Why has a convicted assailant been allowed to keep his job?
Sussex University has gone against all its promises to keep campus safe
EDIT: The lecturer, Lee Salter, is no longer employed by Sussex University. More can be found here
Sussex University, a place which boasts huge campaigns for student safety and wellbeing such as ‘ I Heart Consent’ and ‘Safer Sussex’ has shown its hypocrisy by allowing a Sussex lecturer to keep his job despite being convicted of domestic abuse.
Lee Salter, a senior Media and Communications lecturer, was convicted of assault on July 13 of this year. The University were aware that he had brutally assaulted his former 24-year-old student girlfriend, Allison Smith, who he had met during induction.
The Independent, during their enquiry had found that Lee Slater had attacked Ms Smith in September of last year, was charged on June 20 and was allowed to continue working despite many complaints. Sussex University were aware of the relationship however wished to keep things ‘discrete’ between them.
Lee Salter was allowed to continue working within the 10 months between his arrest and conviction. The victim told the independent that she was too scared to leave her house during this time. She had also contacted the university for help but received none.
The victim was knocked out and had a salt container thrown at her face which had chipped her tooth, as well as salt poured into her eyes.
When the university was contacted for comment, they said:
“The University had been following the court case closely and our thoughts are with our former student. A senior member of the University’s management team has been in regular contact with her throughout and they continue to support her.
“We provide a wide range of support for students including a 24 hour service delivered by a team of professional support staff and a dedicated team of counselling professionals who provide support on campus as well as referring students to a range of other national and local services.”
But Smith’s statement claims that she went through student support officers but received no response from the university itself.
Sussex university need to sort out their priorities. It’s crystal clear that pursuing no platforming and censorship is a lot more important than the physical safety of their students. Why does Sussex not stand by its harassment guidelines? According to these guidelines:
” 1(iii) Accordingly, the University will treat any incident of harassment as a serious matter which may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, being taken against the perpetrator.”
Kennesaw University recently sacked it’s softball coach for breaking their sexual harassment policy on August 4 this year.
Safe spaces and support networks are rendered pointless, or else extremely hypocritical in their existence, to Sussex if students are still facing danger from, not even other students, but the very staff members that are there to supposedly help.
So what message does this send from Sussex and to those attending Sussex university? A university that boasts a inclusive and safe environment for students from all genders, ethnicities, and walks of life has had their message thrown away because they have refused to take sufficient action and call for Lee Salter’s resignation.
Speaking to Frida Gustafsson, the new Sussex Union Women’s Officer who has openly condemned the lack of action from the university, she said:
“As Womens’ Officer I strongly condemn the university’s decision to not immediately suspend the member of staff convicted for assaulting a university student. No student should have to feel unsafe on campus, and no woman should have to feel unsafe from her abuser.
“I will personally investigate what the students union can do to ensure that this does not happen again, and I urge the university to take on – and act after – the students’ union’s zero tolerance policy against abuse. The university should always prioritise the welfare and well-being of their students first, something they’ve so obviously failed to do here.”
The lack of transparency and response from the university has also potentially damaged the confidence of those who may be in similar situations. Similar to the case of Michael Segalov, who sued the university, Sussex university attempted to bury their head in the sand and pursue censorship rather than address the issue head on.
The lack of action and quiet response from the university goes to show that they have their tail between their legs and are willing to cover their arses with words but not actions when students are desperately calling for more action to be taken.
This does not bode well for the university who will be welcoming thousands of students next month for the new academic year, and have used adverts which highlight the universities supposed inclusivity.
Why will the university not show some backbone and release a formal statement with the resignation from Lee Salter to try and restore whatever integrity they have left? Why does the university market itself on gender inclusivity and pride itself when students campaign against violence against women, yet allow Salter to remain employed?
You can sign the petition calling for action against Salter by clicking here.
If you have been affected by issues raised, you can find more information here or call the domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 free of charge.