The University are gearing up to launch an initiative called “Breaking the Silence” aimed at ending all forms of sexual misconduct at Cambridge University. The launch includes new policy on staff-student misconduct, a staff and student facing video addressing the issue of sexual violence and misconduct, an update of the dignity at work policy, and the introduction of a new university wide procedure for sexual assault, rape and harassment. As part of this initiative, the university launched an anonymous reporting system for sexual harassment/assault in order to collect data on the issue.
For many years, Cambridge did not have a comprehensive university wide sexual assault policy. The Women’s Campaign have advocated for the establishment of an official policy since 2015. Under former women’s officer Amelia Horgan, a campaign to improve sexual assault policies across the colleges was launched. Previously, instances of sexual assault and misconduct were dealt with by colleges through informal/formal policies. Often these policies failed students
After two years of discussion The Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals was established in September 2016 to deal with all kinds of student complaints and oversee university conduct. After winning a funding bill from the Higher Education Funding Body for England (HEFCE) has created a new procedure tailored towards handling sexual misconduct on a university wide level.
Here is a simple breakdown of the new policy, which is called “The Procedure:”
The University of Cambridge produced a new, independent Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Procedure (henceforth “The Procedure.” The Procedure applies to student-to-student interactions and covers all student members of the University – undergraduate and graduate.
What behaviour does the procedure prohibit?
The University has a Code of Conduct that defines sexual harassment and misconduct. Examples of sexual harassment can include:
- making sexually offensive comments about a person’s dress or appearance
- making derogatory comments relating to a person’s sexuality or gender identity
- making derogatory comments relating to a person’s sexual history
- making unwanted sexual advances towards another person
Examples of sexual misconduct can include:
- sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent
- attempting to engage in sexual intercourse or engaging in a sexual act without consent
- sharing private sexual photos, emails, or messages of another person without consent
- kissing without consent
- touching inappropriately through clothes without consent
- repeatedly following another person without good reason
When can i use the procedure?
Each College will have their own Harassment Policy through which you can report another student. Some even have independent sexual harassment policies of their own. However, as a member of both the University and your college you have the choice to begin complaint procedures under either The Procedure or your College’s policy. You cannot bring a complaint to both the University and your College.
If you make a complaint under The Procedure it will first go to a panel, which will decide whether dealing with the complaint under The Procedure is the best course of action or whether they should refer the matter to be dealt with under a College policy. They may also recommend other solutions.
- a complaint of harassment and/or some forms of sexual misconduct is made and concerns members of the same College, it will likely be dealt with within that College
- a complaint of rape and/or some forms of sexual misconduct is made and concerns members of the same College, it will likely be dealt with under The Procedure
- a complaint of harassment and/or some forms of sexual misconduct is made by a person/people from College A against a person/people from College B, it will likely be dealt with under the procedures in College B
- a complaint of rape and/or some forms of sexual misconduct is made by a person/people from College A against a person/people from College B, it will likely be dealt with under The Procedure
- a complaint of rape, sexual misconduct, or harassment is made and concerns members of more than two Colleges (for example in cases concerning University sports teams), it will be dealt with under The Procedure
How exactly does the procedure work?
The Procedure allows you to limit your possible interaction with another student/other students. The Procedure will not make findings or decisions about whether the harassment or sexual misconduct took place. Following an investigation, outcomes can include:
- a conduct agreement, which can stop a student/students contacting you or being able to access certain buildings
- a behaviour awareness assessment for the other student(s)
You can report a student using an online form. The form will be considered using the process outlined in The Procedure. A report should normally be made within three months of the harassment or sexual misconduct, but you can still report after that period if you can provide a reason why you waited to raise the complaint. Although there is currently no precedent for what reasons qualify, CUSU is confident that the University is aware and understanding of the fact that that some people do not report immediately for reasons surrounding fear, shame, or a lack of awareness of The Procedure during that period.
Once a form has been received, you will be informed about whether your case will be dealt with under The Procedure, referred to your College, or if another solution has been recommended. You will be informed of the outcome of this initial consideration within two weeks of submitting your form.
If following an investigation under The Procedure an agreement cannot be reached surrounding its outcome, the complaint can be brought under the University Discipline Procedure. Under the Discipline Procedure the University can make a finding or wrongdoing or impose penalties on a student. It is, however, worth noting that the Discipline Procedure operates under a burden of proof that requires wrongdoing to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have any further questions surrounding the Procedure, contact the CUSU Women’s Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
The link to the reporting form to report another student to the University can be found here:
Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form
The form to report a staff member to the University can be found here:
Student Complaints Procedure Form
A further explanation of the new policy can be found here: