London Student

Cambridge University admits to having a “significant problem” with sexual harassment

The University of Cambridge introduced a new anonymous reporting system for victims of sexual harassment and misconduct in May 2017 and has since received 173 complaints, forcing the university to admit it is facing a significant problem. After the launch of its anonymous system, the university said it expected a high number of reports.

Of the 173 received complaints, 119 reported student-on-student misconduct and seven complaints from staff alleged misconduct from colleagues. Two complaints were made by students against staff. The remaining complaints involved neither students nor staff.

When discussing the high number of complaints with The Guardian, Professor of English private law and pro-vice-chancellor of education at Cambridge Graham Virgo said:

“It supports our belief that we have a significant problem involving sexual misconduct – what we now need to ensure is that those who have been affected receive the support and guidance they need.”

The University of Cambridge has admitted it has “significant problem” with sexual harassment and recognises their responsibility to provide support to students and staff members who need it.

The anonymous tool was launched as part of the University of Cambridge’s Breaking the Silence campaign, and the university cites the anonymous nature of the system as a reason as to why so many victims have come forward. With the tool, both the victim reporting the sexual misconduct and the accused perpetrator are kept anonymous. The website also contains links to support that is available for victims as well as guidelines for how to make an official complaint.

In a video, the university addresses the Break the Silence campaign and asserts that the university’s aspirations for academic excellence and leadership must also be aspirations for social progress.

In recent years, universities have been under pressure to tackle campus sexual assault. Other universities have introduced campaigns to combat campus sexual harassment which feature anonymous reporting tools like the We Get It! campaign at the University of Manchester and the It Stops Here campaign at King’s College London. However, Cambridge is the first university publish such a high number of reports.

The Break the Silence campaign has mainly been received with enthusiastic response, although some have expressed frustration that its arrival is long overdue.

Other critics remind us that there are many issues the university has yet to address. A tweet from Dr Priyamvada Gopal, reader in the English Faculty, suggests that the time has come for the University of Cambridge to break its silence on campus racism.

This article is part of The London Students’ campaign on behalf of Revolt Sexual Assault 

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Imogen Evans

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