Pickets from UCU Bristol union, same group wanted to stop staff-student relationships

UCU Bristol calls for regulation on staff-student relationships

At current the university’s policy allows for personal intimate relationships, including romantic and sexual, between staff and students

Bristol UCU has put forward a motion to call for discussion and consultation across the university to develop professional boundaries between students and staff.

This will explore whether the current ‘Sexual Misconduct and Relationships Policy‘ should be updated to prohibit romantic and sexual staff-student relationships. They are also calling for a prohibition of staff entering into intimate personal relationships with students whom they perform a pastoral or educational role for.

The motion calls for awareness-raising to prevent sexual harassment across academic hierarchies and training staff on how to identify abuse as well as take appropriate action. Additionally Bristol UCU calls for protocols to be implemented for how to appropriately and sensitively handle disclosures of this nature.

The university’s policy states personal relationships with students should be avoided due to the “risk compromising the trust and confidence that underpins the learning experience and may negatively impact on the student’s educational development.” However if consensual by both parties relationships are allowed as long as it is disclosed to the member of staffs head of school.”

Research by the 1752 group finds that women are more likely to feel uncomfortable by sexualised interactions with staff members than men. Additionally Black and Asian students were more likely to feel uncomfortable by personal interactions with staff members with blurred boundaries from private messages on social media and getting drunk with lectures. This research showed around 80% of students are not happy with this policy.

Bristol UCU calls for interrogation of intersectional power relations when it comes to preventing sexual misconduct. The 1752 group proposed UCLs policy as a good benchmark. Unlike Bristol’s included definitions of grooming and the use of social media.

Nationally, the Office for Students is set to introduce a condition of registration for education providers to have more stringent policies and support for sexual harassment and misconduct.

Pickets from UCU Bristol union, same group wanted to stop staff-student relationships

Credit: The Bristol Tab

The motion was proposed by Dr Alix Dietzel a senior lecturer in SPAIS.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “Providing our staff and students with a safe environment in which to work and study is a priority. We have an existing policy on staff-student relationships which is currently in the process of being refreshed following significant work, including with the 1752 Group. We will be actively consulting with staff and students to facilitate wider conversations on this subject as part of the next phase of this important work.”


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