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Response to the sexual assault cases missed by the Students’ Union reporting tool


Published on 15th October 2020 at 14:40.

We want to start off by expressing solidarity with the people affected when their reports were not received through the reporting tool due to errors with our website and systems. We try to deal with all issues as swiftly as we can but sometimes this doesn’t happen swiftly enough and we acknowledge that this is such an occurrence.

Background

At the Students’ Union, we have a Complaints Form, and a Reporting Tool. In this instance, the delay processing the reports was caused by a technical issue with our Reporting Tool, which is hosted by a third party. This meant that, although reports were being stored securely, we were not being notified that they had been submitted. Unfortunately this issue went unnoticed until one of the students who had submitted a report, but had not been contacted, raised the matter with a member of our staff. As far as we are aware, none of the SU officers were contacted during this time. As soon as we were made aware of this matter, it was investigated and the Reporting Tool put right.

This affected two students who had made reports during this time, and these people were put in contact with our Advice Team for support. We aim to respond to all reports and complaints within 14 days of receiving them - in this case there was a delay in receiving them and we accept that it would have been better if we could have responded sooner than we did. We are sorry for that.

Following this incident we fixed the Reporting Tool, updated our processes for dealing with the information, and put more information on our website explaining how to make anonymous reports and the follow up process, should it be needed.

Our reporting processes and what students can expect from them

The Complaints Form is for making complaints about anything to do with the Students’ Union, including its clubs, societies, sports teams, bars or publications. You can choose to remain anonymous when submitting a complaint, and it will be noted in our records and inform our work, but we won’t be able to pursue a formal complaints process if the complaint is anonymous. Also, while we can accept complaints about the University, and use them to inform our discussions with the University, there is a separate complaints process for making a formal complaint about the University, which our Advice team can support you through.

The Reporting Tool, on the other hand, enables students to make anonymous reports of incidents that breach the Students' Union’s Zero Tolerance policy to sexual harassment, discrimination and violence, or those which fall under student misconduct. When you use this tool, you can report as the person experiencing the incident, a witness, or on behalf of someone who either experienced or witnessed the incident. It is also possible to remain anonymous when using this tool but, if the person who has experienced or witnessed the incident chooses to remain anonymous, we are not able to pursue formal disciplinary proceedings, though again the incident will be logged for our records.

The Reporting Tool also asks people to choose what they would like to happen - maybe you would like to pursue a formal disciplinary procedure or receive help and support from someone at the Union but not pursue the formal process - for both of these options we would need someone’s name and contact information, otherwise we can’t follow up with you, as we would have no way of getting in touch. Or, maybe you don’t want us to take the complaint any further and just want us to note the incident. In this case you don’t need to provide an email address. If you wish to remain anonymous but, for instance, would like some support from us, you can use an anonymous email address which isn’t linked to your real name or possibly give a friend’s email address after confirming with the friend that this is okay.

Going forward

If a similar incident occurs again, where a student has not received a response from us after 14 days of submitting a complaint or report, if they or someone else on their behalf wants to follow up, they should email the complaints email address, [email protected] asking if the original complaint or report was received and providing information such as the date and time it was submitted, as well as the email address it was linked to. If it was an anonymous complaint, and we had no contact details for you or anyone else in connection with the report, you wouldn’t be able to hear back from us about it.

If students do not want to use the Complaints Form or Reporting Tool, they can directly email the Union with more details at [email protected].

Students can also access help directly through our Student Advice Service. The Student Advice Service is there for students to come to us when they need help (whether academically or personally) and they can book a half-hour appointment online, often on the same day.