Statement on sexual violence and harassment

Content Warning: The following statement and action plan, and the pages it links to, contains information relating to sexual violence and harassment which may affect / be triggering to survivors and other students. If you need support please visit the University's Report & Support page for comprehensive information about support services within the University, as well as external and specialist services. 

The Students’ Union is aware of the allegations of sexual violence and harassment that have been shared on social media and the serious concerns raised about the University’s response to sexual and gender-based violence* more generally. We are committed to supporting all survivors of violence and working toward the creation of reporting and investigation processes that are fair, supportive and trauma-informed. The Students’ Union has been engaged in a significant amount of work in this area, however we recognise that we can do more, both internally and within the University. We acknowledge that this work must be more transparent and it should always centre survivors’ voices. 

Last week, we committed to releasing a further update to all students about the actions we will take as a Students’ Union. We have also received the student petition that was circulated online and we would like to thank the students who volunteered their time to organise this and all those who signed it. This week, we are committing to a number of actions in response to students’ concerns which you can read below. We also intend to organise a series of consultations so that any student who wishes to share their experience with us can do so. The information gathered will be used to identify further improvements to reporting processes and support structures.

The following two sections outline the work we are currently engaged in. The final section outlines our action plan. This action plan will be regularly reviewed and added to based on the results of student consultation. We welcome any comments or feedback about the action plan, you can do this by contacting su-studentsunion@qmul.ac.uk or one of the Executive Officers.

We understand that reading about this topic can be distressing and may have affected students. You can find comprehensive information about support services within the University as well as external and specialist services on the University’s Report and Support page here. We also listed additional support services in our previous statement here

*We use the term ‘violence’ to describe a range of physical, emotional and verbal harms. By ‘sexual and gender-based violence’ we mean forms of harm underpinned by unequal power relations relating to someone’s gender or sexuality. This includes forms of violence such as rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, forced marriage and stalking. These forms of violence affect people of all genders, however they disproportionately affect women and LGBT+ people. In addition, those from marginalised groups, for example LGBT+ women, women of colour and disabled women experience intersecting forms of violence and oppression and often face greater barriers to accessing support and justice

Reporting and investigation processes

We understand students have serious concerns about the current processes at Queen Mary for reporting and investigating sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime. The Students’ Union has been lobbying the University for improvements to these processes and we will continue to raise these concerns in response to student feedback. A number of issues have been raised by current and previous Executive Officer teams through regular formal and informal meetings and a paper submitted in June 2019. In particular, we have expressed our view that the support offered to students going through the reporting and investigation process must be improved. Some of the issues we have raised include: 

  • The need for specialist training on sexual and gender-based violence for all University staff who work with students during the reporting and investigation process, including training on how to work with survivors and understanding sexual and gender-based violence. This includes the University departments managing the investigation process and the panels who make decisions about individual cases.

  • Lobbying for increased funding for the Students’ Union Academic Advice Service so that we are able to offer additional, trained advice and advocacy support to students throughout all aspects of the reporting and investigation process. We recognise that reporting rates are increasing nationwide and will continue to increase with understanding and awareness and that we must be able to support students.

  • The need for a single, supportive contact within the University that students can talk to about any support needs and for updates on their case. Currently, students must navigate between a range of departments including the Academic Registry and Council Secretariat (ARCS), HR, the Advice and Counselling Service, the Students’ Union Academic Advice Service, staff in their school, the Police and external support services. This can be time-consuming and stressful and often requires students to self-advocate to see issues addressed. 

  • Often there are significant waiting times after submitting a report and during the investigation process. This often means students must wait significant periods without communication where cases are taking a long time to progress.

  • We are concerned that a system of disciplinary hearings is not appropriate for cases involving sexual and gender-based violence. We are concerned about the impact on students’ welfare where they may be required to hear from the person who has been accused or their representative, even if it is indirectly or via video link. We would propose adopting an approach where information is gathered via methods such as meetings and interviews and presented to a panel.

  • The need for an accessible and easy to use reporting mechanism. Our Vice President Welfare 2018/19 successfully lobbied for the introduction of the Report and Support platform, which allows students, staff and members of the public to report sexual or gender-based violence, harassment, hate crime and bullying at Queen Mary. The platform also includes information about support services. 

  • Throughout the implementation of Report and Support, we worked closely with the University to resolve issues with how the platform would operate. Report and Support is a front-end reporting tool that feeds into existing University policies and processes. For this reason, we felt that these existing policies and processes must be improved before launching a campaign to encourage reporting and have continued to lobby for changes.

  • Our acting President and Vice President Barts and The London, Megan Annetts, has been involved in reviewing the University’s policy for medical students reporting issues on placements. The University now intends to implement a clearer structure for reporting by introducing a liaison scheme with key individuals at the student and staff level in both the hospital and University.

