Image: Warwick Media Library

Warwick’s Report and Support service sees a rise in the number of disclosed cases of misconduct

Warwick’s annual ‘Report and Support’ report has shown an increase of 26% in the number of total disclosures in 2021-2022, including rises in the number of reported cases of various forms of harassment including sexual misconduct, bullying, and discrimination. 

The report also found that undergraduates disproportionately used the service, making up 76% of student reporters. The remaining 24% was made up of postgraduate students, despite them making up 37% of students. 

Further, while only making up 49.3% of students, women made 68% of all reports, and 82% of sexual misconduct reports.    

The report, which aims to help further improve “transparency and openness” between the University and the wider student community, was first published in 2019-2020 and was limited to disclosures of sexual misconduct.  

In 2020-2021, the report was expanded to include the number of disclosures of other forms of harassment, with this year’s data representing the first since the return to normal following the pandemic. 

Following the findings, the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft, attributed the rise in reported cases to “growing trust in the platform”, alongside the report covering “the first-year students and staff returned to campus after the pandemic”.   

When asked about the causes for the rise, one of the report’s authors, Helen Knee, Director of Student Discipline and Resolution at the University of Warwick, highlighted that it was hard to tell the exact cause for the rises before adding:  

We’d rather students made disclosures to us about things that have happened to them, or that they’ve seen happen, so that we can in the first instance support them. Then it’s up to them if they want to make a formal complaint and take it forward, or they might want to go to the police.  

“And there’s support to do that. But it’s not initially complaints or reports that come through. This is about supporting our students. So, the fact that disclosures are increasing is a positive for us because we think that means we’re helping more students. 

Further, Knee clarified: “I’m not suggesting that means that incidents are or are not increasing. I think incidents happen and we live in the real world, but I think that the number of disclosures increasing is a positive.” 

“You can’t buy trust. You have to earn it. So, the fact that there’s a general increase is really important to us.” 

While it is hard to verify the causes for the rise, The Boar was interested to know whether the authors thought the number of reports was expected to rise or fall next year. Jemma Ansell, student liaison manager at Warwick, told The Boar: “I don’t think the number will lower next time because I don’t think we’ve got everyone disclosing.” 

Ansell went on to highlight that the Support and Report Service has seen both an expanded team and benefitted from increased training opportunities for both new and current liaison officers, improving the capacities of the service.  

As part of this, Ansell highlighted some of the other campaigns the liaison staff have been involved with including ‘Flip the Script’ and the ‘Maskulinities Project’, a collaboration between Report and Support, the Community Values Education Programme, and Warwick Students’ Union: “We are the first university in Europe to be able to offer the Flip the Script programme. We’re developing our own Masculinities Projects. We have report and support awareness sessions. 

“Flip the Script is for women only, and it’s the first evidence-based sexual violence resistance programme available in the world.” 

“The goal [of the Maskulinities Project] is to ensure that men can assess masculinity, the impact that it has on them, their views and their societal constructs, and picking that apart and then hopefully forming allies against gender-based violence, homophobia and other forms of discrimination”.  

Report and Support – student concerns 

During the interview, The Boar took the opportunity to ask some questions regarding frequent student concerns such as those surrounding the time lag between submitting a report and getting support and, second, concerns surrounding the effectiveness of the disciplinary process alongside uncertainties regarding how the process itself functions.  

On the first, Ansell stated: “We get back to students and staff within that time frame (2 university working days). And then once that person is willing to speak to us, we arrange a time. We have an initial meeting. That can be face-to-face or online or over a call if they prefer. We talk through their options. We’re very clear at Warwick and we have this in our policies that we are survivor-led or reporter-led… No liaison officer is making a decision on their behalf. 

“Our goal is to help them with every area of life that may have been impacted by that trauma.” 

Knee further highlighted: “We also support the responding party… Not all universities do, but we think it’s really important that we support the responding party in exactly the same way. They would get a student liaison officer who would do the same role because at that point you’ve got allegations.” 

When asked what percentage of cases were responded to within the 2 working day policy, Knee added: “I would say the vast majority are contacted way before the two days are up. It’s usually within that working day. But definitely 100% within two university working days.” 

On the issue of discipline, we were keen to learn more about the process itself as, sometimes, students feel deterred from using the service as they feel unsure about the process, or that the disciplinary outcomes are insufficient.  

According to the 2021-2022 report, there were 148 disclosures of sexual harassment. Of these, 32 reached stage 2 complaints, 9 were proven, 8 were found to have insufficient evidence, and 8 cases remain open.  

Various sanctions have been applied over the last year. In the case of sexual misconduct cases, there were fewer than 5 uses of the following sanctions for sexual harassment: Awareness programmes, written apology letters, reflective statements, suspension of privileges, temporary withdrawal, suspended temporary withdrawal, permanent withdrawal, and suspended withdrawal.  

When asked about this, Knee highlighted key parts of the process including the use of independent ‘trauma-informed’ investigators, and the use of disciplinary committees, which include the involvement of elected SU officers to help further ensure a satisfactory process. 

Knee explained: “Taking the example of sexual misconduct, somebody makes a disclosure within two days. Jemma’s teams have been in touch with them, they’re getting the support and action they want to give their options, they decide they don’t want to go to the police, they want to go down the university route.  

“We have a trauma-informed investigator who we employ. So, it’s not a member of staff who’s just a willing, nice person who’s going to do it, it’s someone who has experience and understands what someone’s been through, and they will see the reporter as quickly as the reporting student wants to be seen”  

“So, if they want to be seen the next day or the day after, we will make that happen. Some students want a week or whatever just to think and gather their thoughts and do whatever that is literally that is Survivor led around how we do that.” 

With regard to deciding the disciplinary outcome, Knee highlighted the role of disciplinary committees, emphasising the involvement of student SU representatives as a means of offering “a potentially different perspective”, and as a means of involving “the voice of the student community.” 

The resulting action for complaints made to ‘Report and Support’ varies depending on the complaint, the views of the reporter, and the outcome of any internal investigation. 

On this, Knee added: “For some people, an apology is a major part of what they need to be able to move forward. For others it is not. It’s also about that individual case and we take into account what the reporter wants set alongside our expectations and our values as a community ” 

Report and Support moving forwards 

The Report and Support team are keen to expand awareness as they look to build further trust with the student community.  

Moving forwards, Ansell stated:We’ve identified some key groups that we do want to be reaching out to. A big overarching one is postgraduate students, and we want to increase their engagement with the service because we have a lot of postgrad students, and we want to make sure that they feel like it’s relevant to them. 

Alongside postgraduate students, Ansell highlighted the need to build further relations within the wider Warwick community: 

“We’ve also specified societies because we think we’ve had good engagement with sports clubs, but not necessarily with societies at large. And there are more of them than there are sports clubs. 

“We know that we need to engage with faith groups and liberation groups, particularly the disabled student community too. 

“I can [try to] increase awareness [of Report and Support] but you can’t increase awareness of something that someone doesn’t trust or someone doesn’t want to use”, Ansell added. 

You can access both the Vice-Chancellor’s statements and the Report and Support annual report on the University of Warwick website.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.