Sara (NUSU Welfare and Equality Officer) and Katie (NUSU President) have worked with the University on updating their student-facing policies and procedures. As we said in our previous update, this is a process that was always (unfortunately) going to take longer than our terms of office. We are, however, really happy about the progress made so far in Phase 1. On Wednesday 24th of June at University Senate, the proposals for Phase 1 (see the previous update on what this includes) have been approved, including newly improved, jargon-free, student-friendly policies that will be implemented at the start of the 20/21 academic year.
The next phase of this work will be overseen by our successors Nadia and Dorothy and includes:
- The use of external experts who have significant experience of reviewing cases of sexual misconduct to chair disciplinary hearings.
- The training of sabbatical officers to be part of disciplinary hearings.
- The need for sustained awareness-raising across academic units and professional services on policies and procedures relating to sexual misconduct and hate-related misconduct.
- The need for improved information and awareness-raising among students, including at induction and through other established channels.
- The development of a clear position regarding PGR students and communication among students and colleagues.
- Clarity on the interface with the Students’ Union and policies relating to misconduct among colleagues.
- Appointment of a Senior Student Policy and Resolution Manager responsible for information sharing arrangements in respect of any criminal investigations being undertaken by the police in respect of sexual misconduct, and will normally provide updates to the reporting party on a fortnightly basis.
This review and changes to the policies and procedures proved to be a really difficult piece of work, but it was definitely worth-while and reflects a lot of the changes students wanted to see in the workshops/drop ins we hosted earlier this year. Again, a massive thank you to all the students who helped us with this work, and to Newcastle University for driving this work forward.
Since February, Sara (NUSU Welfare and Equality Officer) and Katie (NUSU President) have been part of Newcastle University’s Student Policy Task and Finish Group. We pushed the University to set up this task and finish group, because of a series of disciplinary cases that had come to light and the lack of trust students had subsequently felt with the uni.
We felt that it was necessary to provide an update on the work that students have done to support us with the review group and the outcomes of the 4 meetings we’ve had so far.
Update On Student Input:
- February 2020: Sara hosted a focus group for students to feedback any concerns, issues, opinions and experiences that they have had with the University’s current student-facing policies and procedures. This was attended by the Academic Registrar so that the information of this focus group was directly heard and fed into the group.
- April 2020: Katie and Karina (NUSU PG Officer) held a focus group for PG students to feedback specific concerns, issues, opinions and experiences that they have had with the University’s current PG policies and procedures. This was also attended by the Vice-Chancellor, so the information of this focus group was directly heard by University members of staff and fed into the group.
- May 2020: Eleasha (NUSU Marginalised Genders Officer) and Georgia (NUSU Disability Officer) with support from It Happens Here Society and NUSU staff, conducted a survey to capture the experiences of students reporting incidents of sexual violence/sexual misconduct at University. As soon as this was made available to us this report was fed into the group (on the 20th May). The University are co-ordinating a response to this paper, which will be sent to Eleasha and Georgia and published here.
Update On Outcomes Of The Group So Far:
A. Commissioned external input from Eversheds Sutherland on existing policies, and fed this into developments.
B. Sought advice and discussion from a ‘critical friend’ at the University of Warwick, who have come a long way as a University with the advancement of their policies.
C. Have started drafting up ‘student friendly’ policies, which would make sense to our students, rid of the jargon and be put in a simplified form. These will be submitted to University Senate for approval and involve immediate changes of:
- Responding and reporting parties will receive information on any sanctions that are applied and both parties will have the right of appeal.
- Sanctions imposed by Newcastle University as a result of a disciplinary hearing on sexual misconduct and hate related incidents, will prevent the responding party from readmission to the University for a further programme of study until the reporting party is no longer a student of the University.
- All reports of sexual misconduct should be logged via the University’s Report and Support online reporting system, including anonymous reports. This will facilitate more effective case management from trained colleagues in student wellbeing, and help to monitor any trends in sexual misconduct e.g. if there are a high amount of cases in a particular halls of residence.
- Reporting parties will be provided with a named contact in student wellbeing who will provide independent support throughout the complaint and resolution process.
- In a disciplinary case which concerns postgraduate students, the status of the reporting or responding postgraduate (whether they are considered a staff member or student member) will be determined by the power dynamics of the parties.
- Clarify the role of the friend/supporter and ensure that reporting and responding parties are encouraged to access this support.
- Clarity on what a “reasonable” time frame is for student to expect a response regarding the complaint (responder and reporter).
- A data sharing agreement is being shared between the University and NUSU, to enable effective alignment of our disciplinary procedures.
D. Agreed upon a phased approach of change: Phase 1= immediate changes for implementation in the next academic year and Phase 2= the need for ongoing changes to be made and carried throughout the next academic year.
Many of the above changes were recommendations voiced by the student body, and we really appreciate the honesty and openness of the students who have articulated their concerns with the current University policies and procedures. Sara and Katie have worked hard to ensure the student voice was taken seriously in the Student Policy Task and Finish Group.
However, we understand that there is still a long way to go and progress to be made, such as a data sharing agreement with Northumbria Police, better inductions/ training on sexual misconduct and hate related misconduct, and the implementation of a centralised hate crime reporting channel on the University’s Report and Support system.
The review group will remain one of our top priorities until the end of our Sabbatical Officer term and will be handed over to the next Sabbatical Officers to ensure essential progress is not dropped, and moving forward this will be undertaken by the Changing the Culture Working Group to ensure that there is a more frequent review of policies in the future.
[Original Post: 21-2-20]
The Students Union and University are undertaking a review of all their student-facing policies and procedures.
This is, in part, a response to some recent high profile cases regarding sexual harassment, hate crime, disciplinaries, and complaints. As well as inviting lawyers to review the procedures, we would like there also to be student input as we believe this is a fundamental part of bettering our policies and ensuring students are at the center of these.
The Students' Union and University are therefore running a student focus group to feedback any concerns, issues, opinions, and experiences that students have of the Students' Union's and University's current student-facing policies and procedures. This will be attended and chaired by Sara Elkhawad (Students' Union's Welfare and Equality Officer) and Lucy Backhurst (Newcastle University's Academic Registrar).
The focus group will run in the Students' Union in the Planning Room (1st floor, SU) on the 27th of Feburary at 12-1pm. There is limited space available so this will be given on a first-come-first basis. Refreshments will be provided.
Confirm your attendance via the Facebook group or alternatively email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with any accessibility requirements.
Come along and make sure your voice is heard in our review processes!