It’s important to keep in mind that these incidents aren’t just confined to staff-student relationships – while 169 allegations were against academic and non-academic staff from 2011 to 2016, at least 127 other allegations about UK university staff were made by their colleagues.
The most high-ranking universities aren’t immune to these growing problems, either. Oxford University actually saw the most staff-on-staff allegations in the UK, while in America, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) recently saw six faculty members facing sexual misconduct investigations.
Kathleen Salvaty, who is responsible for coordinating compliance with US sexual discrimination laws in the California state university system, says that there were likely other victims who decided not to come forward:
“The cases that distress me are the cases where the people don’t report.”
A 2015 survey of over 150,000 people across 27 campuses conducted by the The Association of American Universities about sexual assault and sexual misconduct (both student-student and staff-student), found that only 28% of even the most serious incidents were reported to an organisation or agency.
Inadequate resources and training appear to be leading to serious failures, and it is clear that the reported incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. University of Cambridge, Prof Graham Virgo, said: “It is a very significant challenge for people to disclose sexual misconduct or harassment”.
A junior female member of staff at a university in southern England told the Guardian she had tried to raise concerns about sexual harassment in her department for five years, but no manager she contacted had taken action.
For students, “one single influential professor can make or break their entire career” said Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates.
Many universities are now turning to increased training on sexual harassment on campus, how to encourage students (and staff) to disclose these incidents to faculty, and the legal procedures around reporting these incidents.
David Marshall, founder of higher education training specialist Marshall E-LEarning said:
“Even within the last year, we’ve had a rush of universities asking us to design courses both for students on consent training, and for staff on sexual disclosure training. It is vital all staff are sensitive to their responsibility if a student confides in them about an unwanted sexual incident. Many will not go directly to the counselling centre. As such we have partnered with Rape Crisis and Coventry University on a training course available to any institution. So far four institutions have taken this course up.
Our partners at Coventry University added:
“The module is priced to reach as many people as possible, with the recommendation that all university staff undertake the training. Our research has shown that any member of staff could be approached by a student at any time catering staff during lunch, reception staff, in lectures – and it is important that staff are able to appropriate respond and signpost students to professional help as soon as possible.”
With at least 1 in 7 female students in the UK becoming victims of sexual assault (Hidden Marks, NUS 2010), it’s important for universities to increase awareness of issues surrounding students’ experiences of unwanted sexual incidents.
Developed in partnership with Coventry University and Rape Crisis England & Wales, Marshall E-learning has designed a unique ‘Student Disclosure of Unwanted Sexual Incidents’ online safeguarding course, which aims to provide university employees with the confidence to appropriately respond to a disclosure of an unwanted sexual incident and direct the person to appropriate sources of assistance.
The course gives employees the opportunity to explore what constitutes an unwanted sexual incident, the type of disclosures they may encounter, and the appropriate responses to disclosure.
Marshall E-Learning also has a Sexual Consent on Campus course, aimed at students on what constitutes consent, how to obtain consent and the law. It’s all part of the Higher Education suite of courses.
More information about the Student Disclosure of Unwanted Sexual Incidents course, along with a free course demo, or to get in with Marshall about a bespoke solution to workforce training, are available via the Marshall website.