Instances of reported sexual assault or harassment at the University are not recorded in a central database or document, and information is not easily retrievable, a response to a Freedom of Information request submitted to the University has declared.
The request was refused on the grounds that the retrieval of the information would exceed the “appropriate costs limit” for FoIs to universities because, according to UoY management, “the information, where held, is held across several departments” and not held “in a single database or document”.
However when asked for clarification, University Registrar and Secretary David Duncan commented: “Formal complaints of harassment and assault are recorded centrally and action is taken where necessary.”It is therefore unclear exactly why the FoI request was denied and on what grounds.
The University directs students who wish to report a sexual assault to the police and campus security phone numbers, and also to the Safezone app.
“External authorities such as the police are also involved where appropriate,” Duncan continued. “However, our policy is to encourage students to raise minor issues informally with College staff, harassment advisers or others so that advice can be given and matters dealt with as quickly as possible.
“While we do not believe it would be helpful to attempt to collate data on the many contacts that students have with College and other staff, we keep in constant contact with those staff so that we are fully aware of issues which require formal action.”
Of the failure to hold information in a codified location, YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer Scott Dawson said: “The University has been proactive in changing its harassment procedures, particularly with regards to reporting incidents around sexual assault and clarification of the reporting process. A significant number of harassment cases can be resolved through mediation or at a local level, with college tutors or academic supervisors, without recourse to formal mechanisms, which are rightly in place to support the most serious cases.
“To ensure continuous improvements to support services, it is important that adequate monitoring and recording is in place to understand the real scale of the challenge. Where necessary this should include centralised recording. It’s concerning that provision for such documentation doesn’t seem to be in place and I urge the University to address this.”