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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Harrassment or Sexual Misconduct - Process

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Murray Edwards procedures for handling cases of harassment or sexual misconduct raised by one student (or students) about another student (or students)

Introduction and Background

The following guidance and procedures have been designed to work alongside the University procedure for handling cases of harassment and sexual misconduct: www.studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk/harassment-and-sexual-misconduct The College has a separate complaints procedure under which students can raise complaints about College academic and non-academic provision, set out here Murray Edwards Student Complaints procedure.

It is recognised that there is a lot of material here, and navigating this might be difficult for students who have experienced harassment or sexual misconduct, or who are accused of it. This document aims to ensure that the choices available to all students, and the processes involved in these, are clear. All students are reminded that they can speak to their Tutor or Senior Tutor at any point about these issues, and that these individuals will be very happy to provide further guidance on the procedures. However, the choice regarding how to proceed with any allegation remains with the student.

Murray Edwards College has, in line with the wider University, a clear Statement on Harassment and Sexual Misconduct, which includes a Code of Conduct. The College is committed to providing an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination and expects all members of its community to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration at all times. All members of the College community have the right to expect professional and appropriate behaviour from others, and have a corresponding responsibility to behave professionally and appropriately towards others.

The College and wider University recognise that to work and study effectively, students need a climate of equal opportunity in which they are respected and valued for their contribution, irrespective of their sex, gender identity (including reassignment), marital, parental or partnership status, race, ethnic or national origin, colour, disability, sexuality, religion or belief, or age. The College will not tolerate the harassment or bullying of any member of its community by another.

The College will treat any allegation of harassment or sexual misconduct of a student by another student seriously, and the Code of Conduct and procedures described here apply to all students.

If a student feels that they have been subject to harassment or sexual misconduct by another student, they can do any or all of the following:

  • seek advice, guidance and support;
  • seek alternative resolution;
  • raise a complaint with the College or with the University (but not both).

The course of action that a student chooses to take will depend on many factors. This document describes these different options in more detail.

Advice, guidance and support

Students who feel they have been harassed or been the subject of sexual misconduct are advised to seek support from the College or from the University. Students can seek advice from the Senior Tutor, their own Tutor or another point of contact within the College (including the College Nurse).

Students may also seek independent support and information from the Cambridge University Students’ Unions’ Advice Service (SUAS).

Murray Edwards College provides guidance for students who are the victims of sexual assault here.  Sexual assault and rape are criminal offences, and students making a complaint will be supported to come to an informed decision as to whether to report such an incident to the Police1. However, if the student making the complaint decides not to report the incident to the Police, neither the College nor the University will require them to do so. No inferences will be drawn from the student’s decision not to report the incident to the Police.

In exceptional circumstances, where the facts as they emerge raise concerns that there is a significant ongoing risk to members of the College or University community, or the wider community, the Senior Tutor may make an executive decision to refer the matter to the Police. The Senior Tutor will, in all but exceptional circumstances, inform the student making the complaint of their intention to report the matter to the Police, and their reasons, before doing so.

In complaints of sexual misconduct that are not reported to the police, the College is likely to advise the student to raise a complaint using the University procedure, and to provide support to them in doing so.

If, at any stage, a student making a complaint feels that they are being disadvantaged or suffering reprisal from any member of College, including the person about whom they have made the complaint, as a result of having made that complaint, they should seek advice and guidance from the Senior Tutor or another senior member of the College.

Alternative resolution

In some cases relating to some forms of harassment, students who are unhappy with the behaviour of another student may want to try to resolve the matter themselves directly with the other student.

If seeking alternative resolution in this way, a student making a complaint is advised to seek support on a confidential basis from their Tutor, the Senior Tutor or another staff member, either to help them to work out what to say, or to accompany them when they meet the person about whom they are complaining. Because of the possibility of counter- accusation or recrimination, all students are advised to alert a supporting person, such as a Tutor, to the problem before approaching the person concerned, even if they feel able to take this action on their own.

Students making a complaint should be encouraged to try to describe the behaviour very precisely, including where and when it happened. Students should also make it clear how they feel about what has happened, and describe the effect it is having on them. Finally, they should be encouraged to say precisely what they want to happen going forward.

