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UCLU is delighted to announce that, after 18 months of lobbying, the Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment campaign has secured a commitment from UCL to put into practice our proposed action plan for combatting sexual harassment and sexual violence. 

Last month, UCLU Women’s Officer, Natalie James, presented a full action plan of recommendations to UCL’s Senior Management Team, which is comprised of the Provost, all Vice-Provosts, Deans of each faculty, and others. The report reiterated key points made in a paper by the previous Women’s Officer, in particular UCL’s lack of specific sexual harassment policy or training for staff. In addition, it advised that greater support could be given if there were clearer signposting for students in need of the services.

Research conducted by NUS has shone a spotlight on the continuing prevalence of sexual harassment and violence on university campuses. 68% of women students have experienced sexual harassment whilst at university, and one in seven have been a victim of serious sexual or physical violence. This situation is unacceptable, but is compounded by the fact that procedures to report sexual harassment and sexual violence at universities are often unclear or poorly publicised: in 2015, a survey by the NUS found that only 10% of students were aware of reporting procedures for sexual harassment at their institution.

Both UCL and UCLU are now putting additional time and resources into tackling this issue head on. The two year action plan aims to ensure that all staff and students at UCL receive the union’s Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment training, which will not only help to define the behaviours that will not be accepted at this institution, but will also focus on training staff on how to respond appropriately to student disclosures of this nature. As key points of contact with students, security staff and personal tutors will be a priority for training. 

Another key aspect of the plan is a major improvement in sign posting, so that students can easily find support and information on the options available to them should they need it, an action that UCL has made swift progress on already.

These steps will be paired with the implementation of an anonymous reporting system. Natalie explains that “The formal complaints process is quite daunting, and many students consider some instances of sexual harassment too minor to report officially. This is never the case and an anonymous reporting system will allow students to share their stories in a more accessible way and will help us to get a fuller picture of the situation at UCL and any problem areas.”

UCLU could not be happier with the university’s willingness to improve the support they are giving to students in what can be very traumatic circumstances. It is our hope that the enactment of this plan will help protect students from harassment and extend the good work already achieved by the campaign, and we look forward to working with the university toward this end.

Take a look at the full action plan here.