Statements and Updates
Operations Group statements
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) said:
“Durham University is a truly special place to live, work and learn. We aim to provide a world-class education that is enabling, challenging and research-led and a student experience to rival the best in the world; encompassing sport, the arts and volunteering together with a highly-regarded College system.
“We strive to create an environment where students feel safe, respected and able to enjoy their University experience to the full, but we are aware that this is sadly not always the case.
“We know that sexual violence and misconduct involving students is an issue of international concern affecting all universities. At Durham we are focussed on eliminating sexual violence and we have already taken extensive steps in this journey.
“In 2015, we established a Sexual Violence Task Force – one of the first of its kind in the UK, to review policy and practice. The recent Universities UK (UUK) report ‘Changing the Culture’ recognised the positive work undertaken at Durham University and listed it as a case study. Many of the points made in the UUK report confirm the recommendations put forward by Durham’s Sexual Violence Task Force.
“The work of the Task Force is continuing through our Sexual Violence Misconduct and Operations Group (SVMOG) and the University is implementing training and awareness-raising of the issue with students and staff. We have doubled the amount of counselling support available to students through the Rape & Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre. In addition, we now have in place a Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence and Misconduct) who is responsible for implementing institution-wide support and training.
“The group includes a representative from the Students’ Union and specialist local partners such as the Rape & Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre.
“We are open and transparent about the issue of sexual violence and we want students to feel comfortable about raising their concerns and become more aware of the support available to them.
“We look forward to building on this foundation and will continue to work to raise awareness on this important issue. We rely on an ongoing dialogue and engagement with our student representatives, and if you have any thoughts or suggestions on how we can best do this, we would be pleased to hear from you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”
If you have been affected by sexual violence, details of support available to you can be found on the Counselling website or you may speak with a member of staff from your College Support Office.
Tackling sexual violence and misconduct
Durham University’s Sexual Violence Task Force has produced a guide for staff and student Higher Education leaders on how the issue of sexual violence may be addressed in the university environment.
Ahead of its launch Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University, comments on the work that is being carried out at the University to tackle this issue:
Durham University is clear that sexual violence will not be tolerated. We are working, and will continue to work, proactively to address this very serious issue, learning from best practice.
In 2015 Durham University established a Sexual Violence Task Force (SVTF) to review policy and practice, one of the first of its kind in the UK, demonstrating that the University is confronting this challenging societal issue alongside its partners including the Police and Crime Commissioner, Rape Crisis and activist groups such as It Happens Here, who were at our launch event in 2015. There has been a great deal of consultation work with our broader university community working closely with the Students’ Union throughout.
In the UK, Universities UK (UUK) established a task force recognising sexual violence and misconduct as an issue of national concern. The recent UUK Taskforce report, ‘Changing the Culture’, which examined the issue of violence against women, recognised the positive work undertaken at Durham University. The UUK report largely concurred with the recommendations put forward by Durham’s Sexual Violence Task Force.
Commitment to our students
As a University community, we recognise that we have a responsibility to address sexual violence in a number of ways, including prevention work, educationally based interventions and improved responses to reported cases of sexual violence. Our responsibility is based upon an institutional commitment to our students to thrive educationally and psychologically, which is why we are developing a bespoke Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy.
During the course of the work of the SVTF we invested in more than doubling services for students with Rape Crisis and also appointed a full time member of staff to focus exclusively upon the area of tackling sexual violence. We undertook staff disclosure training and also supported student groups in running a series of events in this challenging area working closely with the Student Union and our Colleges. Consent workshops and bystander intervention work was undertaken in a number of our colleges. We screened the film ‘The Hunting Ground’ at consultation events and also to our University Council. We presented some of the work of the SVTF at a national conference organised through Universities UK. Subsequently the work at Durham has received international recognition.
