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Tackling harassment and sexual misconduct – Bath Spa University

Content warning: This page contains explicit reference to sexual violence and rape. It does include advice and how to access help.

How are we tackling harassment and sexual misconduct to make Bath Spa University a safer community?

This document details the University’s response to the Office for Students’ statement of expectations for preventing and addressing harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students in higher education. It summarises the actions in place by September 2021, and outlines the further work planned for 2021/22.

Expectation 1

Higher education providers should clearly communicate, and embed across the whole organisation, their approach to preventing and responding to all forms of harassment and sexual misconduct affecting students. They should set out clearly the expectations that they have of students, staff and visitors.

Our response to Expectation 1

The University’s approach to tackling harassment and sexual misconduct is led by a group of senior staff, including the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Experience, the University Secretary, Director of HR, Head of Student Wellbeing Services, Head of Marketing and Communications, and the CEO of the Students’ Union. The group reports to the Senior Leadership Group.

The University is working in partnership with the Students’ Union to develop and embed a new approach to tackling harassment and sexual misconduct. This includes new procedures for staff and students, additional specialist staff resource, and delivery of training and guidance for staff and students.

The University publishes the following, which includes statements of the University’s expectations, which are also communicated to students in induction activities and at registration, as part of agreeing to the University’s terms and conditions of study:

Engagement in sexual activity without consent is published as a specific example of misconduct, and the above procedures set out how such reports can be made. In addition to these existing policies and procedures, consent training is included in the induction activities from September 2021, alongside a new Sexual Violence and Misconduct Procedure for Students and a Sexual Violence and Misconduct Procedure for Staff.

Expectation 2

Governing bodies should ensure that the provider’s approach to harassment and sexual misconduct is adequate and effective. They should ensure that risks relating to these issues are identified and effectively mitigated.

Our response to Expectation 2

The University’s working group of senior staff that is responsible for tackling issues of harassment and sexual misconduct reports to the University’s Senior Leadership Group, and provides updates to the Board of Governors. An annual report on complaints and disciplinary action is seen by the University’s Academic Board and notable instances are reported to the Board of Governors as part of the Vice-Chancellor’s report. Student wellbeing issues are regularly discussed within Board Awareness Sessions.

From 2021/22, a more detailed report and evaluation of harassment and sexual misconduct reports will be provided to Academic Board and the Board of Governors.

Expectation 3

Higher education providers should appropriately engage with students to develop and evaluate systems, policies and processes to address harassment and sexual misconduct.

Our response to Expectation 3

A Student Advisory Group has been established to work alongside the University’s working group. The group includes SU Sabbatical Officers, equality and academic representatives, and senior SU staff representatives, alongside students who identify as victim-survivors, to ensure diverse representation. The group also includes staff from Student Wellbeing Services in order to ensure appropriate support and safeguards are in place. The student group has reviewed draft documentation on policies and procedures, and provided feedback on communications and reporting and referral mechanisms.

During 2021, the University also commissioned specialist external agencies to facilitate engagement with staff and students in order to explore these issues appropriately.

Expectation 4

Higher education providers should implement adequate and effective staff and student training with the purpose of raising awareness of, and preventing, harassment and sexual misconduct.

Our response to Expectation 4

We have developed a training plan, recognizing the different needs of staff and students. A two day workshop, facilitated by a specialist external agency, was held in 2021 for senior staff including the Vice-Chancellor to help identify key actions needed to better tackle harassment and sexual misconduct. A training workshop was also organized for staff involved with disciplinary investigations and panels, and guidance has been provided for staff who may hear disclosures of sexual misconduct.

The University currently has one trained Sexual Violence Liaison Officer, with training for another member of staff planned for autumn 2021. Additional training for security staff as first responders, and for personal tutors as recipients of disclosure, is also planned for 2021.

Consent training for all students is included within induction activities from September 2021, alongside training for student leaders including SU club and society committee members.

Expectation 5

Higher education providers should have adequate and effective policies and processes in place for all students to report and disclose incidents of harassment and sexual misconduct.

Our response to Expectation 5

Report and Support tool is available to staff, students and visitors on the University’s website, allowing for anonymous and named disclosure and reporting. Students who use the platform are signposted to Student Wellbeing Services and the Students’ Union Advice Centre. We have an ongoing commitment to the Report and Support platform, and we have reviewed the content and reporting pathways with our Student Advisory Group. Further amendments to the Report and Support platform and guidance will be undertaken during 2021/22.

Support for students who disclosure or report an incident of sexual misconduct is available through Student Wellbeing Services, the SU Advice Centre and an ISVA through an external partner. We held student focus groups, facilitated by a specialist external agency, during 2021 to better understand barriers to reporting and disclosing incidents, and will continue to work with our Student Advisory Group to ensure students feel empowered to report and disclose.

Information about relevant policies and procedures is available on the University’s website, and is very visible within our induction and welcome materials. Referral pathways to external agencies exist from Student Wellbeing Services, and we are finalizing guidance to clarify and communicate these pathways to staff and students.

Expectation 6

Higher education providers should have a fair, clear and accessible approach to taking action in response to reports and disclosures.

Our response to Expectation 6

Our existing relevant policies include the 2019 Harassment Policy and the Student Disciplinary Procedure Policy, which makes specific provision for sexual misconduct, and misconduct which may also constitute a criminal offence. Our procedures are clear and ensure impartiality of disciplinary panel members. To strengthen our approach, we have developed a Sexual Violence and Misconduct Procedure for Students and a Sexual Violence and Misconduct Procedure for Staff, which explicitly address the specialist nature of these incidents. We have also established a standing panel for student disciplinary cases, with additional training provided for those staff. Students are represented by the CEO of the SU, following consultation with the sabbatical officers.

We recognized that specialist resource was required to effectively investigate cases of sexual misconduct. Consequently, we are recruiting a specialist casework investigator, and in the meantime have employed an external specialist provider to conduct complex investigations.

Guidance on responding to disclosures has been published and circulated to staff, and will be reinforced at induction and during the year. We have published a confidentiality statement on our Report and Support platform to clarify how confidential information will be used and shared during disciplinary processes.

Expectation 7

Higher education providers should ensure that students involved in an investigatory process have access to appropriate and effective support.

Our response to Expectation 7

Support and guidance related to the disciplinary procedure is available from Student Wellbeing Services and the SU Advice Centre, who liaise closely with the University’s Student Feedback and Complaints Manager. The existing Student Disciplinary Procedure will be supplemented from September 2021 with a Sexual Violence and Misconduct Procedure for Students. This bespoke procedure will enable the University to adopt a more trauma-informed approach to investigations and disciplinary hearings.

Contact Student Wellbeing Services

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