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Issue 1824 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

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A safer Imperial

Imperial College Union President Hayley Wong explains the latest changes to the College’s disciplinary process.

Screenshot 2023 05 19 At 1841 53 Photo: Imperial College Union


in Issue 1824

The College’s disciplinary procedure has been one of the prevailing issues raised to the Union by students. That is why both mine and Nathalie’s manifestos prioritised pushing for improvements in this area. Whilst the procedure itself was structurally sound and compliant with guidelines from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), students involved in disciplinary cases have lamented over a lack of transparency, the length of time needed to conclude their cases, and the mental toll taken by going through the process.

Over 30% of students have experienced sexual misconduct, according to the 2021 Sexual Misconduct Survey carried out by Imperial College Union. However, over the 5-year period of 2016 to 2021, only 12 cases have been investigated under the College’s Student Disciplinary Procedures, indicating a lack of trust in these procedures. It was also found that a significant majority of sexual misconduct survivors chose not to seek any support from the College or the Union, with the most common reason being that they ‘did not think there would be any action taken’. 

There were many issues with what the procedure used to be, for example:

And perhaps worst of all: 

These issues were detrimental to students going through the process. This is why Nathalie, Jason and I have spent a significant amount of time this year attempting to elevate the student voice on this important issue. At the start of last academic year, Nathalie initiated a College-wide review of these procedures by conducting a survey of sexual misconduct (with over 600 responses) and bringing a paper to Union Council. 

The Imperial College Union building in Beit Quad. Photo: Thomas Angus, Imperial College London
The Imperial College Union building in Beit Quad.

This prompted the College to put together a working group consisting of us three and staff from across the College, as well as a practicing barrister (who happened to be the Union President in 2000/01). After months of careful deliberation, we arrived at a final version of the procedure, most notably with the following changes:

I’m thankful that changes are being made and there are new measures in place which will make the process more transparent

The final hurdle was to approve these changes at Senate, a College committee chaired by the Provost. Amazingly, it was passed unanimously by all members of Senate. Further recommendations have also been made to increase the resources assigned to the Student Casework Team. 

This is one of the most impactful changes in this area that has happened in recent times. We could not have done it with without the help of our Liberation & Community Officers, Union Council, the Academic Registrar and his team, and the College’s Legal team.

A student who has experienced the process said: “As someone who has been though the College disciplinary process, it was incredibly frustrating and I felt very alone. It made me question my decision to submit the report in the first place. I’m thankful that changes are being made and there are new measures in place which will make the process more transparent, and give students the support they need throughout the process.” 

Student casework needs more resource 

These changes have been a long time coming, and we know that they will positively impact students that go through this process in the future. But the work is not done yet. Most of the issues that we outlined above can only be fully resolved with the additional commitment of resource from the College. Waiting times can only be reduced by hiring additional casework administrators, and specialists on sexual violence, bullying, and harassment are needed to handle sensitive cases. 

Moreover, we must regularly review the procedures and the resources surrounding them so that they are kept up to date. We must also look at how these new procedures intersect with other areas, such as the College’s HR policies. 

Finally, we must now also turn our attention inward and look at the complaints and disciplinary procedures within the Union. 

If you have any feedback or comments regarding this, please email Hayley at [email protected].

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