We were delighted to welcome so many of you to our conference with Westminster Briefing ‘#MeToo on Campus: Ending Sexual Misconduct in UK Universities’. Our panels provided some fascinating dialogues, and opportunity to reflect on responses to into institutional responses to the movement, as well as shared best practice procedures and ways to support survivors in universities. To paraphrase GenPol CEO Lilia Giugni’s opening words:”Beyond critically reviewing what has been done so far on this issue” we came together to identify how initiatives can be incorporated into policy for on sexual misconduct on campus.”
Our excellent Comms Team took to twitter to document the day, where you can find some of the main takeaways from our superb array of speakers. Broadly speaking, the conference pointed towards a pressing need to address the normalisation of sexual violence in university culture, as well as providing better provisions to support and aid survivors within the system. As Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter put to the audience in her opening panel: ‘We live in a society in which sexual harassment against women is normalised systematic issue. The focus of this work had to be on pushing back on harassment against women, changing social norms. We must have public spaces which are safe.” As Janice pointed out, universities are forgetting where students have come from which is a structured secondary school system. clearer guidelines and disciplinary procedures are needed to help support this transition, and to make it easier and clearer for students to disclose.
However, Dr Nina Burrows rightly highlighted that part of reforming this culture of disclosure requires the creation of better systems for survivors, as ‘there are not enough trauma experts to help one-on-one the number of people who have been through [sexual violence]’. The creation of what speakers largely referred to as a ‘culture of sexual respect’ must be mindful (and inclusive) of a range of voice and perspectives, and seek to empower and inform all students who come through universities. Interventions by University UK, Good Lad Initiative, Hollaback! among others gave us some vital food for thought to consider innovative ways in which to do this.
Ultimately, although conversations surrounding sexual violence can (and should) be infuriating and depressing, an excellent day of exchanges, contributions and showcasing best practices left us hopeful and optimistic for all of the vital reforms that are underway. We are excited to see what new findings will emerge at our next event ‘MeToo on Campus, Manchester: Next Steps for Universities’ on May 22nd. We would love to see as many of you there as possible, so don’t forget to register!
The GenPol Team