Oxford outlines additional measures for tackling sexual harassment

New measures include increased staff numbers in a dedicated support centre; the appointment of specialist staff to handle students complaints; and changes to disciplinary procedures to make them more transparent.

The move follows the launch in October 2018 of a Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service, which offers professional and confidential support and advice for all students across the university.

The University’s Support Service, and the new measures, are being promoted once again through the Oxford Against Sexual Violence campaign. Launched jointly by the University and Oxford University Student Union in 2018, it sends a clear message that sexual violence or harassment of any form is unacceptable.

The Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service supports all students, regardless of age or gender. It is run by a team of trained specialist advisors and an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) who works independently of the University.

The team has grown in size since it launched in October 2018, with six members of staff now available to support students as well as the ISVA. The service supports students whatever they choose to do, and, if they decide to make a formal report against another student, disciplinary procedures have been revised to work better for cases of sexual misconduct.

The new procedures set out the timelines for different parts of the disciplinary process, written in clear and concise language and explain what both the reporting and reported students can expect from the process. The procedures also outline considerations that should be taken into account in cases of sexual misconduct, as well as new measures the University can take while investigations take place.

As part of the disciplinary changes, independent reviewers will join the Proctors’ Office, which handles student disciplinary matters at the University. The reviewers will take the lead on cases relating to sexual harassment and violence. They will be appointed on a five-year term and will receive specialist training. They will be supported by specialist caseworkers who will ensure that complex and sensitive cases are handled in an appropriate and timely manner.

These changes bring the University into line with Office for the Independent Adjudicator guidance published in 2018.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, says: '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.'

Roisin McCallion, Vice-President, Welfare & Equal Opportunity at Oxford Student Union, says: '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.'

In addition to its own measures, the University works in partnership with Thames Valley Police to prevent sexual offending, particularly in the night time economy, and this will be a focus at the start of the academic year.

Detective Inspector James Senior of Thames Valley Police says: '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.'

Find out more on the Oxford Against Sexual Violence webpage on the University website