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Durham University

Respect: creating a place where we can all flourish

Findings and Recommendations

The Commission has developed a series of recommendations based on the findings of the report. These include actions which are specific and actionable immediately; as well as others which require further consideration, framing and design to deliver practical and specific changes.

The recommendations set out were agreed in 2019 by the Commission. Since this time, work has been ongoing to move much of this forward. The position statement showing where we are against each recommendation reflects activity that has been, or is currently being undertaken, to progress this work.

There is still much more to do and our approach will be a continuous process of reflection and review as we move forward. The Respect Oversight Group was established in December 2019 and will oversee this process, working with the Respect Commission Working Group and report back regularly against progress. You can find out more about Next Steps here.


1. The recruitment processes for all staff should be reviewed and updated to include criteria in all job templates that require candidates to evidence interpersonal skills and behaviours clearly linked to the University values, Durham University Leadership Attributes and/or Realising Your Potential Approach, and EDI objectives.

The prioritisation of these skills and behaviours alongside qualifications, knowledge, and experience with equal weighting is essential.

A review of recruitment is underway, including recruitment processes, role descriptions and other materials.

1.a. The internal promotion and progression processes for all staff at the University should be reviewed to ensure inclusion of citizenships, interpersonal skills and respectful behaviours in staff appraisals. Appointments and promotions should not be made without this evidence and should be refused on the basis of poor behaviours and disrespectful conduct.

The Citizenship benchmark criteria have been revised to ensure that the value and importance of Citizenship is recognised appropriately in the promotion and progression system. Where staff with strong research and/or education portfolios are declined promotion on the grounds of poor citizenship, they receive this feedback alongside help and support for future citizenship development..

2. The Vice-Chancellor’s welcome event should be reviewed to ensure that additional content includes a focus on the University’s values, expected behaviours, and support mechanisms and networks such as Women@DU, MAMS, BAME and LGBT+ Networks.

Promoting the ethos of the University, and the recommendations of this Commission, to both professional and academic staff at the point of arrival will encourage a collective sense of responsibility and accountability for creating a culture of respect.

A recorded welcome message from the Vice Chancellor, referencing the University values is being provided to new staff.

A new welcome event is being designed for when our new VC begins during the 2021/22 academic year.

3. Staff induction should also promote long-term engagement between different staff groups; this should be achieved through partnering new academic starters with new professional starters at a comparable level of expertise, promoting mutual support from the point of joining the University.

These partnerships should be separate to the existing mentoring systems in operation and should be supported through grouping partnerships into joint academic and professional action learning sets, based on the model implemented effectively by the Advance HE Aurora Network3.

Staff induction is currently being reviewed by the OD Team and will provide further networking and mentoring opportunities.

4. Student Leader induction should be strengthened to include full inductions to the University committees they will be sitting on, including full introductions to key staff. All staff who will be working with student leaders should also receive clarification of the roles and responsibilities for the relevant student leaders to promote enhanced understanding of these roles.

Extensive work has been completed to ensure that student leaders represent the student body on all the main University Committees and understand their role in doing this work. Regular, diarised meetings take place between student leaders (both DSU and Common Rooms) and the PVC Colleges and Student Experience. A Student Representation working group has been established to determine where else both the DSU and Common Room leaders might be included.

5. Student induction should include additional discussion of the behaviours expected from all students at the University, in relation to the behaviours expected for student-to-student, and student-to-staff treatment, and should include both reference to the Student Pledge, and the overarching University Respect Statement (see recommendation 10).

The Student Pledge has been updated and continues to set out core expectations in terms of behaviour including respect. The document was updated in light of the challenges posed by C-19 and it remains a core reference point in student induction within Colleges.

Work is ongoing to review the programme of student induction activity on arrival. This work aims to set out to students the values and behaviours that we expect as a community as they transition into the University over the weeks following their arrival.

6. All members of the University community should undertake required University Values, Attributes and Behaviours training. This training would reinforce the messages provided at the Vice-Chancellor’s Welcome Event for staff and the Student Induction sessions for new staff and students.

A programme of roll-out to existing staff and students would also be required. The Respect Commission OversightGroup should explore training methods and options including online delivery to achieve scale and reach and should also consider the time implications for staff to complete the suite of e-learning packages that are now expected of them. The Group should also consider staff who don’t have easy access to online materials.

