Wadham SU has passed a motion to implement a “Zero Tolerance” policy regarding sexual harassment at college events.
The proposers of the motion ask for the SU to “To implement a Zero Tolerance policy for all bops, Wadstock and Queerfest.”
The new policy means suspected perpetrators of sexual harassment or assault will be immediately ejected from the premises by security staff. The motion passed with approximately two thirds of the student vote.
Modelled on the OUSU ‘zero tolerance’ contract with Varsity Events, the policy further states that a record must be kept of any alleged perpetrator ejected which will then be sent to college harassment officers. The motion specifies that the policy must be advertised in the Queerfest and Wadstock handbooks and at the entrances and bathrooms of these events, and that ignorance of the policy will not be considered a valid defence.
The motion was proposed by 3rd year PPE student Sarah Pine, who told Cherwell “Assault is a real problem and it happens here. Anyone attempting to deny assault because we’re ‘all friends in college’ is entertaining a spectacularly high level of denial.”
“This isn’t so much a ‘Wadham problem’ as a problem that affects everywhere, including Wadham. However, in a college context, it’s a lot more difficult for victims, because they have to see their attacker in the library, around college events and in their collections.”
Pine continued “There was a lot of support for providing a mechanism by which victims of assault and harassment no longer had to put up with their attacker being at the same event to them. People seemed to really care about the experiences of members who had been assaulted.”
Wadham SU president, Jahni Emmanuel voted against the motion.
Sarah Pine told Cherwell, “I’m confused and disappointed at our President for voting against the motion. Rejecting any way for coping with assault and harassment protects a system in which abuse and assault are common experiences.”
2nd year English student Maeve Scullion, who seconded the motion, said that the motion “should have the desired effect of opening up healthy conversations about the definitions of sexual consent and sexual harassment, as well as giving victims of sexual harassment the right to be removed of the immediate threat of further sexual and/or physical violence.”
Wadham SU president Jahni Emmanuel told Cherwell: “The motion was brought forward because the people who proposed it felt that the college’s current policy on sexual harassment was not sufficient.”
“In terms of specific reasons for the timing of this motion, as far as I’m aware it was not inspired by any specific incident – I believe it was prompted by some statistics recently published about the high rate of sexual harassment across the University.”
However, a student who wished to remain anonymous added that the SU meeting was attended by a victim of sexual assault at a former Wadham event.
Emmanuel voted against the motion, explaining, “Personally, I think that, although this is a very sensitive issue, changing an otherwise universal policy of innocent-until-proven guilty is difficult to justify. Although we have put procedures for appeals in place, this will not stop people automatically being ejected from an event.”
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Oxford University said, “The University and colleges take cases of harassment, abuse, assault or rape extremely seriously. Anyone who is the victim of mistreatment, harassment, assault or in the most serious cases, rape, is advised to talk to their tutors, their college welfare officers, or the University Counselling Service.”
“Allegations of this nature will be dealt with confidentially. Whilst allegations are treated confidentially, matters of concern may be referred to the police, with the permission of the student concerned, resulting in criminal or disciplinary proceedings.”