  • We have highlighted the need for the University to consult with students and staff with direct experience of the reporting and investigation process and we have lobbied for them to introduce mechanisms to gather this feedback.

We recognise that students also have concerns about the Students’ Union’s own internal reporting and investigation processes. As the Students’ Union does not have the power to remove someone from campus, we would encourage students who want to see this outcome to report to the University. However, we recognise that many students wish to report experiences that have taken place within our student groups or venues. This year, we reviewed our processes to make them clearer and more accessible to students and we are awaiting the University’s ratification in order to finalise this work.

  • We will continue to work on reviewing our processes. The first phase of this work has been completed and is currently awaiting ratification by the University. We will also work toward producing clear, accessible guidance for students and staff on our reporting and complaint processes (see action plan point 2.4).
  • As part of our accreditation with the Good Night Out Campaign, supervisors in our venues receive training from Good Night Out annually on how to respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault in licensed premises. We will continue to provide this training and will expand the number of staff who receive it (see action plan point 2.5)
Campaigns, training and awareness

Forms of sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime are not isolated incidents that take place in a vacuum, rather they are the product of oppressive attitudes and societal beliefs. We believe students and staff at Queen Mary have a collective responsibility to educate ourselves and challenge unacceptable behaviours and attitudes where possible. For this reason, we run campaigns and training throughout the year. However, we recognise we can do more as a Students’ Union to improve the visibility and awareness of these campaigns and ensure a broader range of topics and issues are covered. Our current campaigns and training sessions include:

  • Our Vice President Welfare, Shamima, is currently working to develop a new campus-wide campaign due to launch in September that challenges all forms of oppression on our campuses, including sexual and gender-based violence. This will replace our existing Zero Tolerance campaign. In December 2019, Shamima organised a panel event on domestic abuse at University with speakers from charities including SafeLives, Refuge and Jewish Women’s Aid. This is an example of the type of events we hope to increase as part of the new campaign. We recognise we need to identify ways of engaging more students in campaigns such as these and increasing their visibility on all campuses. 

  • We deliver consent and active bystander training sessions throughout the year as part of our Zero Tolerance campaign and encourage student leaders to attend this training through our Skills Award and Societies Excellence Award schemes. You can learn more about our consent and active bystander training here

  • We are continuing to lobby the University to introduce compulsory training on consent and bystander intervention for all new students in line with a motion passed at Student Council. The University has now purchased online training on consent which will be made available to all students, and our Vice President Welfare, Shamima, is continuing to lobby for expanded in-person training, work she will continue next year as President. 

  • Our Vice President Welfare 2018/19 successfully lobbied the University to introduce a Policy on Relationships between Staff and Students (hyperlink: http://hr.qmul.ac.uk/media/hr/docs/Relationships-between-Staff-and-Students-Policy--FV.pdf) which recognises the significant power imbalance between staff and students and acknowledges the capacity for personal relationships between staff and students to become coercive and unequal. The policy strongly discourages relationships between staff and students and requires staff to declare any relationships so that teaching, tutoring, assessment, administrative and other arrangements can be adjusted and monitored.

  • We require all Sports Clubs to elect a Welfare Representative to their committee and these reps receive compulsory training on consent, being an active bystander and responding to disclosures as part of their training programme. We intend to expand this role to other student groups within the Students’ Union (see action plan point 1.2).

  • In March 2019 our Vice President Welfare organised Sex and Relationships Month, a month-long campaign raising awareness of issues including consent, healthy relationships and sexual health. As part of this, the campaign raised awareness of statistics around reporting of sexual and gender-based violence at the University. We recognise that campaigns have not previously tackled all issues and areas of concern that students have raised, for example the specific issues experienced by the LGBT+ community, and we will seek to expand these campaigns in future.

Action plan

We recognise that there is more to do to challenge sexual and gender-based violence and that there is a need for more transparency about our work in this area. We also recognise that students have serious concerns about reporting and investigation processes within both the University and Students’ Union. 

On 22 and 23 June, a group including our current Vice President Welfare and incoming President, Shamima Akter, incoming Vice President Welfare and incoming Vice President Communities met to discuss these concerns and develop an action plan for how we will respond going forward. This action plan will be regularly reviewed and added to based on the results of student consultation.

We will organise consultation sessions open to all students to gather student feedback and identify areas for improvement (see action plan point 2.3). This will include opportunities specifically for student survivors and those who have direct experience of the reporting and investigation process to feed in, as well as student groups. We will also provide anonymous, text-only methods of providing feedback. 

