New damning Glasgow Uni report lays bare dysfunctional sexual violence reporting system

‘Serious mistakes’ have been made in handling reports of gender based violence


Students at Glasgow University feel more confident reporting sexual assault to their union than the university a new report has found which also said “serious mistakes” had been made amid fears students cannot “rely on the university’s conduct processes.”

The indepedent report carried out by Morag Ross, KC, investigated Glasgow University’s approach to gender based violence.

It found almost 180 students reported gender based violence between December 2020 and May 2022.

42 were surrounding sexual harassment and 57 referenced sexual violence.

The report cast a damning assessment of the university’s complaint procedure, describing it as “too remote” and “disconnected from student life”.

This has left many students to report incidents to their students’ unions, which don’t fare much better in Ross’s review.

Whilst there is no accurate statistics provided by the unions, the report claims “there are serious problems, at least within the QMU (Queen Margaret Union) and GUSA (Glasgow University Sports Association), in dealing with reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment”.

This is partially attributed to “the number of reports that are made” where “there has been a very marked increase in complaints of sexual violence and sexual harassment in the last 18 months to two years”.

Furthermore, “there are serious weaknesses” in the implementation of support.

The report continues: “The current situation is unsustainable and carries a high level of risk for the University.

“The university procedure, I am told, is seen by some as too remote and too disconnected from student life.”

In some cases the process with dealing with reports was on a “first come first serve arrangement”, where the Student Advice Centre is small and understaffed.

Ross further suggests that much of the “responsibility for raising awareness falls to the SRC (Students’ Representative Council). It is important for the University to resource that work and … to make its position very clear.

“In my view, there is scope for the University to take more responsibility for awareness raising.”

The report claims students have a lack of trust in the system and that several students “might raise their complaints with one of the unions rather than the University because they did not believe that the University would deal with their concerns, or that it would take too long”.

Elected students left to ‘carry the burden’

There is also a focus on how undergraduate students working for the unions “carry the burden” of spending “long hours dealing with complex and distressing allegations of sexual misconduct”.

Several elected students claimed these issues were “above their pay grade” and whilst they are “trying their best” they felt “they were not properly equipped to carry out this work”.

She suggests these reports should be dealt with by well-equipped, permanent and trained members of staff. These students suggested they “need help and would welcome more support from the University”.

This investigation follows public allegations of gender based harassment by former head of undergraduate medicine Professor John Paul Leach. Whilst Ross interviewed “several members of staff” who had reported misconduct, she claims the action the university used in dealing with complaints was satisfactory.

Female medical students who spoke the Tab last month claimed they struggled to raise issues on misogynistic behaviour in the school where one suggested: “Raise an issue with misogyny and you’re ignored by anyone more senior than the lecturer you raise it with.”

The Ross Report concludes that whilst there are several systems in place which deal with these sensitive reports, “urgent attention is needed” in creating a more effective system for students and “students wishing to report experiences of gender-based violence should have confidence in the process. It should be clear and accessible.”

In a letter sent out to students today Principal of the University Sir Anton Muscatelli, and Vice Principle Professor Sara Carter encouraged students to read the report and claimed “The University is fully committed to implementing the recommendations of the Ross Report in full”.

He also highlighted an action plan has been created and actions will be carried out before the start of the 2023/24 academic year.

A spokesperson for Glasgow University said: “We acknowledge that there are a number of areas where the University can and should improve our practices with regards to reporting and support.”

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