This document sets out procedures to deal with inappropriate behaviour (including bullying, harassment, victimisation, or discrimination) that may affect the well-being of individuals within the College. The College is committed to addressing any concerns or complaints appropriately and fairly.
This guidance is intended primarily for:
- students who have complaints concerning the behaviour of other students at the College (and who consider that they have been harassed or bullied by another student or students at the College) where the complaint arises within the College teaching, learning, living and working environment;
- students who have complaints concerning the behaviour of members of College staff (and who consider that they have been harassed or bullied by a member of College staff) where the complaint arises within the College teaching, learning, living and working environment.
University Dignity @ Study policy
The University has its own complaints and review procedure, which concerns complaints, including allegations of harassment or bullying that arise within the University teaching, learning and working environment. The University policy also contains useful generic advice for those involved in bullying and harassment complaints.
You may wish to seek advice from the Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals (OSCCA).
Behaviour is defined as inappropriate if:
- it is unwanted by the recipient;
- it is perceived by the recipient as violating dignity and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment;
- the behaviour could reasonably be considered as having that effect having regard to all the circumstances, including the recipient’s perception.
This definition applies whether or not there was an intention to cause that effect.
Inappropriate behaviour may include a number of specific behaviours – such as bullying, or harassment on account of sex (including gender reassignment), race, ethnic or national origin, colour, disability, sexuality, religion or belief, or age. Behaviour that may appear trivial as a single incident can constitute harassment or bullying when repeated.
Some types of harassment may be criminal offences. Students should inform the police about any harassment which is a criminal offence. Students may consider doing this themselves or they may prefer to ask someone from the College to assist them. Action by the College in accordance with the procedures set out here may take place even if the police decide not to proceed or if the student does not wish to make a complaint to the police. Equally, in some cases the College procedures may need to be delayed if a police investigation is on-going.
If a student is physically injured in any way in an assault, or has been the victim of a sexual assault, the individual should seek medical help and advice immediately. In such circumstances, it is essential that the police are informed. A student may also seek advice and help from sources of support in College, such as a friend or a Tutor, or seek support from external sources such as CUSU or specialist organisations such as the Rape Crisis Centre.
Allegations of rape and other sexual assaults, as with any behaviour that would constitute a serious criminal offence, should be investigated by the Police and considered by the prosecuting authorities. The College’s strong advice is that cases of sexual assault should be reported to the Police who have the authority to question under caution and access to investigatory and forensic resources which are not available to the College.
The College aims to handle complaints about inappropriate behaviour, harassment and bullying in a way which is sympathetic, fair, and efficient. Informal conciliation can facilitate early resolution, but it is not appropriate in all cases. If your complaint is particularly serious, or informal resolution would be inappropriate, you can immediately raise a formal complaint as set out at stage 3 below.
The three stages outlined here are all available to you in order to assist you in resolving a complaint. The procedure that you follow will depend on the exact circumstances of your case – it would not necessarily be appropriate for all of the stages set out below to be undertaken.
Discussion and informal resolution
A misunderstanding or disagreement may in some cases be resolved through a calm, honest and balanced discussion between the parties involved. This resolution may be possible if you first receive some advice from an appropriate person such as a Tutor (stage 1); or if you are provided with some assistance in the form of informal mediation (stage 2).
Stage 1: Discussion
You should report the nature of any complaint as soon as possible and make someone else (ideally, someone with some authority) aware of the situation. Appropriate advice and support may then resolve the matter quickly and informally. If you feel unable to do this, you should certainly confide in someone whom you know, and give details of the situation at the time it takes place in order to ensure that you have immediate support.
Your Tutor is a natural first point of contact. Equally you may choose to contact someone else in College such as your Director of Studies, the Chaplain or the College Nurse. Advice can also be sought from an Officer of the JCR or the MCR (such as the Welfare Officers) or from CUSU.
If you contact your Tutor, or another of those listed above, you can expect to be given advice on how to proceed; what would constitute an appropriate remedy; and whether there is indeed a complaint to be addressed. You will then be in a position to decide whether, and if so how, to proceed further – you may then choose to discuss the issue directly with the person whose behaviour is the subject of your complaint.
The University’s advice on dealing with difficult situations – ‘Advice for students who feel they are being harassed or bullied’ and ‘Advice for students who are accused of harassment or bullying’ – is also available.
Stage 2: Mediation
If you are unable or reluctant to approach directly the person against whom you have a complaint, you are encouraged to involve an appropriate senior member of the College .
You may ask your Tutor, or one of the other people at the College who are listed at stage 1 , to help you seek resolution through mediation and/or some form of conciliation.
If a senior member of the College acts as a mediator or conciliator, every effort will be made to achieve prompt resolution of your complaint. Both you and all others concerned in the complaint are expected to co-operate in achieving resolution. If for any reason the informal process does not seem to be working, or is taking an unacceptably long time, either party may withdraw from the process.
Formal complaints procedure
Stage 3: A formal complaint
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the informal discussion and mediation process outlined above, OR your complaint is particularly serious and an informal approach would be inappropriate, you may raise the matter formally. A formal complaint will be investigated independently, thoroughly and without delay with an adjudication reached according to approved procedures.
If you decide that a formal complaint is appropriate, without first exploring the informal approaches at stages 1 and 2 above, the formal complaint should be made as soon as possible after the incident or the most recent occurrence of the behaviour that you are complaining against. However, there may be cases in which a complaint is unavoidably delayed. Bullying or harassment can have a serious effect on you and you may not feel able to make a complaint without initial support or counselling.
If you decide to raise a formal complaint in the discussion with your Tutor, or other senior member of the College, you must be clear that this is what you intend. You can however raise a formal complaint without first having discussed it with your Tutor. In any case, your decision to raise a formal complaint must be confirmed by you in writing to the Senior Tutor. Please see details of the College complaints procedure here. You may withdraw a complaint or stop the process at any time.
In assessing and responding to a formal complaint the College will proceed fairly and impartially. The College has a duty of care to all its members, including anyone who has a complaint brought against them. Your Tutor and/or the Senior Tutor will keep you informed of progress in considering a formal complaint, and you will receive written confirmation at the conclusion of that process.
All information concerning allegations of inappropriate behaviour, harassment and bullying must be treated in the strictest confidence and breaches of confidentiality may give rise to disciplinary action. All parties involved in a complaint (including witnesses, representatives, or friends) must maintain strict confidentiality. There are however limits to how far confidentiality can be maintained. Where criminal offences or serious risks to the safety of the complainant or others are involved, there may be a duty on the College to notify the police and or other bodies. There will need to be disclosure to those involved in the procedures outlined in this document to the extent that it is needed for the procedures to operate effectively. The anonymity of the individuals involved in any complaint will be preserved as far as possible, but such anonymity cannot be maintained in all circumstances.
Protection of complainants
The College will take such actions as it deems appropriate to ensure that any student raising a complaint or concern related to harassment and bullying, or other inappropriate behaviour, is not victimised or disadvantaged as a result. However, if allegations are proven to be vexatious or malicious, a complainant may themselves be the subject of disciplinary action.