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Bristol SU Code of Conduct under review after Uni Hockey Society's open letter calls for changes to sexual assault policy

UBLHC has published an open letter expressing their discontent with the SU's current Code of Conduct which does not constitute sexual assault as a violation.

By Eden Reyhanian, Third year, Social Policy and Politics

Earlier today (March 5th), the University of Bristol Ladies Hockey Club published an open letter on their Instagram, addressed to the SU. The letter raises a significant concern: under the SU's Code of Conduct, sexually assaulting someone does not constitute a violation.

The letter further addresses how the existing SU policies lack provisions for the immediate suspension of society members.

Additionally, it points out the inability of societies to suspend members who are subject to an investigation for sexual assault. This policy shortfall, the letter highlights, renders students vulnerable and inadequately protected.

Bristol SU has now confirmed to Epigram that the Code of Conduct is under review and that UBLHC will be consulted in this process.

The letter continues by outlining four critical changes (see post below) they are urging the SU to implement in order to rectify this issue.

In their statement, UBLHC highlights the significance of student safety and trust in the SU's protective measures:

‘Students at Bristol deserve to participate in societies whilst at university, safe in the knowledge that their SU will protect them if they are sexually assaulted.’

‘This is currently not the case. We believe our recommended changes would be a step towards changing this.’

Additionally, UBLHC underscores the challenges faced by students in reporting sexual assault and the urgency for reform, stating, ‘It is an open secret among students that attempting to report sexual assault to the Students’ Union is nigh impossible.’

They also highlight an alarming statistic from a 2021 survey conducted by Bristol SU: ‘29% of respondents stated that they had been sexually assaulted but just 10% had reported such formally to the SU.’

Further emphasising their lack of confidence in the system, the statement notes that ‘when reflecting that 68% of students disagree that Bristol’s SU would 'address complaints of sexual assault and harassment fairly', it is evident that urgent and comprehensive reform is needed.’

In accordance with their recommended revisions, their open letter stresses the importance of implementing comprehensive guidelines, mandatory welfare training, and support systems to safeguard student safety and wellbeing, advocating for significant reforms to cultivate a campus culture of care and accountability.

UBLHC expressed a strong stance on the SU's responsibilities, stating, ‘As one of your largest societies, we feel strongly that you have fundamentally let down the students who have put their trust in you, and we demand better.’

‘As a club, we stand together and support all members and together we are determined to make a change. No one should ever go through this alone.’

Bristol Uni's mixed hockey team celebrating 2022/23 Tier 2 Championship - University of Bristol/SmifSports Photography

UBLHC's initiative seeks to catalyse a shift towards addressing sexual assault as a systemic issue within the university community.

The club urges those who share their concern to sign the open letter in solidarity.

Epigram contacted Bristol SU for a response to UBLHC's concerns. They said:

‘We take the concerns laid out by UBLHC very seriously. We have appointed an independent third party to support us to review and address the points raised by UBLHC about our processes and the Code of Conduct carefully and in full, and we have agreed to engage with UBLHC during that process. As with any ongoing formal complaint, we are limited in what we can say until the review is complete and recommendations have been made.’

‘Sexual violence and harassment is not acceptable, and this is something that we actively campaign on, having recently hosted a series of activity as part of Sexual Violence Awareness Week.’

‘We want any student who wishes to report an incident of sexual misconduct to be able to do so confidently, and the best way to do this is through the Student Resolution Service (SRS) who can provide appropriate and professional support. There is further information available on this webpage.’

Featured Image: UBLHC

Do you agree with UBLHC that the SU's code of conduct needs updating?