 

Action

What we will do

Deadline

Campaigns, training and awareness

1.1

Consent and active bystander training for student groups

We will work toward introducing mandatory, full-length training for all student groups on consent, being an active bystander and responding to disclosures as part of our training programme.

September 2020

1.2

Make it compulsory for student groups to elect a Welfare Representative to their committee

We will make it compulsory for all student groups, not just Sports Clubs, to elect a Welfare Rep to their committee. These reps receive mandatory training on responding to welfare issues, including on consent, being an active bystander and responding to disclosures.

Interim Welfare Reps to be appointed September 2020

1.3

Lobby the University to introduce compulsory training on consent and being an active bystander for all new students

We will continue to lobby the University to introduce compulsory training on consent and being an active bystander to all new students, in line with a motion passed at Student Council. We will lobby the University to make the existing ‘Consent Matters’ online module compulsory for all students.

Started - Ongoing

1.4

Launch a campus-wide campaign challenging sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime

We will continue our work toward relaunching a permanent, campus-wide Students’ Union campaign challenging sexual and gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime to replace our current Zero Tolerance campaign. 

September 2020

Reporting policies and processes

2.1

Lobby the University to improve their reporting and investigation processes

We will continue to lobby the University to improve their reporting and investigation processes in response to student feedback and in line with sector best practice.

Started - Ongoing

2.2

Review internal reporting and investigation procedures to make them clearer and more accessible

We have reviewed our internal Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure to make it clearer and more accessible to students. We will continue to work toward finalising this work with the approval of the University.

Phase I complete - awaiting University ratification. 

2.3

Consult with students who have experience of the reporting and investigation process

We will organise consultation sessions open to students to gather student feedback about the reporting and investigation process and identify areas for improvement. We will consult with:

  • Student survivors and those with direct experience of the reporting and investigation process
  • Student groups

We will ensure that there are anonymous, text-only methods of providing feedback in addition to online meetings.

August 2020

2.4

Provide advice to student groups about reporting and investigation processes and the process for removing members

We will create specific guidance for student groups and the staff who support them on responding to a report of sexual or gender-based violence. This will include:

  • How to respond to a disclosure of sexual or gender-based violence
  • How to report something to the Students’ Union or University
  • The process for removing or suspending a member or committee member

September 2020

2.5

Expand Good Night Out training currently delivered to venues staff

We will continue to deliver training from the Good Night Out Campaign on how to respond to incidents within licensed premises to staff in our venues and we will increase the number of staff who receive this training.

September 2020 or when venues reopen

2.6

Publicise the process for reporting within our venues 

We will better publicise the process for reporting if you experience something in a Students’ Union venue, including what you can expect from Students’ Union staff.

September 2020 or when venues reopen

2.7

Review security arrangements at our venues

We will review the security arrangements at our venues by:

  • Taking the diversity of security staff into account when we are selecting a provider of agency staff by including it in the scoring system for future tendering processes
  • We will aim to standardise the briefings that security staff receive at the beginning of each shift and include information about how to respond to issues appropriately

October/November  2020. This requires a formal tender process which may take longer to complete during the pandemic.

Student support

3.1

Disclosure training for student-facing staff

We will deliver training on sexual and gender-based violence and how to respond to disclosures to student-facing staff so that they can respond appropriately and with sensitivity if they receive a disclosure.

Permanent staff by September 2020

 

Student staff TBC

3.2

Training for Students’ Union staff carrying out investigations

We will provide training to Students’ Union staff who are tasked with carrying out an investigation under our complaints procedure so that they can work with students appropriately and with sensitivity. 

September 2020

3.3

Look into introducing a scheme for students who feel unsafe in Students’ Union venues to request help from staff

We will look into the feasibility of introducing a scheme within our venues, similar to the ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme, for students who feel unsafe to request help from staff. In order to do this, we will look at how staff could be adequately trained to respond in this situation.

September 2020

 

Recent News

Donate to Bow Food Bank!

Mon 23 Nov 2020

This holiday season, Green Mary are working to support the work of Bow Food Bank, so read on to find out how y

 
This Girl Can: Ellie Asquith

Mon 23 Nov 2020

Ellie Asquith who is a Community Foundation Leader and a member of the BUCS Women's Leadership Programme tells

 
This Girl Can: Shayma Ahmed

Mon 23 Nov 2020

Shayma Ahmed who is a Young Leaders Academy graduate currently studying Sport & Exercise Science at LSBU tells

 
Transgender Day of Remembrance - Profiles

Fri 20 Nov 2020

Check out these profiles of influential figures within the transgender community to mark Transgender Day of Re

 
This Girl Can

Thu 19 Nov 2020

This Girl Can is a campaign developed by Sport England that promotes and celebrates female participation in ph

 
 
see more news