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Sexual harassment: Additional measures adopted by University

Oxford University has outlined several additional measures it will take to tackle student harassment and violence, it was announced on Monday.

New measures to support students include an increase to staff numbers in a dedicated support centre, the appointment of specialist staff, and changes to disciplinary procedures.

The procedures set out the timelines for different parts of the disciplinary process, written in clear and concise language, and explain what both reporting and reported students can expect from the process.

Changes follow the launch of a Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service last October, which provides a safe place to “be heard independent of your college or department.”

Run by a team of specialist advisors and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) who work independently of the University, the team has increased to seven members of staff since its launch.

Roisin McCallion, Vice President of Welfare & Equal Opportunity at Oxford SU, said: “We are delighted with the additional steps which have been taken to support students affected by sexual harassment and violence.

The Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service is something we truly believe in and we feel confident signposting our students to it for the best support.”

The all-in-one service offers free, professional and confidential support for all students, regardless of age or gender. The service supports students across the university “whatever they choose to do”, including if they decide to make a formal report against another student.

In cases of sexual misconduct, new disciplinary procedures outline considerations that should be considered, as well as actions the University can take during ongoing investigations.

Independent reviewers will join the Protectors’ Office to lead cases relating to sexual harassment and violence.

Appointed on a five-year term, reviewers will receive specialist training and will be supported by specialist caseworkers who will ensure that complex and sensitive cases are being handled appropriately.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, said: “The University of Oxford does not tolerate sexual harassment and violence in any form, and we all have a responsibility to act.

The additional measures we have taken this year further highlight our resolve in tackling this issue and our commitment to supporting our students.”

The Support Service and the new measures are being promoted through the ‘Oxford Against Sexual Violence’ campaign, launched in 2018.

Sending a clear message that sexual violence or harassment of any form is unacceptable, the campaign is a joint venture between Oxford University and the OU Student Union.

The University plans to work in partnership with the Thames Valley Police to prevent sexual offences.

Detective Inspector James Senior of Thames Valley Police said: “Just one sexual offence in Oxford is one too many and my team and I are committed to ensuring that students wanting to have an enjoyable night out at pubs and clubs are able to without fear of being sexually assaulted.

“This behaviour is clearly unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The Support Service says it will go through the options available with a specific focus on the needs of individual students. These fall into four areas, “Immediate health needs, reporting options, therapeutic support options and practical support.”

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