UCL offers student £5k after claims lecturer initiated inappropriate sexual relations

He has been offered the money to pay for the therapy he’s been undergoing since the event

A student has been offered £5,000 and has had his therapy paid for by UCL following a bullying incident that took place in 2019. This was all the result of an investigation that found he was bullied by a female lecturer who abused her position of trust.

The student in question said he was “traumatised” after he claimed a female lecturer pursued an inappropriate sexual relationship with him.

An independent report commissioned by the university came as a result of the student and another male colleague complaining about the female lecturer. The report concluded she had boasted about the power she had over him and how she could affect his future career.

The report also found that the female lecturer had made sexual comments and shared personal information about other students and colleagues, and highlighted that she abused her position of trust as an employee at the university.

The investigator compiling the report flagged that there was evidence to warrant a tribunal to consider formal dismissal. The lecturer was suspended and barred from campus once a complaint was raised for the duration of the investigation. However, the lecturer in question resigned before UCL could take action against her leading the case to be closed.

The traumatised student is demanding an apology from UCL having launched a complaint regarding how the university handled the matter. He claims they “failed to provide appropriate protection once an allegation was made and the disciplinary process took too long, lasting 16 months”.

The student also claimed the lecturer invited students to parties before making advances and also gained knowledge of his family situation as a means of intimidation.

The student told The Guardian it was hard to “find the courage to report this person, but once I did the upper echelons of the university just insisted on throwing barriers in my way and keeping quiet.”

He claimed the university’s complaints process was “not truly geared towards the victim’s needs or supporting them through the process(es), not integrated, is far too slow, and is full of pitfalls that no one told me about.”

“There was a disparity in communication between the university and myself during the process as time moved on. I had no updates and was just being told to ‘wait and wait because this takes time’”, he said.

A UCL spokesperson said: “We are fully aware that unacceptable behaviour exists within our learning, working and living environment and that this has a devastating effect on anyone who is affected by it. We condemn this behaviour and are on a journey to change this.

“It would not be appropriate to comment publicly on an individual case, but we can assure our community that we take misconduct very seriously and aim to act as swiftly as possible while ensuring due diligence and acting decisively when reports are made.

“We acknowledge that the process can sometimes take longer than we would like. For example, where there are reasonable concerns about the risk of perverting the criminal justice process or at the request of the police. There may also be instances where a person at the centre of an allegation leaves UCL before their misconduct can be fully investigated or disciplinary action taken.

“We are fully committed to taking every action possible to ensure the safety, wellbeing and equity for our students and staff and continuously review our process and procedures wherever they can be improved – including reviewing lessons learnt from past cases.

“UCL is one of a few universities in the UK that has introduced a Personal Relationships Policy which explicitly bans personal relationships where there is a supervisory relationship recognising the power imbalances which exists between staff and students in higher education settings and aims to ensure any abuses of power are prevented.

“We are also taking a number of proactive measures around bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct which include:

  • UCL has launched an online reporting tool for students and staff to report issues of unacceptable behaviour; ‘Report + Support’, which focuses on cultural and behaviour change.
  • The tool is being accompanied by UCL’s first institution-wide campaign called ‘Full Stop’. This focuses on how all members of the UCL community can play an active role in shaping a welcoming and inclusive environment for students and staff. The campaign provides helpful resources and includes calls to action at an individual, departmental/faculty and institutional level. Part of this requires that we no longer excuse poor behaviour, or minimise the experiences of those affected.
  • We continuously review policies and procedures to ensure these are fair, transparent for all parties involved and follow best practice in the UK and globally.

Significant progress has already been made in recent years including:

  • A lead for the prevention of and response to Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct was appointed and a Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor role in the Campus Security team was created.
  • Revising and delivering the Students’ Union Active Bystander training. These workshops give students the skills they need to intervene should they witness bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct on campus. This is done through a strong grounding in understanding consent and recognising sexual misconduct. Since the 2015 academic year to date, nearly 33,000 students have received Active Bystander training.
  • Engaging staff and PhD students in ‘Where do you draw the line?’ training on preventing harassment and bullying. We have delivered training to nearly 3,000 staff to date.
  • Delivering ‘Taking the Lead’ to 400 managers across UCL from Sept 2018 – January 2020.
  • Banning the use of non-disclosure agreements in settlement agreements with staff or students who have raised complaints of sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment.
  • Delivering specialist Rape Crisis training to staff in student-facing roles.
  • Establishing an agreement with Intersol Global to improve the quality and consistency of investigations.
  • We have 35 Dignity Advisers to help provide support and guidance to staff and students at an informal, local level.
  • We have published data relating to reports we have received on sexual misconduct and bullying. We hope this decision will provide further impetus for positive cultural change, as well as deliver increased transparency – both publicly and internally.
  • We have established a dedicated phone line which officers support on bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct through our employee assistance programme.
  • We hosted a global conference ‘Calling time on Sexual Misconduct’ in June 2020 to share learning from around the world on how to tackle sexual misconduct in higher education.”