The amended recommendations will next be incorporated into a GraceLouis Ashworth

The University Council has resubmitted recommendations for changes to the University’s procedure for handling allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct, after a number of amendments.

The proposals were first put forward in December, but were withdrawn suddenly after amendments were proposed to its wording.

According to the introduction to the amended report, the changes, which it describes as “small but important”, were made “following continuing expressions of concern by members of the panel of volunteers in the Faculty of Law who provide legal advice and representation for student members of the University charged with disciplinary offences.”

The amendments require officials of the University involved in disciplinary procedures to notify those accused of or under investigation for harassment or sexual misconduct that their statements may be used in a court of law.

This will apply to written representations to the Academic Secretary and to anything said during interviews of those under investigation under the procedure.

Under the original proposals, the Academic Secretary was to be empowered to impose “precautionary measures”, including temporary suspension from studies, on those accused of harassment or sexual misconduct, but the accused was to be permitted to submit written representations to the Academic Secretary to appeal this decision. The changes will require the Academic Secretary to warn individuals submitting such representations that any admissions contained in them may be used as evidence in a court of law.

The December proposals also recommended the appointment of investigators to examine individual allegations, who would be entitled to call those accused of harassment or misconduct to interview as part of their investigation. Under the amendments, before doing so they will be required to ensure that the interviewee has been given sufficient information to understand the allegations against them.

The investigator will additionally notify the interviewee that he or she is not obliged to say anything in the interview, and that any admission made in the interview may be used by the University in its disciplinary procedure and may be provided as evidence in criminal proceedings. Finally, they will be required to remind the interviewee that he or she is entitled to seek independent legal advice.

The changes are endorsed by the General Board’s Education Committee and have the support of the Senior Tutors’ Committee and the Committee on Student Health and Wellbeing.

The recommendation of the proposals by the University Council paves the way for a Grace to ratify them in future.

A spokesperson for the University told Varsity: “The requested amendments to the procedure were minor in nature, and have now been made. A Discussion has been scheduled for the 7th of February, and a Grace could be published as early as mid-February.”

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