Hailie, VP Student Support, reflects on the Morag Ross Report and the steps taken by the SRC and University so far to tackle Gender-based Violence on campus.
CW: Gender-based violence, sexual harassment and assault. If you are affected by these issues resources can be found here: https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/sexual-violence-harassment-support/
Hi everyone, I'm Hailie, the SRC VP Student Support and incoming President 23/24. I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the recent Morag Ross Report, an independent investigation into Gender-Based Violence at the University of Glasgow. Admittedly, this has been a challenging piece to pull together – like so many other students, this is a subject that hits a little too close to home for me. However, this is exactly why I am able to recognise just how important it is that we tackle gender-based violence directly, and the need to ensure that the student voice remains central to the communications and campaign work related to this subject.
The SRC has been committed to amplifying and uplifting students in this space for a number of years and has taken a leading role in the delivery of the Ross Report Recommendations over the last few months. We want to continue working collaboratively with the students and staff from all across the University to create deep and meaningful changes that will make our campus a safe place for everyone in our community.
A lot of good work has been started since the release of the Ross Report, but there’s still a lot more to do, and it is crucial that students are kept in the loop throughout the process. I hope that this can be the start of a more regular dialogue about this work throughout the coming year.
The Ross Report
Last year the University of Glasgow made its way into the headlines for all the wrong reasons following an investigation into gender-based violence in higher education institutions by Al Jazeera, where it was alleged that the University had failed to take sexual misconduct seriously. Around the same time, the BBC released a documentary (Disclosure: Am I Safe on Campus?) which featured several of our students expressing their distress and disappointment in the way that gender-based violence is handled by the University of Glasgow.
The allegations made against the University were shocking and did not paint a good picture of the culture on campus. As expressed in their response to the documentary, the University had – and continues to have – a duty of care to each of its students, and a need to ensure that its policies, procedures, and practices are both compassionate and compatible with the supportive environment that an educational institution should provide. This is what prompted the University to commission the Ross Report (released in December 2022), an independent investigation into the University’s approach to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) on our campus.
Commissioned by the Principal, Morag Ross KC conducted a review of the University’s GBV-related procedures and policies, as well as the support and safeguarding systems made available to our staff and students. The report made several recommendations, delivered with the intention of steering UofG (University of Glasgow) towards a more compassionate, considerate, and comprehensive approach to GBV. These recommendations span across a number of areas, including calls for the increased provision of counselling and support services, additional staffing for student conduct cases, and more comprehensive communications, campaign materials, and educational resources surrounding gender-based violence.
Since December, the SRC have worked closely with the University on the implementation of the Ross Report Recommendations, ensuring that the student voice remains central when delivering gender-based violence related provisions. As we come to the end of the academic year, I believe it is important for the SRC as an organisation to reflect on the progress that has been made and to acknowledge those areas where we feel there is more to be done.
The SRC and GBV
Ongoing work within our own organisation
Ensuring that the University of Glasgow prioritises student safety and wellbeing is our utmost priority. Over the last decade, we have been at the forefront of gender-based violence activism on campus, campaigning for safety, transparency, and education around sexual harassment, violence, and abuse. In recent years, we have focused our energies on facilitating conversations around GBV, through our Moodle module, workshops, and drop-in counselling service.
Designed in partnership with Rape Crisis Scotland, the SRC developed an online Moodle module to ensure that all students have access to a comprehensive education around healthy relationship dynamics, and understanding of GBV and the various forms it can take, and an awareness of the support available to anyone who might require it. We are working with the University to ensure that this training is a requirement of all students (excluding those who do not feel comfortable participating).
The module exists as a continuation of our workshops, which we have now run for over 8 years. Our Let’s Talk Workshop is a two-hour, peer led programme developed initially in conjunction with Rape Crisis Scotland. These collaborative and interactive workshops cover a variety of topics, including sexual consent, clear communication around sex, and scenarios of potential violations of consent and how we might understand these experiences. They run throughout the academic year and are free for all students to attend.
Gender-Based Violence Counselling through the SRC
In 2021 we secured funding that allows us to provide free gender-based violence counselling every Tuesday with a fully qualified GBV counsellor. We know that it can be challenging to talk about issues related to sexual violence and harassment, which is why we have ensured that these sessions are available as both in-person and online spaces.
Support available through the SRC Advice Centre
The SRC Advice Centre is an advice, information and representation service provided by the SRC for all Glasgow University students. Following the Ross Report, the University has allocated additional funding to the team, allowing the Advice Centre additional capacity for work related to gender-based violence. The Advice Centre can provide support to students looking to report instances of GBV to the University or the Police and representation for those who may be facing a student conduct case.
Working in Partnership with the University and the other Student Bodies
Following the delivery of the Ross Report in December, our SRC President (Rinna Väre) has been a member of the Ross Recommendation Action Group, with oversight and authority over implementing the recommendations made in the review. This group meets monthly and has responsibility for ensuring that the recommendations and resources associated with them are procured and implemented as efficiently as possible.
Additionally, as Vice President of Student Support, I have been working closely with the subcommittee responsible for recommendations 1 and 2:
The University should review its website content relating to gender-based violence and related conduct procedures with the aim of improving accessibility of information.
The University should continue to work with the SRC with a view to (a) ensuring that there is appropriate funding for the SRC’s own work in awareness raising in relation to gender-based violence, and (b) agreeing a strategy for joint working, whether through a campaign or publishing information, which communicates what gender-based violence is and how it is dealt with.
So far this year, we’ve facilitated a number of focus groups with students from the four student bodies (SRC, GUU, QMU, and GUSA), to gather their feedback on the new gender-based violence web resource launched by the University and to gain some initial insight into the priorities our students have when looking towards future communications and campaign work surrounding GBV. Through our Welfare Forum, we've also ensured that the student bodies are kept up to date on the progress of the Ross Report Recommendations and continued to seek their feedback on student-related issues.
Looking to the Future
Our focus groups led us to believe that there are three key priorities for our students when it comes to gender-based violence:
Restoring Trust: all students should feel that they can trust the University to handle their experience with compassion, care, and in a way that ensures dignity. This means that the University’s GBV policies must be accessible and clear and that there needs to be transparency about the work ongoing in this space.
Changing Culture: there is a need to address campus culture towards gender-based violence in a way that is both proactive and direct. Our students want to see open discussions around consent, toxic masculinity, gendered stereotypes, and reproductive rights, and to know that these discussions will be had in a way that is inclusive of all genders and sexualities.
Providing Clarity: it is crucial that students are clearly signposted to the support services available to them both on and off campus. There needs to be continued open dialogue from the University around the work they are doing in relation to GBV, particularly in relation to policies within both the University and the student organisations, and the responsibilities of University staff.
As we move into the next academic year, we will be working closely with the University and the other student organisations to ensure that preventative and proactive measures are taken before Welcome Week. We look forward to facilitating discussions between the University and students that will provide a steer for the communications that students receive at the very start of their journey.
In the new semester, we will be looking to work with a wider range of students via focus groups to understand their needs and priorities in this space. We are also keen to gather insight and support for a larger piece of campaign work that will take place throughout the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence.