PG Conference Summary

May 10, 2018

We kicked off NUS Postgraduate Sections Conference with a presentation of the groundbreaking NUS & 17:52 Group's investigation into staff/student sexual misconduct. This report, whilst stipulated as a descriptive study rather than a prevalence study indicated some significant trends in sexual misconduct in higher education and worked to map the impact of misconduct on top of occurrence. 

 

Some salient figures include:

 

The group most likely to experience sexual misconduct is LGBQ Postgraduate Women. They are also more likely to experience higher negative impacts on their well being. PG Women are the most likely to either: be threatened by unwanted sexual behaviors or 'rewarded' for tolerating it. They also report more 'serious' behaviors, which may be attributed to a closer relationship with their academic supervisors. Women were three to four times more likely to report changing their behavior: skipping lectures, tutorials, supervisions, avoiding parts of campus, losing confidence, or even changing their career-paths.

 

The data shows that 76% of reported perpetrators are men, against 17% women. The majority of misconduct comes from academic staff and women are 50% more likely than men to experience sexual misconduct from academic staff specifically. 

 

Only 1 in 10 respondents who experienced sexual misconduct reported it to their institution. The most common reason was that they were unsure if the behavior was 'serious enough'. 31% of respondents share that 'reputational damage' was used as a dissuasion tactic. Overall, 90% of respondents judge that their institution failed them in the complaints process. 

 

A note on terminology: 'sexual misconduct' refers to "Liz Kelly's work to define sexual misconduct as a continuum of behaviours that includes but is not limited to sexualised comments, sexual harassment, grooming, sexual assault, sexual coercion and control, and sexual violence. This expansive definition better allows us to understand these specific effects in the context of gender inequality in higher education, participation and retention, and the sliding scale of students' experiences."

 

Link to the full-report: https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/nus-staff-student-sexual-misconduct-report 

 

NUS staff-student sexual misconduct report @ NUS connect

www.nusconnect.org.uk

National Union of Students Macadam House 275 Gray's Inn Road London, WC1X 8QB

 

I then attended a "Decolonising the Curriculum" Workshop led by UCL's BME Officer. He briefed us on some of the theoretical grounding behind his liberation work, focusing on the thought-legacies of Kant, Darwin and UCL's historical endorsment of Eugenics - which, he stated, "made genocide intellectually possible." He alluded to the importance of these institutional histories as a jumping-off point to decolonising the curriculum - a movement designed to interrogate and shift the ownership of knowledge. This is a multi-pronged effort that includes:

 

- Changing our terminology from BME to GM (Global Majority) so as to the reflect the worldwide proportions of people of colour. Indeed, our institutions and structures operate under the belief that these students are reflective of minorities when actually, he argues, they are not. It is thus the duty of world-facing/international institutions to shift their frameworks of "diversity work". This feels particularly salient given the aftermath of Dear White Central, for us. 

 

- The 'Visible' Issues, including questions such as: How many GM Lecturers are there? How many GM students are there? How much of the contracted workforce of the institution is from GM backgrounds? What are the names of teaching (and other) spaces on our campuses? Are they named after racists? 

 

- The 'Deep-rooted' or 'Invisible' Issues: What are reporting procedures like for GM Issues? How many GM staff are promoted? How often? What is composition of course-content and reading lists? Which student activist groups are repressed, institutionally? What are the attainment rates for GM students? What rights are being stripped from GM workers? What are the consequences of Preventand other securitisation methods? 

 

I took away a practical task that could be a great project for Central: To set-up a collaboration with Central's Library to assess our catalogue, diversify our resources, perhaps fielding suggestions from staff and students during a collection period and then designing a list. This includes plays and theoretical resources. 

 

PG Sections voted to prevent three policies from lapsing: Free Education, Support for Sex Workers and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. 

 

We finished the day having an informal discussion about the productive collisions we can find between undergraduate and postgraduate students, Postgraduate Students and the UCU, as well as Postgraduate Students and staff. This was an inconclusive conversation - I would have liked to see more practical tools and strategies shared. There is more work to be done! 

 

In Solidarity,

Clara

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