If a direct approach has been tried and has not worked, or if a student does not wish to make such an approach, the Tutor or other College adviser may be able to seek to resolve the problem on their behalf. The College might also propose that both parties agree to co-operate with an independent mediator seeking to mediate: the University offers a mediation service that could be used if the College is not able to provide a mediator.

If an attempt at alternative resolution has not resolved the issue to the satisfaction of the student making a complaint, they can raise a formal complaint to the College or to the University. However, there is no requirement to attempt an alternative resolution before a formal complaint is raised, and students may move to a formal complaint immediately if they wish.

Should any incident lead to subsequent police investigation or criminal prosecution, any statement made as part of an alternative resolution procedure is liable to be disclosed to the Police.

Raising a formal complaint

Complaints can be raised under either the College or the University procedures, but not both. All complaints about harassment or sexual misconduct, whether they are raised with the College or with the University, will be considered on a case-by-case basis as to which is the most appropriate procedure for consideration.

If the complaint is about harassment, students are normally expected to use a College procedure. Students at any College in Cambridge may use this College procedure to raise a complaint about the behaviour of a student or students at Murray Edwards College. If the complaint is made by a Murray Edwards student about the behaviour of a student at another College, it may be possible to raise it under the other student’s College’s procedure; however, in such cases, the University’s procedure could also be used by the Murray Edwards student to raise such a complaint.

Murray Edwards College and the University expect that complaints against students from more than one College, or involving members of a University club or society, would normally be raised under the University’s procedure because of the likely complexity of such cases.

Subject to the views and wishes of the student making the complaint, Murray Edwards College and the University anticipate that complaints about sexual misconduct will usually be directed to the University’s procedure.

The table below provides a basic visual representation of the student’s options.

 

Student raising complaint is from Murray Edwards

Student raising complaint is from another College

Student who is subject of complaint is from Murray Edwards

Harassment: probably Murray Edwards procedure but University procedure possible

Sexual misconduct: University procedure recommended

Harassment: probably Murray Edwards procedure but University procedure possible

Sexual misconduct: University procedure recommended

Student who is subject of complaint is from another College

Harassment: either another College procedure or University procedure

Sexual misconduct: University procedure recommended

N/A

The College will provide pastoral support, as desired, to any Murray Edwards College student involved in the University procedure, whether as a student making a complaint or as a student who is the subject of a complaint.

How to make a complaint to the University

The University procedure and guidance documents describe how any student’s complaint will be considered, and the possible outcomes. Full information can be found here www.studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk/harassment-and-sexual-misconduct The Head of the University’s Office for Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA) will be able to answer any specific questions that students or staff might have about the procedure and will endeavour to ensure that the students understand the procedure at each stage. OSCCA can be contacted on OSCCA@admin.cam.ac.uk.

How to make a complaint to Murray Edwards College

A detailed procedure can be found here. What follows is a summary of the procedure and further information about how it will be followed.

At all stages of the formal procedure, decisions on what action will be taken will be made by people who are trained to make those decisions. In deciding what, if any, action to take, Murray Edwards College will need to consider a variety of relevant factors including, for example: the evidence which is available to support an allegation; any admission of responsibility by the person against whom the complaint has been made; the limitations of the College’s internal procedure in terms of obtaining and assessing evidence; and the need to safeguard the rights of both parties.

Bringing a complaint under the College’s procedure does not prevent the student making the complaint from reporting the matter to the Police at any time. If the matter is being dealt with under the criminal process, the College will suspend any action under its procedure, but may take precautionary action to ensure that a full and proper investigation can be carried out and/or to protect the student who is making the complaint, the student who is the subject of the complaint or others while the matter is being dealt with. Any precautionary measures are not intended to be punitive and do not make any assumptions or judgments about the merits of the complaint.

In reaching a decision on what action, if any, to take, Murray Edwards College may seek legal advice at any point in the process.

Students making a complaint should make their complaint in writing to the Senior Tutor setting out details of the events that form the basis of the complaint, together with any evidence and, if appropriate, information on any attempts that have been made to resolve the matter informally.

