Edinburgh students speak out after uni ‘discouraged reporting of sexual misconduct to police’

A lecturer allegedly claimed he had slept with ‘six, maybe seven’ students at his previous university

Students at Edinburgh University shared concerns regarding the university’s failure to address sexual misconduct complaints, even those pertaining to staff.

Students who filed complaints to the university over sexual assault were allegedly discouraged from reporting the incidents to the police on the basis that it would “derail” internal investigations. Only when the assault was “proven to have occurred,” would the university take “appropriate measures, including disciplinary action”.

Speaking to the BBC, an anonymous student said that a senior lecturer abused his power after an online academic mixer for students, where a member of staff asked to come to the student’s flat with alcohol and bragged that he had slept with “six, maybe seven” students at the university he previously taught at.

The student reportedly suffered serious mental health effects as a result of this, explaining that she felt isolated and alone. When the student complained to the university she was left wondering if action would ever be taken and alleges that the lecturer is still employed at the university.

She said: “The complaint seemed to be taken seriously for a long time until it wasn’t – it just went away I guess. I wondered, and still wonder, what it would take for action to be taken.”

In a separate incident, a vulnerable student claimed that she was taken back to the flat of an executive member of an EUSA (Edinburgh University Students’ Association) society and that the older male student proceeded to sexually assault her. The woman explained she knew she was “highly intoxicated” earlier in the night and was not in a position to give consent, which the alleged perpetrator knew.

Following this, the student went to the Advice Place, run by EUSA, with evidence including 15 witness statements corroborating her level of drunkenness. However, the student was left heartbroken when the university decided that, “on the balance of probabilities, the assault did not take place.”

The male student was given no suspensions or penalties, making the victim feel as though the university was unwilling and unable to protect her.

The BBC explains how the university updated its complaints procedures following criticisms. However, dissatisfaction remains.

As a result, students Kate Wilson and Kirsten Hay have created a new student-led campaign called Sex? On Campus which demands change at Edinburgh University. The group aims to increase awareness of rape culture on university campuses, and demand that advice-giving caseworkers have more comprehensive training so that they can offer better guidance. They are also planning on organising a series of protests to combat the unsafe, predatory environment they feel legislation at Edinburgh has created.

In a statement to The Edinburgh Tab for the university: Lucy Evans, Deputy Secretary, said: “The university does not discourage or prevent students from reporting any incident to the police. We do not tolerate sexual violence within our community. Any complaints made against students or staff are taken very seriously and we have processes in place to investigate reports made to us thoroughly. When misconduct is proven to have occurred, we will take appropriate measures, including disciplinary action.

“We have a dedicated team who provide specialist advice and support to those affected by forms of abuse, including guidance on how to contact external organisations such as the police.  We invest significantly in raising awareness, delivering training for students and staff and ensuring there is effective professional support available for any student or staff member who needs it.

“In response to student concerns, we updated our procedures in January 2023 in order to ensure reports that are made to us are investigated robustly and fairly for all parties. We will continue to listen to views on what changes can be made to refine our processes, and help make sure that our community feels safe and protected.”

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