A review of our campaigns, actions and pledges to foster a culture of consent and respect that’s University wide and palpable for students, staff and visitors.
As the conversation on sexual violence gets louder in society, we at the University of Kent have been working hard so that our university campuses stay positive and safe places. Our ongoing commitment to keep the members of our community safe became more visible this past academic year as we launched our new ‘Consent. Get it. Full Stop.‘ campaign to cultivate and strengthen our awareness and understanding of consent and to continue working to prevent harassment and sexual misconduct from taking place within our community. We have also worked on promoting the specialist support we have available in recognition of the difficulties faced by victim-survivors, and made changes to our policies, procedures and guidance documents to address concerns that were voiced to us by students and staff.
Five concepts were at the heart of this year’s work in tackling sexual misconduct and keeping our campuses safe: Transparency, Preventing, Reporting, Responding and Supporting. As the academic year comes to an end, we want to make good on the first of these – transparency – by highlighting some of our top achievements in each of these areas.
Prevention – Everyone at the university matters when it comes to tackling unacceptable behaviours.
- We launched a university-wide campaign entitled ‘Consent. Get it. Full stop.’ which has a strong presence on social media and our webpages, with clear and thought-provoking messages about consent and healthy relationships. As part of this campaign we ran a number of initiatives including the ‘Celebrating Consent Day’ event, where we took the opportunity to promote policies, procedures, and support available.
- This year we have seen senior leaders make a clearer and more visible commitment to tackle sexual misconduct. In November, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Reece called for community-wide reflection and discussion in the form of an all-student email released on International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.
- A focus group entitled ‘Safety on Campus’ has been created. This groups exists as a collaboration between staff and students including representatives from Respect the No, Women’s Network, BAME Network, Disability Network, LGBTQIA+ Network, and UN Women UK Kent Society, to name a few, as well as individual students. In this forum, students can openly discuss concerns about safety on and off campus, providing a clear line of communication between students and the University. We have discussed all initiatives and campaigns relating to sexual misconduct within this forum, giving students the opportunity to provide feedback and shape our work in this area.
Responding – We want everyone to know what to do and where to go.
- We have created and circulated new guidance documents (in accessible formats) to students and staff on what to do if they: 1. have experienced sexual misconduct, 2. are accused of an incident and 3. if, as a member of staff, an incident is disclosed to them. A staff facing page where staff can find more information about how to respond to disclosures, how to take part in the campaign and the training available to them as all so been created and can be found on Staff Guide.
- The University has recruited a student intern as a Campaign and Project Assistant which provided a stronger link to our student body, ensuring that student voice and collaboration with students are kept at the forefront of all our work in this area. This role has brought helped bridge gaps between staff working in this area and the student body and will be in place for the next academic year as well to keep this collaboration going.
- Sexual misconduct became a permanent feature on the agenda of our Education and Student Experience Board to ensure that continued progress is regularly reviewed.
- We have arranged for multiple opportunities for staff training:
- The Specialist Wellbeing Manager provided specific training to Sexual Assault Responders – a cohort of substantive staff that are trained to respond out of hours to students disclosing sexual violence.
- A new e-learning module entitled ‘Responding to Student Disclosures of Sexual Misconduct’ is now available for all staff to complete.
- Front line staff have been provided with the opportunity to attend specialist training from Protection Against Stalking (PAS).
- All Student Conduct and Complaints Officers have been provided with training from Lime Culture in conducting trauma informed investigations.
Reporting – We want our students’ voices to be heard.
- We have introduced a new reporting tool, Report and Support. This platform allows for support articles to be made available to students with information on University of Kent procedures and how to access support internally and externally. The data gathered will enable us to identifying potential trends and/or areas of concern, to enable a tailored response. Report and Support will also enable us to increase our commitment to transparency as we plan to publish anonymised data gathered over the year.
- A new Student Conduct and Complaints (SCCO) webpage has been created. This page provides information and guidance on how to submit a formal report to the University, and regulation documents for students to look at.
- Our non-academic disciplinary regulations have been updated to include a specific appendix focused upon disclosures and investigation of Sexual Misconduct.
Supporting – We are here to support you. We want you to know the support we offer and how you can access it.
- We have continued to promote the support available to students from within the university. This includes support from the Specialist Wellbeing Manager and Sexual Assault Responders (SARs) who provide round the clock practical and emotional support to student disclosing sexual misconduct.
- We have done substantial work to increase transparency in relation to our processes. This includes the creation of a number of accessible visual guides relating to seeking support and reporting processes.
- Throughout the year we have placed strong emphasis on the promotion of the support available to students. We have done this through our consent campaign, social media, posters around campus, podcast episodes, and blog articles.
- With the introduction of Report and Support we ensure that students are able to access support in a timely manner. Students who choose to report anonymously still receive signposting information to enable them to access external support, should they prefer.
After such an eventful year, we at Kent can proudly say that as a community we have made substantial progress in a short time, surpassing in many aspects the Office for Students (OfS) statement of expectations. Still, we recognise that there is a long way to go and make meaningful, positive and long-lasting change in our community; as a University, we are committed on continuing this work with the help of both staff and students, to aim for a safe, respectful and supportive place for us to study, work and socialise.
Written by Student Services, 20.06.22
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