The Senior Tutor will give initial consideration to the complaint before a decision is made on whether it will be referred for investigation. Some cases may not be referred for investigation: instead the student making the complaint may be asked to seek alternative resolution of the matter, with support from a Tutor or another member of the College; alternatively, the Senior Tutor may recommend that the complaint is raised under the University’s procedures. The complaint also may be dismissed or rejected if it does not fall under the scope of the College’s procedure .

The Student making the complaint will normally be told the outcome of this initial consideration within 10 working days of submitting their complaint.

Investigation

If the case is referred for investigation, a trained Investigator will be appointed by the Senior Tutor to try to establish as many undisputed facts about what happened as possible. The investigation will be conducted fairly and objectively. The Senior Tutor will liaise with the Head of OSCCA to identify a suitable external Investigator, if required.

If the parties are willing, the Investigator will meet separately with both students and may also meet any witness to the events that are the subject of the complaint. The Investigator will then write a report and recommend a course of action.

Both the student making the complaint and the student who is the subject of the complaint may wish to be accompanied during the investigation by a supporter, such as a Tutor, a member of CUSU, the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service or MECSU/MCR, a family member or a friend. Both the student making the complaint and the student who is the subject of the complaint are permitted to bring a legal advisor, and the student who is the subject of the complaint will be reminded before they meet with the Investigator that they are entitled to seek legal advice. If a student wishes to take legal advice, this will be at their own expense2.

In some cases, after discussions with the Investigator, both parties may agree that alternative resolutions should be explored through mediation. The University Mediation Service is available for students and may be useful in these cases.

Consideration of the complaint and possible outcomes

Following the investigation, the report and any recommendation will be considered by the Senior Tutor who may decide that:

  • with the agreement of both the student making the complaint and the student who is thesubject of the complaint, the parties should seek to resolve the matter through mediation or otherwise; or
  • resolutions should be proposed; or
  • the case should be referred for consideration under the College’s disciplinary procedure; or
  • the complaint should be dismissed.

Acceptance of a resolution will not require the student who is the subject of the complaint to admit liability, nor imply that the College has made a finding of wrong-doing.

Resolutions might include asking the student who is the subject of the complaint to abide by a conduct agreement. This might stipulate that the student who is the subject of the complaint will refrain from contact with the student making the complaint, either indefinitely or for a specified period in the first instance. It might be necessary for the student who is the subject of the complaint to move rooms. The Student who is the subject of the complaint may also be asked to agree to intermit, or to attend behaviour awareness training.

A record of a conduct agreement will be retained by the College and may be taken into account if a further complaint is made against the student who is the subject of the complaint under this procedure, whether that subsequent complaint is made by the original student making the complaint or another.

If the complaint is dismissed, the student making the complaint and the student who is the subject of the complaint will be offered help and guidance to restore reasonable relations between them. This process might include mediation.

The Senior Tutor will keep both the student making the complaint and student who is the subject of the complaint informed of the general progress of the complaint. Where a complaint under the College’s formal procedure leads to disciplinary proceedings, the student making the complaint will be kept informed of the progress of the proceedings and will be formally notified of the outcome of any disciplinary hearing and any sanctions applied to the student who is the subject of the complaint that have any impact upon the student making the complaint.

If the student making the complaint or the student who is the subject of the complaint feels dissatisfied with a decision made using this procedure, they have the right to ask for a review of the decision. This review will be conducted in accordance with paragraph 6.4 of the procedure. If following the review the original decision is upheld, a Completion of Procedures letter should be issued to the student making the complaint or the Student who is the subject of the complaint , as appropriate, to enable them to raise the complaint with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator should they wish to do so.

Discipline

The College’s disciplinary procedures are set out in detail in Ordinance 37 of the College’s Statutes and Ordinances, which can be found here Murray Edwards College Statutes and Ordinances

1 The University is planning to establish a post of Harassment and Sexual Assault Advisor at the University Counselling Service (UCS) from October 2017. This post will be able to offer specialist advice and guidance to students. In the meantime, students can seek support from the UCS.

2 Students for whom the cost of legal advice would represent a significant financial burden are encouraged to seek support from the Financial Tutor.