University withdraws proposed changes to sexual harassment and assault policy

Khushali Dodhia 24 December 2016

A motion which proposed changes to University procedure in cases of harassment and sexual misconduct has been withdrawn.

The motion, or Grace, which was submitted by the University Council, was due to pass automatically at 4pm on 23 December.

It could have resulted in alleged perpetrators of harassment or sexual misconduct being barred from University buildings and suspended from their studies whilst the matter was being processed.

If an allegation was deemed well-founded, it would have been dealt with by the Head Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA), or a reviewing panel including one student. The complainant and respondent would have been given the opportunity to reach a resolution, or one would be imposed on the respondent if they had failed to do so.

Currently the University will not usually begin an internal investigation until it is made clear that the complainant will not report the incident to the police, or until criminal or police proceedings have concluded without a charge being made.

A University spokesperson told Varsity that the Grace was withdrawn due to “some late amendments to the detail of the procedure” which “has led to a short delay.”

“We now hope to implement it later in the academic year.”

They continued: “The collegiate university is committed to dealing with any sexual harassment or misconduct. To ensure we can offer timely, informed and appropriate support to our students, we are establishing a new procedure and code of conduct to deal with student complaints of student harassment and sexual misconduct.

“We are continuing to consult widely to ensure the new procedure can deal effectively with these complex cases.”

The Grace was supported by several high-profile members of the University, including the President of Murray Edwards College and the Master of Churchill College.

It had the support of the Senior Tutors’ Committee and the Committee on Student Health and Wellbeing, and was developed in collaboration with the Colleges’ Committee.