Gair Rhydd investigated the recent history of sexual harassment allegations at Cardiff University, after it was revealed that one case was currently being investigated, with another occurring in the past five years that was not looked into.
A recent Guardian article also reported ‘epidemic levels’ of sexual harassment at UK universities.
The report stated that, since 2011, there have been 169 counts of sexual harassment towards students by staff members at UK universities, with 37 staff claiming to have been harassed by other members of staff. It was also revealed that 32% of universities did not have a policy towards sexual harassment.
Victims and lawyers have described the figures as the “tip of the iceberg”, whilst many of those abused are thought to have been dissuaded from making an official complaint. Instead, victims of sexual harassment told the Guardian that they resolved to settle the matter informally, fearful that a complaint would impact their future careers and/or education.
With allegations rife nationwide, Cardiff University received two complaints of sexual harassment by staff towards students between the 2011/12 and 2016/17 academic years. Despite there being two complaints, only of these was investigated by the university, which is reported to have a ‘general’ policy on sexual harassment.
Asked why the incident that occurred between the 2011/12 and 2015/16 academic years, which was not investigated by the University, a University spokesperson told Gair Rhydd that: “A record is held of one allegation recorded under the Student Disciplinary Procedure; however this was not investigated as the complainant left the University and did not provide evidence.”
It is not clear under which circumstances the student left the University, or if these were connected to the accusations of abuse against a member of staff.
What is clear however, is that sexual harassment at university is an ongoing and incredibly serious issue.
In the current academic year, one case is being investigated by Cardiff University’s HR department. A University spokesperson said:
“For the Academic Year 2016/17 to date we would advise that records are held of one complaint of sexual harassment which is being dealt with through HR processes. This was a case initially raised through the Student Complaint Process but which was subsequently dealt with by the HR team locally.
“Central records are not held of the outcome – this was a matter for the parties involved.”
No more information was given on the ongoing case.
Asked what policy changes have been or are being made by the University following the cases of sexual harassment, a spokesperson highlighted schemes such as the Student Behaviour Procedure, the Staff Disciplinary/Grievance procedures and legislation such as the Dignity at Work and Study Policy.
The spokesperson also stated that: “The University has also developed a ‘Zero Tolerance on Sexual Harassment’ policy in partnership with the Students Union.
“We have recently set up a working group in light of recent guidance from Universities UK on addressing sexual harassment and violence on campus and work is being carried out by the Students Union on the ‘It’s no Joke’ initiative.
They added: “Both the Dignity at Work and Study Policy and the Zero Tolerance on Sexual Harassment Policy were revised in 2013 and both policies are currently under review. The dignity policy was first developed in 2005; zero tolerance was first developed in 2013.”
More information on Cardiff University’s sexual harassment policies can be found at the following places:
Dignity at Work and Study Policy: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/public-information/freedom-of-information/publication-scheme/policies-andprocedures
The Student Behaviour Procedure: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/publicinformation/policies-and-procedures/academic-regulations
The Staff Disciplinary/Grievances procedure: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/public-information/freedom-of-information/publication-scheme/policies-andprocedures