Student officer calls on universities to issue stricter punishments after attack left her with broken nose

Posted on: 2018-07-31 15:00:00

A student officer who was assaulted at a campus bar and left with a broken nose has called on universities to administer stricter punishments for perpetrators of violence and harassment.

Megan McGrath, the former Students’ Union officer at Sheffield University, said she had been “scarred permanently” by the attack and still struggles to breathe and her sense of smell has been affected.

Ms McGrath has called the university's disciplinary process "inadequate and shoddy", after she said they took three and a half months to punish the student who headbutted her in the face.

She has launched a petition – already signed by more than 8,000 people – calling on Universities UK to introduce guidelines for higher education institutions to make their discipline process more victim-centred after she said the long wait exacerbated the stress and anxiety caused by the assault.

After the incident in March, Ms McGrath posted a photo of her bloody face on Facebook and claimed a male student on a sports social had carried out the “unprovoked attack”.

In the petition, Ms McGrath claims the university made the student who carried out the assault write an apology letter, attend an alcohol awareness course and banned him from two university bars.

A caution for actual bodily harm was issued by the police in connection to the incident – but no charge was made. Ms McGrath has said the punishment “barely constitutes a slap on the wrist”.

She said: “Students across the country are failed by their universities only deeming academic misconduct worthy of suspension or expulsion.

“Women across the country are being failed by lad culture and the consequential acts of violence it cultivates. Society as a whole is failed by violence and harassment going unpunished.”

Ms McGrath added: “Whilst a student, I was told students there were ‘the leaders of tomorrow’. But if the leaders of tomorrow are being taught that they can violently assault women and not face any real consequences, what kind of tomorrow is being created?” 

A University of Sheffield spokesperson said:  “This distressing incident has been considered as a serious matter by the university. Following a police investigation, student disciplinary procedures were undertaken in line with Universities UK guidance.

“Whilst the university is not at liberty to disclose the outcome of confidential disciplinary proceedings, it does not in any way condone behaviour which imperils the safety and respect of members of our student community."

Now I'm no longer an Officer at the SU, I want to share just how incredibly disappointing, frustrating and inadequate the University's discipline process has been whilst dealing with the student that assaulted me, breaking my nose. It has taken them over three and a half months to decide his punishment, which amounts to a letter of apology, a few hours of his time on an alcohol awareness course and a year's ban on two bars. There was no formal way I could influence the proces...

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Universities UK: take harrassment, sexual violence and harrassment on campus seriously

They added: “Understanding the serious nature of this case, senior university staff have now met with Megan and the university is committed to learning lessons from this experience relating to communication with individuals affected by any serious acts of harassment or aggression, as well as in relation to our disciplinary process.

“The university will be reviewing our processes and sanctions to ensure that these are appropriate for all circumstances. The safety of students and staff is of primary concern.”

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “Every university student and staff member should feel safe and protected at their place of study or work. That is why we take incidents of harassment, sexual violence and hate crime on campus very seriously.

“Universities UK has published guidance for universities on handling allegations of student misconduct which may also constitute a criminal offence. The guidance is clear that universities should publish a code of conduct which sets out the types of behaviours that are unacceptable and indicates the sanctions which may be imposed on students in relation to any such breaches.

“As autonomous institutions, it is a matter for each university to put in place processes, to ensure these are communicated to students and staff, and to take appropriate action where incidents have occurred. The priority is to maintain their duty of care to all students and staff and to signal that harassment, sexual violence and hate crime will not be tolerated on our campuses.”

Source: Independent

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