Continued implementation and improvements
Building upon this platform it was recommended that a group was set up to ensure a continued process of implementation and further improvements. Chaired by a member of the University Executive, a team was set up in 2016 and tasked accordingly. Subsequently, this Sexual Violence and Misconduct Operations Group (SVMOG) has taken the work forward, across the institution. The group includes a representative from the Students’ Union and specialist local partners such as the Rape & Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre. Through the SVMOG we have been able to make some marked improvements in the way we tackle sexual violence.
An online training module on consent will be made available to students this term. We are further piloting bystander intervention training in our colleges and via student groups. In addition, our Student Support and Training Officer (Sexual Violence and Misconduct) supports Durham student campaigns on the issue; she has spoken at college events, advised on consent campaigns and held Q&A sessions.
We look forward to building on this important programme at Durham and continuing to work proactively with our students, staff and partners.
Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor and Warden
Operations Group updates
4 May 2017
Update from the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Group (SVMOG) – 4 May 2017
The latest developments from the meeting on 4 May are as follows:
- The Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy has now been approved by Senate. It will go to Council on 23 May, and providing they approve it, the policy will be in place for the start of the 2017/18 academic year and communicated widely. The policy is a student-facing document, and the group is mindful that a version for staff also needs to be created; therefore SVMOG now includes a representative from HR who will be working on this.
- Training resources have been confirmed for the new academic year in addition to some training for student leaders over the summer. For students, the training will comprise: Induction talks in Colleges, the Consent Matters online course and The Intervention Initiative. For staff, the training will comprise: Awareness & Disclosure Training, Disclosure & Support Workshops, and investigation training. In addition, the Students’ Union training on Becoming an Active Bystander will continue to complement the University programme.
- It was agreed that there will be further communications activity around Consent Matters at the end of May/beginning of June to once again raise awareness. This will be done through various channels including through colleges, social media and display screens. There will be an additional re-launch at the start of the next academic year.
- A report written by Dr Victoria Brown on staff and student responses to induction, training and media around sexual violence and misconduct was discussed. The report highlighted the findings of a questionnaire and focus groups following Induction Week 2016. Some of the key findings included:
- Work is required in order to ensure that postgraduate students receive appropriate and timely communications in relation to sexual violence and misconduct.
- Durham is unlikely to be an outlier in the Higher Education sector; the many portals through which to report in Durham is a key reason why reporting rates are considered high.
- Students feel strongly that Colleges should be responsible for the delivery of messages around sexual violence and misconduct with a ‘good citizen approach’.
- College student support staffs are consistently identified by students as their most likely first port of call for a disclosure or report.
- The Intervention Initiative has been piloted in several colleges and has been well received by students.
- The forthcoming policy must translate into ‘on the ground’ provision for students.
If you have any questions or comments about this update, please email: email@example.com
30 March 2017
The latest developments from the meeting on 30 March are as follows:
- The Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy has received a warm welcome from student representatives who have expressed strong support. Providing the policy is approved by Senate and Council in May, the policy will be in place for the start of the 2017/18 academic year.
- In terms of training, pilot sessions for bystander intervention training have been held in a number of Colleges and have been well-received by the student leaders. Disclosure and investigator training for staff were also discussed and the group is currently looking at how these various types of training will be resourced in the new academic year.
- The importance of consent training for students and staff was reiterated. Consent Matters is student-focussed and it was agreed that a different type of consent training should be sourced for staff. Communications around the online Consent Matters course has so far included a poster campaign, digital signage, social media activity, an online news item, a piece in Dialogue magazine and a student blog. There will be further communications activity around Consent Matters in June.
- There was a further discussion about mandatory and voluntary training. It was agreed that the online Consent Matters course should be mandatory for all new students. For staff, consent and disclosure training might form part of a wider induction package.
- Engagement around the issue of sexual violence has strengthened since January 2017, exemplified by increased web traffic to the sexual violence & misconduct web pages, good levels of participation in Consent Matters and positive feedback from students around the policy and active bystander training.
