Harassment Procedure - Student

1. This Procedure is designed to deal with student reports of harassment by other students that arise in a University context. This covers behaviour on University or college premises, or in the course of University activity within or outside Oxford whether academic, sporting, social, cultural, or other. Harassing behaviours can take a variety of forms as defined in the Harassment Policy. Reports of harassment against students which arise purely within the college environment may be dealt with under appropriate college procedures, while reflecting the principles of the University Harassment Policy. Reports of harassment brought by students against University staff will be dealt with under the staff Procedure.

2.  If a member of staff wishes to make a report of harassment against a student, this will normally be dealt with through the University Student Disciplinary Procedure: Non-Academic Misconduct. In the first instance, the member of staff should seek support and guidance from their head of department or line manager.

3.  Student Welfare and Support Services can provide support to students, and to staff requiring advice on student cases. Where the harassment is of a sexual nature, students can contact the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service. All reports made to support services will be recorded in accordance with the University’s Data Protection Policy[1].

4. In serious cases, it is likely to be appropriate to proceed directly to stages 2 and 3 of this Procedure.

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5. In some cases, a student who feels harassed by another student may feel able to approach the person in question to explain what conduct the first student finds upsetting, offensive or unacceptable, and to ask that person to refrain from that behaviour. At no time should a student feel obliged to approach an alleged harasser, and the University does not wish to suggest that students who feel that they have been harassed are responsible for rectifying the situation. It may often be appropriate to proceed directly to stages 2 and 3 of the procedure.

6. Before taking informal action, the student could discuss the situation with a Harassment Advisor, or in the case of sexual behaviour, with a Specialist Advisor at the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service. If the student does not feel comfortable contacting a local advisor in their college or department, they can contact the Harassment Line for details of another advisor (Tel. 01865 270760 or email harassment.line@admin.ox.ac.uk). A Harassment Advisor can: 

  • listen to students who believe they are being harassed, to clarify the options open to them and to assist them in resolving the matter informally where possible 
  • discuss with a student what they may wish to say or write to the person who they feel has harassed or bullied them or to a senior member of staff who can take action

Advisors will not approach the alleged harasser on behalf of an individual. Details of the role of the harassment advisor can be found on the Harassment Advisor Network webpage.

7. If informal action does not succeed in resolving the situation, or would not be appropriate given the nature of the behaviour, it is very important to get advice and support to understand the options available. Students can contact a local Harassment Advisor or the Harassment Line (Tel. 01865 270760 or e-mail harassment.line@admin.ox.ac.uk), or the Oxford SU Student Advice Service.

8. Other sources of advice include college Deans or Welfare staff, a Director of Graduate Studies, Peer Supporters, Peers of Colour or Rainbow Peers.

9. The University offers a voluntary mediation service for students who find themselves in conflict with another student (the Student Resolution Service). Any student or staff member can make a confidential enquiry via e-mail to: mediation@admin.ox.ac.uk. This service is not appropriate for cases of serious harassing behaviour or criminal conduct.

10. These sources of support and advice are also available to students who have been accused of harassment. Students can contact a local Harassment Advisor or (for reports of a sexual nature) a Specialist Advisor: supportservice@admin.ox.ac.uk.

11. If the harassment is sexual in nature, one of the specialist advisors in the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service can:

  • give advice on options available to the student
  • put in place practical support and manage any impact on academic work
  • refer the student to appropriate support services
  • arrange mediation between the student and alleged harasser, if both parties agree,
  • with a trained mediator
  • ensure that relevant members of staff within the collegiate university are informed of
  • the case if appropriate, with consent
  • support students through a formal disciplinary process

12. If informal action does not succeed in resolving the situation, or would not be appropriate given the nature of the behaviour, the student should make a formal written Report to the Proctors. In some cases, it will be appropriate to proceed directly to this stage. The Proctors’ role is to determine whether the student who is the subject of the Report has breached the University Code of Discipline. Students should refer to the Disciplinary Procedures for details, including Appendix C: Special Arrangements in Reports involving Sexual Misconduct and/or violence.

13. If the student making the formal Report has not accessed advice and support, the relevant caseworker will normally direct the student to Student Welfare and Support Services.

14. The formal Report should set out as clearly and succinctly as possible

(i) the nature of the behaviour that the reporting student is concerned about;

(ii) the effect of this behaviour on the reporting student; and

(iii) where possible, the resolution that the reporting student is seeking.

The Report should include dates and details of any witnesses, together with any documentary evidence. The reporting student should also state, where appropriate, any action taken at Stages 1 or 2.

15. The Oxford SU Student Advice Service, or if appropriate, the Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service can discuss a draft of the formal Report with the reporting student in order to check that items (i)-(iii) above are covered and that relevant supporting documentary evidence is included. These Services cannot offer legal advice, or speculate on possible outcomes.

16. If the reporting student is dissatisfied with the way this procedure has been followed, they can make a complaint under the Student Complaints Procedure, in which case the complaint will be considered by members of staff who have not previously been involved in the case.

17. On occasion, reports of harassment which should be considered under this Procedure may be made to staff other than those named in this procedure. In this situation, staff should explain the Procedure, and refer the student to Student Welfare and Support Services (supportservice@admin.ox.ac.uk).

18. If a student does not wish to seek support and advice, or to make a formal Report or if there are queries about the procedure to be followed, staff can contact the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services’ office for advice on a confidential basis (director.swss@admin.ox.ac.uk).

19. There may be occasions when it is appropriate for the Director of Student Welfare and Support Services to make recommendations to appropriate bodies, including the Proctors, regarding arrangements that would have the purpose of limiting contact between students for so long as may be considered reasonably necessary. Issues including but not limited to those around teaching, examinations and accommodation/social activity may need to be considered.

20. This Procedure, or parts of this Procedure, may not be applicable where the reports are of behaviours that may attract criminal sanction. This would include, but would not be limited to, cases of hate crime, serious assault or threat of serious assault. The Director of Student Welfare and Support Services (or the Proctors for Stage 3) will decide whether this Procedure is applicable, having regard to all relevant circumstances including any police involvement.

20. Information concerning reports of harassment must so far as reasonably possible be held in confidence by those to whom it is divulged. Unnecessary disclosure of such reports may attract disciplinary sanction. Information will be shared on a need-to-know basis. Once a formal Report is pursued, it is likely to be appropriate and/or necessary for certain information to be provided to others within the University, within certain colleges, or to external bodies.
21. Those to whom disclosure may be made outside the University include the police, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (“OIA”) and the civil and criminal courts. The University will not normally report a matter to the police without the reporting student’s agreement, except in those rare circumstances where there is sufficient evidence to suggest that an individual poses an extreme risk.

  1. The University’s Data Protection policy compliance.admin.ox.ac.uk/data-protection-policy

Policy and Procedures approved by Council on 1 December 2014. Revisions to the Student Procedure approved by Education Committee in 8 March 2019.