Essex students 'demand change' to sex complaint policy

image copyrightUniversity of Essex
image captionThe University of Essex will have "changes in place" for the beginning of the new academic year, a spokesman said

Students are demanding "urgent" changes to the way sexual harassment complaints are handled at a university.

The University of Essex has taken a year to deal with some cases of sexual assault complaints, the BBC found.

The students' union has started a petition calling for improvements to be made to the system which it said was "seriously failing students".

A spokesman for the university said it "will have changes in place for the beginning of the new academic year".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe University of Essex previously apologised to students for delays in handling complaints

The University of Essex set up a new complaints system last year in an effort to tackle sexual harassment.

In May, it was revealed 46 students had made complaints under the new system.

The BBC found a male student had been named in four separate complaints lodged between May and November last year.

One student told the BBC she felt her complaint had been "silenced" after it took the university a year to set a misconduct hearing date.

"It made me feel like I have been taken advantage of not just by him, but by the university," she said.

"He is still able to walk around on campus… and nothing has been done about it. It doesn't give me any closure."

'We are listening'

The University of Essex Students' Union is now calling for 10 points to be introduced to its procedure.

It said the BBC investigation "highlighted a system that is seriously failing students".

The union listed proposed changes in an online petition and said it was demanding that the University of Essex introduced "urgent and fundamental changes".

The proposals include:

  • Introducing "proper support" for students who report complaints
  • Conducting a "detailed review" of the experience of those affected by sexual harassment
  • Completing all investigations into sexual harassment within 60 days
  • Reporting action taken by the university in response to reports
  • Introducing "compulsory sexual harassment response training" for all members of staff

The university's registrar Bryn Morris said: "We are listening to our students and we will have changes in place for the beginning of the new academic year.

"It is vital we work together with students to stamp out any incidents of sexual harassment or assault on our campuses and only through our combined effort will this be possible."

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