If you have any questions or comments about this update, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
28 February 2017
Update from the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Group (SVMOG) – 28 February 2017
The latest developments from the meeting on 28 February are as follows:
- The Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy is going through the review process and has most recently been discussed with the Heads of Colleges. A number of thoughts were raised around internal investigations and these will be carefully considered by the Policy and Procedure work stream; they will also discuss the governance around the implementation of the new policy. This will be communicated in due course.
- Over 300 students have taken part in the new online course entitled Consent Matters, which covers consent, boundaries and healthy relationships. Reminders will be communicated to students via the University’s social media channels over the coming weeks and months. It was recognised that the online course is effective in raising awareness and that regular and sustained training sessions are required in order to help bring about a culture change.
- Different levels of training were discussed for both staff and students, from basic to intermediate and advanced. For staff, the areas proposed are disclosure and support training and guidance for investigators. For students, the areas proposed are consent and bystander intervention training. The training implementation plan is being carried forward by the Training and Education work stream ahead of the 2017/18 academic year.
- There was a detailed discussion about mandatory and voluntary training and the pros and cons of each approach. Feedback received suggests that people would support mandatory training and the detail of how this might be implemented is being discussed further by the Training and Education work stream.
- The idea of a community charter was discussed whereby staff and students sign up to a set of values and accepted behaviours before they join the University community. It was thought that this could be included in the induction process. This piece of work would be wider than SVMOG, but the group may contribute to it. This is being looked at more broadly within the University.
- SVMOG continues to listen and address the themes raised at the Town Hall meetings and at the student focus groups that have been taking place in the Colleges. Mandatory training, acceptable behaviours and disclosure training for staff are all examples of key themes that were raised at the Town Hall meetings. Further actions about these and other themes raised will be communicated via this regular update.
February 2017 - Town Hall meetings
Town Hall meetings for students and staff
The town hall meetings we held for students and staff on Monday 6 and Thursday 9 February were well attended and I would like to thank all who came along to share their thoughts and ideas.
The meetings provided an opportunity for open discussion and we respect the confidential nature of the individual points raised.
For those who were unable to attend, a number of broad themes were discussed, which we will address through the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Operations Group. They include:
- Bringing about a culture change
- The link between tribalism (e.g. clubs/societies/groups) and sexual violence
- The postgraduate community sometimes feel excluded from the conversation; but they are equally as vulnerable as undergraduate students
- The need to recognise that this is an issue with the staff community too
- Making our training and communications materials more inclusive rather than adopting a heteronormative standpoint
- The value of active bystander training and the idea of making training compulsory for students and staff
- Working with our partners to try and make the city safer at night
- The need to keep the issue of alcohol separate
- Providing more clarity around policy and procedure
- Working with other universities to share best practice
Please be assured that we will be looking closely at these key areas, as well as the other comments that were raised.
We will keep you updated via this web page. In the meantime, we welcome your views and feedback. These can be submitted anytime to: email@example.com (Note – this email is not a mechanism for making a disclosure, for information on support available, please click here).
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience)
1 February 2017
Update from the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Group (SVMOG) – 1 February 2017
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) is the new Chair of the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Group. We are keen to share developments from each meeting with the University community. The latest developments from the meeting on 1 February are as follows:
- The work of the group has been separated out into work streams. They are: Generating Culture Change, Policy and Procedure, Training and Education, Support and Communications. A member of staff has been allocated to lead each work stream area.
- An online course entitled Consent Matters, which covers consent, boundaries and healthy relationships will be available to students week commencing Monday 6 February, this will appear on the course listings on DUO. We encourage all students to take part.
- A new Sexual Violence & Misconduct website is now available. Here you can find information about support available to victims/survivors, how to report an incident, information about the Sexual Violence & Misconduct Group and archived information and publications from the Sexual Violence Task Force.
- A full list of internal and external resources available to students can be found here.
- The University’s Sexual Violence & Misconduct Policy and Procedure is currently going through the internal governance processes and once approved will be communicated widely.
Keep an eye on this page for regular updates.