Organisation Development will be working in partnership with Advance HE to engage with staff throughout the institution. They will both identify the culture we want and the associated behaviours, and train staff to adhere to these expectations.

6.a. Any training developed must complement the existing suite of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training and the Oversight Group may wish to consider recommendations for a refresh of that suite of training materials.

New training is designed to complement existing training. Existing leadership programmes now all include EDI modules and respect as a core element.

7. Bystander intervention training should be developed and rolled out to all staff and students focusing on how to challenge disrespectful behaviours at the point they arise, with an emphasis not only on how to intervene but on how to receive an intervention, should one’s own behaviour be challenged.

Bystander intervention training should include recognising and challenging all types of disrespectful behaviours, with a particular emphasis on harassment relating to all protected characteristics.

The establishment of bystander intervention training should also promote a culture which enables behaviours to be challenged and difficult conversations to be had without fear of repercussions.

A bespoke peer-facilitated student-facing Active Bystander Course at Durham was developed and implemented for the start of the 2019/20 academic year which covered issues of Consent, Coercion and Control focused on the areas of misconduct covered by the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy. The University has appointed two EDI development officers with responsibility for developing training to include other areas of discrimination within the Bystander Intervention training. This training will be available from academic year 2021/22.

8. The recently developed Report and Support tool should be promoted widely through a targeted communications campaign. This online resource currently brings together a central hub for reporting routes, relevant policies, training packages, and guidance, and should be promoted to enhance understanding of the University’s approach to maintaining respectful behaviours.

In addition, it is recommended that the anonymous reporting pathway should be revised to include a free text box to give greater freedom to the reporting individual.

Promotion of our Report + Support tool has seen a significant increase in reporting on unwanted behaviour since the formal launch of the system in October 2019; average monthly reporting has risen steadily. Our approach is recognised as best practice by both the OfS and UUK. The data collected is enabling us to shape more targeted prevention and response strategies, which are directly aligned to the review of the Respect at Work and Study policies, and wider Respect Commission recommendations to support active bystander training interventions.

9. The existing Respect at Work, Respect at Study, and Grievance policies are scheduled for a refresh in early 2020.

The refresh should ensure that the recommendations of this Commission are reflected, in redrafted, accessible and approachable policies. They should be updated to include principles and values underpinning the processes, a clear code of conduct based on these principles, and clear processes for managing infringement detailing the consequences of such behaviour which respect the rights of both the complainant and the accused.

The Student Pledge has been updated and continues to set out core expectations in terms of behaviour including respect. The document was updated in light of the challenges posed by C-19 and it remains a core reference point in student induction within Colleges.<p>

A full and comprehensive review of the University’s Respect at Study Policy has been completed incorporating feedback drawn from extensive consultation with the student body. A new ‘Bullying and Harassment’ Policy for students has been developed in its place and will be incorporated within the University’s core regulations for the 2021/22 academic year. <p>

More broadly, the Student Conduct Office continues its work to increase the confidence of the student body that misconduct investigations will be responded to quickly and appropriately. This includes using professional, dedicated staff to undertake investigations and publicising, across the community, the outcomes of serious disciplinary cases.

9.a. Procedures for responding to reports of behaviour that contravene these policies are currently too slow. In particular, processes addressing grievances are under-resourced and can be very protracted and appear to be waiting for the problem to resolve itself. As such, it is recommended that a dedicated group of senior staff should be allocated to deal with grievance procedures and given appropriate time and training to address these in a prompt manner.

The imminent refresh of the Mediation Service should also include consideration of support, to ensure it is appropriately resourced to facilitate an effective and rapid service.

Posts specifically to take forward investigations forward have been appointed to. <p>

The Mediation Service has recently been refreshed, with a further 10 members of staff from a variety of roles across the organisation completing training in February 20 and qualifying as UK Mediation Accredited Mediators. All of these staff have committed to carry out at least one mediation case per year. The Service now consists of 17 trained mediators, therefore is resourced to facilitate an effective and rapid service. Mediators are currently allocated cases within 10 working days of a request being received.

10. A clear statement, or pledge, such as that produced by Liverpool John Moores or Edinburgh Universities, setting out what the University understands a respectful community to look like, based on the conditions for respect set out in this Commission report, and the expectations on all members, should be developed.

This should be prefixed to relevant policies, and also shared at induction for both students and staff as a standalone statement.

