St Andrews denies making sexual assault survivors sign confidentiality agreement

Admins claim communication with the uni has broken down

sexual assault st Andrews st Andrews survivors survivors university

A statement issued today from the admin of the @standrewssurvivors account said discussions between the group and the University had broken down.

The statement was released this afternoon to the media and posted on the St Andrews Survivors account.

The University has responded denying the allegations brought forward by the St Andrews Survivors page.

The Survivors said in their statement they aimed ‘to work transparently, both independently and in collaboration with University officials’.

They said: ‘Though we have been in communication with the University, over the past week it became clear to us that the University has a very different idea of what form that communication should take and what its objectives should be.’

They also said, that to continue communication with the university the group needed an alternative to the University’s mediation, non-confidentiality and a public apology.

In the Survivors’ Instagram post they said: ‘We asked that the University make a statement of recognition and commitment to do better, including admitting to the ways they have failed to protect and support their students in the past and present.’

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The press statement said: ‘Despite repeated requests for genuine conversation on our ideas, the University has made several things clear to us:

1. The University will not engage in any form of direct communication with us other than “mediation” under a written agreement.

2. The University requires us to use their “mediator,” who is a University employee, instead of a neutral third party.

3. The University requires strict confidentiality – complete nondisclosure – in “mediation” and all the communications around it.

4. The University agrees that we are at “an impasse.”’

The statement continues: ‘Though we want deeply to work in partnership with the University we love, we cannot continue discussion under these terms. We simply do not feel safe or comfortable moving forward with the University in “mediation” whilst constricted by confidentiality.’

The Survivors admin have said: ‘It would make it impossible for us to hold the University accountable for following through on the changes they commit to, and would go against the commitment to transparency we made to the survivors and supporters on whose behalf we are seeking real and long-overdue changes’.

They also said: “We are still hopeful that we can enter into productive, open discussions with the University about making St Andrews a safer and more supportive place for everyone.

“In the meantime, we will continue to do all we can independently to further our goals to protect all students and support survivors, both in St Andrews and across the globe.”

In response to these allegations, a University spokesperson said: “Survivors have categorically not been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“They have been invited to engage in an ongoing consultation, which will offer a range of student groups and societies, including elected student representatives, equal and fair opportunity to engage in discussions and shape policy’.

They added: “Discussions should respect confidentiality in the first instance for their protection and to provide a safe space for discussion, given the trauma that survivors of sexual misconduct have experienced and that dialogue may involve disclosure of deeply personal information.”

The spokesperson also said the Head of Mediation and Wellbeing involved in consultation with the Survivors “is also the policy lead for gender-based violence and Chair of our Equally Safe Committee, which involves students and staff from across the University. Her skills as a mediator are relevant because we want to bring a trauma-informed approach to these communications”.

They also said mediation “provides a confidential arena in which parties can hold discussions, recognising power disparities and personal experiences, with the objective of agreeing next steps”.

The university said the Survivors rejected the offer made by the University Head of Mediation “to support them to contribute, with the aim of ensuring they are safe, secure, and empowered to connect”.

“It is regrettable that [the Survivors] have misrepresented the University’s position,” they said.

The University spokesperson also said other attempts have been made through the Proctor “to meet with them next week to explain the process again and encourage them to engage” and say in response to Survivors allegations, “it is self-evidently untrue to say that we have insisted on mediation as the only form of communication”.

They University said “the Survivors are one of several groups with whom we plan to engage” and recognise that one group cannot represent all those in St Andrews who have been “affected by sexual misconduct”.

“Any student who has been harassed or assaulted by a student or anyone else can report to us or to the Police to investigate and provide appropriate support.

“As yet, neither the University or the Police have received any actionable report as a result of the claims which have been made on social media.”

The spokesperson added: “A senior member of staff has been appointed to meet with the St Andrews Survivors, student society representatives, and elected student leaders to learn more about student concerns, and ensure they help inform positive action.

“Meanwhile we are working closely with Police Scotland, the St Andrews Students’ Association, local services and voluntary organisations to pursue a partnership approach to ensure our community is safe for all”.

Further information about the University’s partnership approach is available.

Information and support for students experiencing any form of sexual misconduct are available via the University.

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Featured image by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash.