It is a terrible fact that, on average, a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK, and countless others experience violence, harassment and abuse. Yet the individual stories recently in the media shine a spotlight both onto the personal tragedies for the victims and their loved ones but also the wider, societal problem of gender-based violence and harassment.
At the forefront of many of our minds over the last few weeks is the shock we have felt at the tragic death of Sarah Everard. Rightly, our thoughts are very much with her family, friends and others who have suffered such pain and injustice at this desperately sad time.
We have learned of many other women who have lost their lives in recent months, including Bennylyn Burke and her two-year-old daughter Jellica who are feared dead after the discovery of two bodies in Dundee, and Wenjing Lin, who died in south Wales in March.
Most recently, we have seen in the news thousands of testimonies posted online that give accounts of harassment and abuse faced by girls and women in schools, colleges and universities. In this year’s Athena Swan Lecture delivered by Professor Vanita Sandoram, she covered the nature of sexual harassment and violence in universities and challenges to institutional culture change.
While we all have an important individual role to play, the University is determined to address the structural challenges that lead to these experiences at an institutional level. The University recognises that gender-based violence happens within the structure of wider gender-based inequalities and indeed intersects with violence on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender identity. This sits alongside our commitment and responsibility to champion equality, diversity and inclusion
The University has made changes to policies and procedures related to discipline of our students and staff in recent years, in consultation with The SU and unions. This has brought our approach in line with the latest guidance and allows issues to be dealt with more quickly in a supportive environment.
In addition, we will be launching a new initiative in April, ‘Be The Change’, which aims to tackle all forms of harassment. ‘Be The Change’ will build on the success of the Never OK project, which ran at the University from 2017 – 2019. The Never OK project raised awareness of the issues of sexual harassment on campus and delivered bystander training to significant numbers of staff and students. The initiative also implemented clearer reporting processes and led to our disciplinary processes being updated, focussing on timeliness, communication and student support.
The new ‘Be The Change’ project is expanding to tackle all forms of harassment on campus, including racism, sexual harassment, homophobia and ableism. The project will empower people to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviours and help create a community where questioning bias and discrimination is a regular and welcome act.
The University of Bath believes that where diversity and inclusion are valued, people work and study in a more rewarding and stimulating environment, which allows them to unlock and fully utilise their skills and talents. Instances of bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation hinder the development of such an environment and negatively impact on the individual’s self-worth and wellbeing, as well as on our wider community.
The project will launch with an initial one-hour training module. This course encourages staff and students to understand the impact of their words and actions and how to become allies for marginalised communities. Further, it will outline the University’s community values and explain where staff and student can seek support at the University. This module, and accompanying communications, will also provide videos and information on the Report and Support process to provide transparency and build greater trust so that members of our community feel confident to report their experiences.
Violence and abuse is not tolerated within our University community. Any staff member, student or visitor can report discrimination, misconduct, harassment or assault using the Report and Support Tool. You can use this to report recent or historic allegations, or simply to seek support if you have been affected by recent events.
Support is available to students from our Student Services or the SU’s Advice Service. Staff can access our free and confidential Employee Assistance Programme, to which you can self-refer. There are also sources of support available in relation to domestic violence.