A recent decision regarding Cambridge University’s disciplinary procedure means that students are unable to have their complaints regarding sexual misconduct heard, a fact that the university has failed to acknowledge thus far.
The university has claimed that a “substantial proportion” of cases of sexual misconduct will also involve harassment, a form of misconduct that is still covered by the disciplinary procedure, and can therefore be sanctioned appropriately (Letters, 5 August). Yet there will always be instances where this is not the case. As a result, some survivors of sexual violence will be unable to see their perpetrators face any consequences for their actions within the university. In fact, some of the most egregious forms of sexual violence are now those that the procedure makes least provision for.
These problems will not cease to exist come 1 October, when the newly reformed disciplinary procedure comes into place. Any complaints about incidents of sexual misconduct that occurred before 1 October will be subject to the current disciplinary procedure, leaving some students unable to pursue their complaint. As it is often months or years before survivors of sexual violence feel ready to report, this recent ruling will continue to affect students for years to come.
The university’s response to this situation has been extremely disappointing. By misrepresenting the nature of the problem and disregarding legitimate student concerns, the university has undermined student trust in its commitment to tackling sexual violence and safeguarding survivors. The university must recognise the severity of this problem and commit to seeking immediate solutions.
Women’s officer, Cambridge University Students’ Union