Students Staff
University of Essex

March 1, 2017

Zero tolerance to sexual harassment

At Essex we pride ourselves on our inclusive community and we work hard to create a welcoming and safe campus for all students and staff. For our University, this is not just a matter of meeting our statutory obligations. It is a matter of conviction that every individual member of our Essex community deserves to develop and fulfil their potential free from harassment. We therefore have a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and are fully committed to eradicating sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses.

In response to growing concern about this issue in universities, over the last five months, we have been working with our Students’ Union to review all aspects of our policies and procedures addressing how we tackle sexual violence, sexual harassment and hate crime. This work is being led by our Director of Human Resources and our Academic Registrar working collaboratively with our Students’ Union leadership and consulting with the campus trades unions.  We have drawn on the recent work of UUK and the longstanding commitment of the National Union of Students to tackle this issue.

An initial report on our policies and procedures has been prepared, which has provided reassurance that we have well developed systems and processes in place but has also identified ways in which we can and should improve further.  To help us achieve improvements, in addition to the work we are undertaking within the University we have commissioned an external expert partner to benchmark our approach and performance, so that our community benefits from the very best practice for all organisations and not just universities. This work will conclude later in the spring and be shared widely with staff and students across our three campuses.

As part of our commitment to eradicating sexual harassment and sexual violence on our campuses, I want to highlight:

  • That anyone who feels they have been a victim of sexual violence, sexual harassment or hate crime at Essex should feel encouraged to speak out and seek support, without the power relations which exist in universities being an obstacle to this.
  • Our existing Guidelines for dealing with harassment and bullying. These are designed for both staff and students and set out our zero tolerance approach, offer practical guidance and also explain where to seek support.
  • The recent launch of our Stand Up! Essex project, a joint project with the Students’ Union which aims to educate and equip our staff and students to be able to identify sexual harassment or violence and be able to intervene safely and challenge inappropriate behaviour. You can find out more about Stand Up! Essex on our website.
  • Our well established Harassment Advisory Network; a team of trained advisers offering a confidential signposting service for anyone experiencing some form of harassment or bullying. This excellent service has been running for more than 20 years and has been used as a model for similar services at other universities.
  • The University’s designation as an official Hate Crime Reporting Centre, acting as a safe place for the reporting of any hate crime, by either victim or witness.

The University of Essex is a place where we respect one another, where all members deserve to be treated with dignity and where we have zero tolerance for any form of harassment or bullying. Having the right policies and procedures in place is absolutely key but equally important is the experience of how we interact with each other on a daily basis. I hope we can all work together to continue to make Essex a safe place to live, learn and work.

Professor Anthony Forster


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