At the end of the 2018/19 academic year, our students demanded for the University (Uni) to take a stand against sexual harassment and violence.
The Students’ Union (SU) and the student body created a list of demands to ensure students are treated fairly during the process, to build a better culture on our campuses and to restore confidence in the process we delivered these demands to the Uni. Following on from this, the SU set up a Demand For Change petition, which had over 1,100 signatures.
The SU petition demanded that the Uni make urgent and fundamental changes to the way that complaints of sexual harassment are dealt with, and has continued to actively drive the work of the Uni during the summer to make sure that these demands are met.
The SU website has been updated with the progress made, but I wanted to give you a heads up and the top lines about what’s been going on, the work involved and where we are now.
The Uni has pledged that it will take less time for them to deal with cases and that they will have more staff in place to meet the demand. A new Conduct Investigator will be appointed and I will be part of the interview panel. The Uni will regularly report to students the number of cases, length of time these have taken and summaries of actions taken.
In order for people to feel confident in the process and to embed a new culture across our community, all students are expected to attend compulsory consent training. Also, Uni and SU staff will be completing bystander, consent and first responder training.
The Uni is currently in the process of overhauling the webpages in relation to conduct, report and support and health and wellbeing. As part of this they’re making sure that it’s user friendly, has flowcharts, explanations and helps people to understand what happens and when. A new student code of conduct is being published imminently, which should help students understand what behaviour is expected from them..
They’ve also set up systems so students are better linked with SU Advice. When students report issues, they can chose where it goes to, conduct or wellbeing, and will be kept in the loop by the Uni throughout the process. They will know what is happening, who does what, when and how they will be contacted. Plus, cases of sexual harassment will be prioritised.
The Uni is working towards delivering on our demands, but there is always room for improvement. The SU will continue to monitor and follow what is happening and represent you at every step, to ensure that the Uni will be meeting all of your demands.
I understand that there is more work to be done, and the SU needs your feedback throughout the year whilst the new processes are being embedded, to ensure that they work. If you want to know more, have a look at the website, www.essex.su/demandchange. It has been updated regularly during the summer and these updates will continue throughout the year.
VP Community and Welfare