This statement should clarify expectations, enabling individual behaviours to be assessed against this standard.

Statements on respect have been trialled in individual contexts at DU with positive feedback. For example, the Respect and Inclusivity statement has been used for visiting speakers and a note about respect (developed by the Institute of Medical Humanities) is introduced at all events held through the Institute. These statements will be used as reference points in the development of a DU University Respect Statement.

The revision of the Respect at Study and Respect at Work policies offers an opportunity to integrate respect statements into these policies and establish a means through which individual behaviours can be assessed. The statement will be subject to shaping through wider engagement in the policy development process.

11. The University values statement should be updated to include Respect as a core value, signifying a fundamental commitment to promoting an environment which recognises the central importance of respect.

Values are either aspirational or a standard to which members are held to account, and at present it is not clear which is true at Durham.

It is recommended that the values statement is promoted as a standard to which all University members will be held to account. This will be monitored through the addition to the recruitment activities suggested in recommendation 1, and, for existing members of the University, through formal inclusion in staff appraisals and the student code of conduct and pledge.

Work is ongoing to include Respect as one of our Core Values in all of our communications.

12. Improved communications of the policies, processes, training packages, and other tools currently available to all members of the University community is vital to effective implementation of these policy recommendations.

As such, a detailed communications plan should be worked up by the Respect Commission Oversight Group in conjunction with communications staff, to raise visibility of respect related initiatives including those already used by the University and to show progress against implementation of these recommendations.

The plan must consider a mixed media approach to information-sharing so that all members, including those who don’t regularly use email, receive this vital information.

The Respect Project is currently working on a communication and engagement plan, drawing on expertise of colleagues in Marketing and Communications.

13. A strong, well-resourced and diverse EDI team, providing guidance, training, and policy development, will be essential for the effective delivery of the intended respectful university culture.

The University should invest in additional staff resource in this area, developing a diverse team which itself would reflect a commitment to implementing the recommendations of this Commission and addressing the EDI issues raised during its work.

A new part time Community Liaison Officer (BAME fixed-term 2 years) role has been agreed. The primary purpose of this role is to promote and develop strong involvement and engagement relations between the communities of interest and identity within the university and those outside.

13.a. Alongside additional staff resource, a sizeable sub-fund should be established within the EDI unit specifically for the purpose of supporting collaborative work between staff and students to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion across the University.

This fund should be issued upon formal application, with applicants demonstrating purpose, intended impact and outcomes to promote initiatives driving inclusivity between all members of the University.

A fund is being established with the purpose of supporting collaborative work between staff and students to promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion across the University. The fund will provide small grants for initiatives aimed at the University’s commitment to building an inclusive culture. The fund will be issued upon formal application and assessed by a panel.

13.b. Enhanced EDI representation on major committees should also be progressed, with a senior EDI representative to sit on all new policy-making groups, ensuring that good practice is built into the fabric of the policy and fully integrated into agreed processes and practices.

Similarly, EDI representation on UEC would ensure that EDI is integral to all strategic decision-making so a senior member of staff with responsibility for EDI should sit on UEC, and it is suggested that a Vice-Provost with specific responsibilities for equality and diversity should be introduced.

Vice-Provost EDI job has been advertised.

Review of committee structures in ongoing to determine current membership.

14. The Respect Commission Working Group should explore training options in consultation with DCAD and Organisational Development for staff with people management responsibilities (from Heads of Section to PIs and Directors of Research, etc.), particularly in relation to: performance management, dispute resolution/conflict management, professional development support (particularly for more junior colleagues), wellbeing, understanding of the policies and procedures for addressing behavioural misconduct and the mechanisms for their implementation.

Consideration should be given to the scaling and embedding of such training across the University, and its impact on professional development routes. Qualitative KPIs for managers to measure their performance against implementation of training in practice, and their ability to manage behavioural issues effectively, should also be considered in the development of management training by the Working Group.

The in-house 'Essentials' training programmes delivered by the OD team for those staff with people management responsibilities e.g. Team Leaders, Managers and Leaders have been revised by the OD Team to include EDI and respect.

The OD Team is also working with Advance HE to plan and deliver training and other targeted interventions to all leaders across the institution with the aim of moving continually closer to an inclusive culture.

15. Student leaders should have space to raise their concerns and escalate issues, for both their own concerns and for the concerns of those they represent. In relation to the former, it is recognised that routes for student leaders to raise their own concerns are unclear and would benefit from improved visibility and communication.

