Universities tackle harassment

A report by Universities UK, the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, has shown that universities have made great strides in tackling gender-based violence, but warned that more was needed to be done to combat racism. The report, called Changing The Culture, is a report by Universities UK taskforce examining violence against women, harrasment and hate crime affecting university students. The taskforce was established in September 2015, paying attention to violence against women, harrassment and hate crime but still acknowledging further work necessary in other regions. It concluded that institutions had given priority to dealing with sexual misconduct and gender-based violence, with less attention given to race-related incidents. The report also gave universities initiatives of how to raise awareness of expected behaviour.

With the recent events of scandals across UK universities, especially the most prominent recent one of the Warwick University rape chat scandal, more focus has been turned to universities to see how they are tackling the issues they are facing. Universities UK has announced an advisory group which will draw up new guidance on addressing racial harassment. The group will be chaired by Professor David Richardson, the vice chancellor of the University of East Anglia. 

Commenting on the UK report, universities minister Chris Skidmore said: “Any form of harassment, violence or hate crime is abhorrent and unacceptable anywhere in society and this includes our world-leading universities, which should be safe and inclusive environments.” A progress report today shows that about 65% of universities are rolling out consent training. After surveying about 100 universities, 81% were found to have updated their discipline procedures, with 53% introducing additions to the student code of conduct. The taskforce concluded that partnership working was fundamental in tackling the problem at hand. The School of Oriental and African Studies is among institutions which now make it a necessity for students to take part in group workshops during enrolment week as a method of curbing the on-going harassment problem. A spokesperson for SOAS University of London said: “The workshops address many important issues, including consent, sexual and gendered violence, as well as other forms of harassment, violence and abuse.” Reports showed that major universities in Oxford, Edinburgh and Durham were running these ‘consent workshops’ for freshers.

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Bryan Mfhaladi