Holly Sampson, BA Middle Eastern Studies and World Philosophies
In the next term, SOAS will be implementing a new tool for reporting an incident of harassment or abuse to the School.Report+Support is an online reporting tool that was initially created by the University of Manchester and can be bought by other universities to be used in their establishments. The aim of Report+Support is to increase report rates of harassment and abuse by creating an option to report anonymously. This will then allow general trends to be identified so that new specific policies can be implemented to combat them.
However, it is important to highlight that if a report is anonymous, then individuals cannot be investigated, even if named. This is due to the UK’s norms of justice; a person has the right to know who is accusing them, what they are being accused of and what evidence is being used. However, if the report rates increase, it is hoped that they will begin to show trends in areas such as the basis for harassment and abuse, the location of incidents, and between whom these incidents take place.
“With the option to report anonymously, the hope is that these report rates will increase.”
These trends are important because it means that the Students’ Union will then be able to tailor the implementation of new policies to specific needs. Similarly, it will help to give evidence of an epidemic of harassment and abuse that many people believe exists at SOAS, just as it does in the wider world. The Students’ Union needs proof to show these epidemics and trends to the Board of Trustees when explaining why they need to implement new school-wide policies tackling this subject. Whilst the Students’ Union and the School both have reporting systems in place, they are hardly used. Youssra Elmagboul, Students’ Union Co-President for Equality and Liberation, stated that only 17 reports were filed last year, and so do not accurately demonstrate the vastness of the problem of harassment and abuse at SOAS. The idea is that once the anonymous reporting system is in place this problem will diminish as more targeted school policies are put in place.
As well as the anonymous reporting tool there is also a support side to this new initiative. The support side is going to be introduced slightly later in next term and is a way in which someone can file a full report with their name attached to it and then receive support. It also will contain articles that serve an educational purpose. Often when people arrive at SOAS they are thrown into conversations that they are ill-equipped to be in. This can then lead to comments that are offensive, even if they are from a place of ignorance, and therefore need to be corrected. In order to assist in this correction, there will be a way for people to go and educate themselves on topics that often come up at SOAS. For example, the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault; what is white feminism; using POC as opposed to BME. This tool will then be used as a way of pointing people towards a hub of information that they can use to educate themselves on topics they may know little about otherwise.