Audrey Sebatindira: “We must find new ways to protect students”

Joanna Taylor 20 January 2017

Although many remain unaware of their existence, the University’s new procedures for dealing with complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment have been causing a lot of buzz. Existing drafts show it to be one of the most progressive guidelines in the sector.

One unfortunate shortfall is the delay in its implementation. Originally set to be published on 1 January of this year, we must now wait until later in the academic year. This is is due to concerns raised in the Regent House (the governing body and principal electoral constituency of the University) that the policy doesn’t do enough to protect the rights of those accused of sexual misconduct.

Frustrating as this is, a new draft has been produced and CUSU remains cautiously optimistic that there will be no more need for delays.

It’s worth noting that this policy must be accompanied by a change in culture. The University must also support CUSU’s preventative efforts, such as consent workshops, as well as innovating some of its own. Our gaze should also turn to instances of assault and harassment outside of college walls and on Cambridge’s city streets.

With a surge in the number of cases reported, we need to find new ways to protect students. The CUSU team met with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire in Michaelmas to discuss the issue.

Our suggestions included allowing students to anonymously report instances of harassment to the police. This would provide them with data that could justify a full investigation of the matter. It’s also worth noting that students are able to seek refuge in any Porters’ Lodge of any College should they feel unsafe.

With that in mind I plan to create and publicise a map of college ‘plodges’ across Cambridge, thanks to the suggestion of a concerned student. I also plan to begin talks with JCR and MCR women’s officers at colleges that shut their gates at certain hours to see whether new rules can be made allowing any Cambridge University student to seek refuge after-hours.

These are, however, band-aids on a gash wound. The onus shouldn’t be on students to constantly monitor and condition their behaviour. We continue to consider the matter and any suggestions from students are more than welcome.

You can reach me on my CUSU Facebook account or via email at womens@cusu.