council

Representatives from Student Wellbeing  SWIS Team

Thursday 11th July

Discussions on possible implementation of different aspects of paper

Await response from Council.

Representative of Progress Team and representative of student support

Thursday 11th July

Updates on aspects of paper

Next meeting set up

Senior University staff, uncluding Registrar and Secretary

Tuesday 23rd July

Action plan put in place

Start to work on actions. Meeting scheduled fortnightly.