Policy on Equal Opportunities and Diversity
The University is committed to a comprehensive Equal Opportunities policy for its students, staff and anyone with whom it engages. This means that it opposes any form of unlawful discrimination or harassment. The Equality and Diversity web pages contains the University's equality & diversity policies and guides, their implementation and our anti-harassment related policy and procedures.
University policy and procedures on dealing with alleged harassment
Allegations of harassment or bullying are one of the more complex problems that a student may bring to his or her Tutor, or an employee may confide in to a colleague. Such allegations may relate to the actions of a student or member of staff.
The University's anti-harassment policy is clear and is contained in the Policy Statement on Harassment, which says that incidents of harassment will be regarded extremely seriously and may be grounds for disciplinary action, which may include expulsion or dismissal.
Harassment, as defined by the Equality Act and the Policy Statement on Harassment
The Equality Act 2010 states that this is where a person harasses another by:
a. Engaging in unwanted conduct related to the other's characteristic or where the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the other's dignity, or
The unwanted conduct of a sexual nature or is related to gender reassignment or sex and/or
Creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment as a result.
b. Because of the other's rejection of or submission to the conduct the harasser treats the other less favourably than if they had not rejected or submitted to the conduct and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment as a result.
For the purposes of the Equality Act definition the characteristics are age; disability; gender reassignment; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation.
The grounds on which the acts complained of can amount to harassment, as defined by the University's Policy Statement on Harassment include sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, marital status, Civil Partnership status, family responsibilities, race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins and citizenship), religion or belief, political belief, membership (or non-membership) of a Trades Union or other representative association of employees or students, disability (including HIV status), age, socio-economic background or any other difference,
Where such an act has taken place the victims should not feel that it is their fault or that they have to tolerate it as the University has put in place procedures to enable the matter to be remedied.
However, in reality harassment is difficult to define and may take many forms, which may include:
- Sexual harassment
- Racial harassment
- Harassment on grounds of sexual orientation
- Harassment on grounds of religion or belief
- Harassment of persons with disabilities
- Harassment on grounds of age
- General bullying.
Determining whether harassment has occurred
In determining whether harassment has occurred, the factors to be taken into account include the perception of the alleged victim, other circumstances of the case and whether it is reasonable for the conduct to have the effect of amounting to harassment.
Individuals who believe they are, or have been, subjected to harassment are encouraged to raise the matter as early as possible to give every opportunity to resolve the problem. Incidents of harassment may be dealt with informally where possible. This may be appropriate if the complainant simply wants the behaviour to stop. Where it is not possible to proceed in this way, or where an attempt at mediation and conciliation fails, then the option remains for a formal complaint to be made.
Complaints by a student
This is done via the Student Complaints procedures where a Personal Tutor may be approached by a student experiencing harassment. Should this be the case procedures are laid out in the University's Policy Statement on Harassment and Notes of Guidance on Harassment.
The Tutor may wish to aid an informal resolution of the complaint. If this is the case then it is essential that they follow the guidelines, so as to protect all parties involved.
Alternatively, there are voluntary Anti-Harassment Advisers who have been fully trained in dealing with such complaints. The Advisers are available for referral purposes or to offer support to Personal Tutors, should they get actively involved in attempting to informally resolve the complaint.
The Equality and Diversity web pages have information that may be helpful in dealing with a complaint of alleged harassment including:
- The University's Policy Statement on Harassment
- Notes of Guidance on Harassment
- Code of Good Practice (Valuing Ourselves and Others)
- Names, profiles and contact details of Harassment Advisers.
Above all, a Tutor should be approachable and sensitive in cases of alleged harassment and should never minimise the significance of any student's perception of what does and does not cause them offence. Tutors should be ready to advise and support the student in their chosen course of action (whether formal or informal), using the policies and procedures that the University has in place.