Universities UK issue new guidance on staff-student sexual misconduct
Universities UK has issued important new guidance on how prevent and deal with staff-student sexual misconduct. The guidance calls for “clear policies” to be in place to tackle staff-to-student sexual misconduct, with those that report concerns given “better support and protection” for speaking out. It also, advocates a ban on the use of non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality clauses following settlements that arise from sexual misconduct and harassment cases.
Although the guidance stops short of calling for an outright ban on staff-student relationships, it advises universities to “strongly discourage close personal relationships between staff and students” with “staff removed from all responsibilities which could mean a conflict of interest” if such relationships do occur.
Among other high level recommendations the guidance encourages Universities to collect and keep records on reports of staff-to-student sexual misconduct to help the sector see and understand the problem and establish joined-up thinking across human resources and student services and ensure that staff and student policies and practices work together
The guidance was produced in consultation with the National Union of Students, staff unions and academic experts. However one of the campaign groups involved, the 1752 Group, believes it is a “missed opportunity” that seeks to “shore up” institutions’ reputation rather than to make a difference. Although there was some “helpful and important material” in the guidance, it had prioritised keeping the “status quo” over “real change”, particularly with reference to the failure to put an outright ban on close personal relationships between staff and students.