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SU announces Code of Conduct review to begin immediately in UBLHC campaign update

Today, 16 April, the SU announced their external Code of Conduct review will begin 'immediately' and will be completed by July 2024, following UBLHC's ongoing campaign.

By Amelia Jacob, Co-Editor-Chief

Today, 16 April, the SU announced their external Code of Conduct review will begin 'immediately' and will be completed by July 2024, following UBLHC's ongoing campaign.

The announcement was emailed to students and student group leaders and shared on the SU Instagram account this afternoon.

The announcement follows UBLHC's open letter, published on 5 March, which called for the SU to update the Code of Conduct due to 'the significant shortcomings of the Code in addressing the full spectrum of sexual misconduct.'

As part of the announcement, the SU promises that by the end of July they will have:

  • An updated Code of Conduct document and associated policies and procedures.
  • Clear guidance and signposting for student leaders.
  • A roadmap for change including developing skills and building capacity at Bristol SU.

The letter also addressed the inability of societies to suspend members who are subject to an investigation for sexual assault.

In the announcement today, the SU stated:

'UBLHC have correctly challenged us on our outdated Code of Conduct, and the systemic issue of sexual violence, and we thank them for doing so.'
'Bristol SU deeply condemns sexual violence in all forms and will make sure that our policies and procedures are supportive and empowering for survivors.

'We recognise the pervasive culture of sexual violence on campus and are committed to addressing this. [...] We’re sorry that we have let you down – we are taking this very seriously.'

The union admitted the Code of Conduct is 'currently out of date and has been for some time', and say they 'unreservedly apologise for this.'

In the statement, the SU listed the specific concerns that have been raised to the union surrounding the Code of Conduct, including:

  • References to sexual assault and violence being vague and inadequate.
  • Lack of process for committee members and SU staff to follow should a sexual violence allegation be raised.
  • No mandatory welfare training or wellbeing support for all committee members.
  • Use of a slur, making the code non-inclusive.

The SU advised student focus groups will begin on 30 April to give feedback on the current Code of Conduct. They invited student group leaders to sign up to a focus group by filling in this form.

If you are not a student group leader, you can fill in this short form to share your experience using the current Code of Conduct.

The SU state there will be 'an extraordinary trustee meeting to approve the [updated] code of conduct so that a new code is in place before the start of group activities in the new academic year.'

Image courtesy of Amelia Jacob and Jeffrey F. Lin (via Unsplash)

UBLHC also made a statement as part of the announcement:

'We are appreciative of the SU’s newfound commitment to tackling the endemic of sexual violence on campus and are supportive of their efforts to actively engage in a review of the Code of Conduct.

'We are actively involved in the third party review with AtkinsonHR and are eager to continuously engage with them whilst such is being undertaken.

'We encourage all students to get involved with this process, the SU is a union for all. It is imperative that we make it a safer place for all.

'UBLHC is an inclusive, supportive and welcoming club that is invested in the wellbeing of all students and is committed to making sure every member of our community feels safe and respected.

'Together, we can foster a culture of respect, understanding, and inclusivity within our university community.'

Ben Pilling, CEO of Bristol SU, stated he is 'sincerely appreciative of UBLHC for raising their concerns, for challenging us and for championing this issue.'

'They are an incredible student committee and I will make sure that we
deliver on our promises to them.'

Pilling promised the SU have made the Code of Conduct review their 'top priority' and encourages students to take part in the review.

Pat Gibbs, Bristol SU Sport and Student Development Officer, also encouraged students to get involved with the review.

'Being a leader of a student group is a huge role and it is vital that SU policies and processes support those people.'

As part of the announcement, the SU stated they will 'provide further updates in the summer, once the review work has taken place.'

The current code of conduct will remain in place until the new version is approved.

Featured image: UBHLC Instagram

What do you think of the SU's update?