As such, it is recommended that clarification of reporting routes should be established and communicated to all student leaders.

Termly formal and informal meetings with senior leadership (PVC Colleges and Student Experience) should also be re-instated to facilitate genuine discussion of student issues with an agreed system for responding to concerns, including indicative timelines.

Regular, diarised meetings take place between student leaders (both DSU and Common Rooms) and the PVC Colleges and Student Experience. Between March to June 2021 (delayed due to COVID), a Student Representation working group was established to determine where else both the DSU and Common Room leaders might be included.

16. The Respect Commission Working Group should review the introduction of an Exit Interview process for all staff, to incorporate the capture of respect-related contributory factors for resignation. Pathways for undertaking such interviews should be explored to ensure that there are options beyond HR-led interviews which some staff may not be comfortable undertaking.

Disclosures during these interviews relating to disrespectful behaviours should be logged and addressed to mitigate the risk of future incidents. Best practice identification regarding the methods and options for the exit interview process should be undertaken as part of this review.

This would be complementary to, as opposed to a replacement of, the well-used online system currently in place collecting exit information.

A revised on-line form has been developed and tested in Office 365 and is due to be live by August 2021. The form now requests ethnicity information which was previously not asked. If anything of concern is raised then this is automatically forwarded to the relevant HR Business Partner for information/action.

17. A new policy or code of conduct should be introduced for visitors to the University, setting out expected behaviours for engaging with our staff, student, and local community, signifying a commitment to a zero-tolerance stance to disrespect within the University community. This should be aligned to the conduct agreement for visiting academics currently being piloted.

A Code of Conduct for visiting lecturers has been piloted and will be rolled out across departments subject to evaluation.

18. A formal process should be established for providing post-incident care to staff in colleges, particularly housekeeping and porter staff, ensuring that all staff impacted by incidents such as suicide or other significant events that have the potential to be emotionally distressing can receive appropriate levels of support.

Psychological support, including post-incident support, is available for staff via the Employee assistance programme. The Student Support and Wellbeing Directorate are developing a new response to managing the outcome of complex student cases. The Directorate is introducing a 'Complex Case Review' methodology at which the institutional learning (including the impact on staff) in relation to particular cases will be considered and lessons learned and action for the future will be determined. In addition, the Directorate is developing a Critical Learning Review process for use following a particular student tragedy such as a student death or other serious incident.

Experience shows that College communities are adept at putting care and support around individuals affected by particular incidents. Additional support is provided by the Counselling Service alongside the localised care put in place by strong College teams. There is no separate, formal process for this currently but the University's Major Incident Plan does cover such issues. The University's approach to responding to student deaths will be revised and updated to cover this issue and the linkages with the Major Incident Plan, drawing on good practice that already exists.

19. Provision should be made to support BAME staff and students to access Counselling services with specialist knowledge of issues relating to ethnicity including, but not limited to, racial harassment.

Psychological support is available for staff via the Employee Assistance Programme. During the last opportunity to recruit counselling staff, BAME applicants were strongly encouraged to apply and this approach will be adopted going forward. Recruiting BAME staff in mental health in the North East has proven to be challenging but the approach adopted has resulted in the successful recruitment of a BAME member of staff. All members of staff within the Service have undergone EDI training and are regularly engaged in CPD in these areas. <p>

The Counselling service are also forging partnerships with external BAME counselling services, utilising links with other HE Counselling Services which employ greater numbers of BAME staff and are developing the use of online technology as a mechanism to recruit a more diverse applicant pool for Counselling Service roles.

20. The University should undertake a recruitment drive to enhance representation of BAME staff and students on key committees and in key leadership roles. If there are individuals making key decisions who can identify with the BAME community, staff may start to feel that they can report behaviour and that the University is a safe space for them. Data which shows BAME representation across the University should be ascertained to inform recruitment to committees, ensuring that improvements can be targeted in the areas of most need.

Options for adapting the Inclusion Matters Reciprocal Mentoring programme are currently being explored to support shadowing and engagement opportunities at Executive Committee level.
A number of reciprocal mentoring partnerships are currently in place at Executive level.

A pilot is being developed to support the initial stage of implementation, which will inform development in 2021. Funding opportunities are also being reviewed to supported the adaptation of the programme to engage PI/ECR relationships.