Webinar Recap: International takes on Higher Education student conduct & complaints

Across the globe there is a continued concern on how higher education institutions handle student conduct, complaints, and polices when it comes to incidents of sexual assault and harassment.

To better understand student welfare in different contexts, Symplicity and Orbis gathered a panel of higher education practitioners from around the globe to discuss comparative approaches to institutional best practices with the overarching of combatting sexual assault and harassment on their campuses. and supporting students in view of their long-term success.

The panel included: Ravteg Singh Dhesi, Director of Student Welfare at Aston University in the United Kingdom; Kerry Valentine, Director of Student Success and Wellbeing at Bond University in Australia; and Carrie Showalter, Assistant Dean and Executive Director of Campus and Community Life at West Virginia University in the United States.  

Each of our panelists provided a unique perspective on holistic student support particular to their region. In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the conversation. 

Bond University: A humanised approach 

At Bond University in Queensland, Australia, Valentine and her colleagues meet regularly as the CARE Community of Practices team which brings campus staff together to understand how their roles fit into a particular student conduct case. This group includes student wellbeing advisors, academic skills center, its Indigenous support center, campus life, accommodations, and security team. Utilising Symplicity Advocate has ensured that at Bond University everyone is looking at the same information, can cross-collaborate, and better communicate with one another to provide a holistic student approach.

Additionally, Bond University has started to rethink its approach to enable better support and ensure preventative measures. Bond University utilses Advocate by embedding education modules entitled “Safe & Respectful Communities” that are mandatory for anyone that is part of a sports team, experiential learning activity, internship, campus role, etc. to be aware of their worker rights, what sexual harassment looks like, and what their campus resources are. These modules are directly tied to the institution and “ensure we have an educational component” to its programming. 

West Virginia University: Standardised process 

Unlike the UK and Australia, the United States has a federal policy called Title IX that requires schools that receive federal funding to not discriminate based on sex. For higher education institutes, this means that institutions are beholden to a prescriptive process on how to handle cases of sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual and domestic assault. Title IX is a federal mandated policy that holds institutions accountable and requires them to a federal mandate of reporting on such cases. The intention is to hold institutions accountable, and provides a framework for institutions on how to respond to these incidents. That isn’t the case in the UK, for example, which is in the early stages of creating a federal mandate for institutions.  

With a student body population of 30,000, West Virginia University has to ensure that all students’ needs are met and that cases of domestic and sexual assault are handled quickly. In the last few years, West Virginia University has implemented a multi-pronged approach to handling student cases by providing support to students with:  

  • Anonymous and confidential resources (on-call 24 hours)
  • Supportive measures (counseling, no contact directive, class changes) 
  • Support from behavioral intervention team (faculty letters; policy and resource navigation); this team meets every week to understand how it can support at-risk students, not just in conduct cases, but with overall adjustment to campus life, mental health, suicidal ideation risks, etc.  
  • Advisors/Attorneys 
  • Review of Investigation Report – opportunity to ask question; review process 
  • Other support; comfort animals, written and video resources. 

 Aston University: Building a framework from the ground up 

In the UK there currently is no existing framework or mandated policy like Title IX in the US that obliges institutions to report on sexual assault and harassment incidents on a campus. In the UK, the Office of Students (OfS) is the independent regulator for higher education and has recently launched proposed government measures to regulate harassment and sexual misconduct. The proposed measures by the OfS would require each institution to report on sexual harassment and misconduct to the regulator. If it fails to meet these standards and requirements, the institution then would no longer be registered as a university and cease to exist until it has addressed the issues.  

Aston University is building a framework and is working on a new approach by bringing together campus leaders in: counselling, disability & academic support, mental health & wellbeing, residential experience & support, and specialists for student support. Aston University is focusing on sexual harassment and violence, by hiring trained independent specialist and advisors to support the student and apply campus-wide training on the disciplinary process with external support from police and special services. Aston is one of a growing number of institutions adopting this model of a dedicated team focusing on these issues, aiming to be proactive and prevent these incidents, rather than reactive.  

For the full conversation, watch the recording below! Wish to learn more about how Advocate can enhance your institutional goals to supporting student wellbeing and responding to sexual assault and harassment incidents at your university? Contact us at hello@symplicity.com or visit https://www.symplicity.com/uk/globalwelfareondemand here for more resources and insight. 


Sexual violence prevention, Sexual Assault, Advocate, Mental Health, Title IX, wellbeing, Student Wellbeing, sexual harassment

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