The University has published an updated policy on sexual misconduct, having removed the previous policy from their website in March of this year.
During this time, a lengthy review of University policy was undertaken to bring it in line with Scottish Government legislation.
The policy outlines what students can expect from the University upon reporting any sexual misconduct.
This is defined as covering “a broad range of inappropriate, unwanted, behavior…the common thread [being] the disregard of informed consent.”
A spokesman for the University told The Saint that the new policy includes: “Not only advice and resources for students dealing with issues around sexual misconduct, but makes explicit – for the first time – the University’s role and responsibilities.
The new document now explains more clearly not only what victims can do, but also what they can expect us to do. This includes policies regarding risk assessments, protocols with the police and disciplinary action.”
The document states that risk assessments will be used when discharging a reported case of sexual misconduct. It involves an evaluation of the extent to which the misconduct policies have been breached and the risk that this entails for the individual and others. Action will then be taken to minimise these risks. This action could range from involvement of the police to suspension of students.
The University also states that they will provide access to the best specialist support and take any action necessary to ensure the individual’s “physical safety, emotional wellbeing and [to] reduce the threat to the rest of the student body.”
The information on the University’s website also attempts to makes the definition of consent completely transparent. Outlining this definition, it states: “Consent is always required and cannot be assumed based on the parties’ relationship status or sexual history together. Consent can be withdrawn at any time before or during sexual activity by either party. There can be no free consent in situations where someone is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs and therefore unable to give meaningful consent to sexual activity.”
In addition to increasing the clarity of the policy, the spokesman told The Saint that the review provided an opportunity to engage with Police Scotland, Rape Crisis and student representatives, “to ensure that our guidance is up-to-speed with their needs and properly reflects recent legislative changes to the definition of consent.”
The policy aims to encourage those who have experienced sexual misconduct, or are aware of someone who has, to come forward. The University said that: “we want any victim of sexual misconduct to have confidence that they will be taken seriously and clarity about the support and options available.
Our new guidance will play a vital role in that effort, together with the Got Consent and StAnd Together education initiatives.”
The new reforms are in line with national aims to reduce the gap between the number of rape allegations and convictions.
Director of Representation at the Students’ Association, Joe Tantillo, also expressed his support for the new policy.
He told The Saint: “I cannot stress enough the importance of this University policy. By creating a standalone policy on sexual misconduct the University is telling the students that they will take a proactive approach to the handling of cases of rape and sexual assault.
“As many know, the legal process surrounding cases of sexual assault is quite complicated and most universities in Scotland will leave the police to handle the matter.
“This policy gives the University power to take certain action, outside of a criminal investigation, that will allow them to better support those who have been assaulted. This may include separate disciplinary action based on circumstances and behaviour.
“This policy shows the University’s commitment to providing a safe environment for all students.”
Mr Tantillo also spoke about the importance of the ‘StAnd Together’ initiative in helping to shape the policy: “Personally, I am elated that this policy is now in place. I lobbied hard this summer to make sure that this policy was put into effect. The StAnd Together initiative was so important for helping to create this policy; we have started creating a culture where we don’t shy away from conversations about sexual violence, but instead we stand up and say this is unacceptable.”
Mr Tantillo also made clear his belief that the new policy would help ensure cooperation on the issue of sexual misconduct across St Andrews. “StAnd Together stresses that every student has a part to play in making their community safer and the University wants to do its part as well,” he said.
He stressed that although the University’s policy will be adapted over time to make sure it best fits the needs of students, merely having a policy in place is not enough to stop sexual misconduct from taking place.
“As a community we need to work together to let those who would be perpetrators know that their actions are unacceptable and they will not be tolerated here,” said Mr Tantillo. “We must not be afraid to intervene when we see something suspicious. One student can make a difference and a community of students united can make permanent change.”
All the information regarding the University’s sexual misconduct policy can be found on the University’s website at the link below.