Oxford staff found guilty of sexual misconduct remain at university

Oxford staff with upheld complaints of sexual misconduct against them have been allowed to remain at the university.

According to a Freedom of Information request made by The Oxford Student regarding sexual misconduct at the University of Oxford over the past five years, from 2017/18 to 2021/22, there were a total of 12 sexual misconduct complaints against staff members.

Of these, five student complaints of staff sexual misconduct have been upheld, but only one staff member was suspended and subsequently dismissed.

Three of the staff members received formal warnings. In one case, the employee was also mandated to undergo harassment training, while in another case, the staff member was barred from student contact. 

In the other cases, three cases were not upheld, and three members of staff left the university before disciplinary procedures were completed. A further case is ongoing.

Student representatives have voiced their disappointment. Sexual misconduct by staff is something that Oxford SU has been lobbying against, particularly via the It Happens Here campaign which works to tackle sexual violence.

The Oxford SU Sabbatical Officers commented, “We are concerned to see Oxford staff accused of sexual misconduct and we hope to work with the University to make sure that more appropriate  sanctions are taken in disciplinary cases such as these in the future. We encourage students who would like to voice their thoughts and feelings to reach out to our VP for Welfare and Equal Opportunities. Students are also able to submit this as a motion for discussion at the next student council.”

Rosalie Chapman, the incoming SU VP Welfare for 23/24 added, “Staff found guilty of sexual misconduct should not be allowed to continue working at the university.”

The FOI response also stated that 24 cases of sexual misconduct were reported by students against other students over the same five years.

Only two cases were upheld and in each case, neither student was dismissed from the university. In one of those instances, the student was required to undergo training. One case was not upheld. In the remaining cases no further action was taken, either because of “a lack of university context”, or because they were considered a police matter.

The findings come as the Office for Students, the higher education regulator, has launched a consultation on new regulations for universities to tackle harassment and sexual misconduct on campuses. Plans include either forcing staff to disclose relationships with students, or banning staff-student relationships entirely.

A spokesman for Oxford University said, “Oxford University is working hard to build a culture where our students can feel safe and where sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated. The university takes any allegation of sexual misconduct extremely seriously, but in line with the national picture, we are aware that incidents of sexual harassment and violence are under-reported at Oxford. 

“The university also does not and will not use Non-Disclosure Agreements to prevent the investigation of complaints of sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behaviour, or to prevent responsible whistleblowing; and would like to reassure students that anyone bringing forward complaints of this nature will always be listened to and supported.”