Equally safe

One of the key duties of a university is to do all it can do offer an environment to students in which they are physically safe and given every possible support where they might be at risk from violence, bullying or harassment. Getting this right is not easy, because university students are adults who are free to make their own decisions as to how and with whom they want to live their lives. But many are also extremely vulnerable, and yet reluctant to show it.

A tragic example of what can happen was provided by the student Emily Drouet, who took her own life after falling victim to a manipulative and oppressive fellow student and seeing no way out of the distress she was experiencing. Her mother. Fiona Drouet, initiated a campaign to compel universities and colleges to provide safeguards and make sure students know who they can turn to for help and support. She developed the #emilytest, setting out actions which, if implemented, would help others in similar circumstances. Her campaign has received strong support form the Scottish Government, and the latest ministerial letter of guidance from Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville to the Scottish Funding Council set out expectations of what institutions must now do.

The Scottish Government has also supported Strathclyde University in developing an Equally Safe toolkit, which will be rolled out more widely and provide a framework of support.

It is probably true that no university has a perfect record in tackling gender-based violence. It is vitally important that no student should feel they are alone when faced with oppressive or psychologically bullying behaviour. They must have help available to them, and must know where they can find it. We really must try to fulfil this most basic but also vital duty of care, and to do so visibly.

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One Comment on “Equally safe”

  1. Vince Says:

    I think the university sector is flirting with a line here. There is a major difference between making certain lamps are lit in dark corners of the campus and accepting any rights or responsibilities here at all. If this becomes fully implemented you will have absorbed to yourself extra-judicial powers. As well as policing ones.
    What happens when someone arrived at the door of the Councillor with a complaint. What’s the proper move ?. Me, I’d say to ask if they want to approach the police with a formal complaint. Then if the police accept and send to the CPS/DPP and they decide there is no case. Or, should it be taken to trial the accused is found innocent what happens then.
    There has to be a degree of reasonableness to this. Where the physical space is made as unfriendly to predators as can be. What you cannot do, nor should you attempt to do, nor expected to do is form yourself into a vigilante body taking to yourself investigative, prosecutor and judicial powers not conferred by law and also pertaining to the conduct of any small town.

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