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We are campaigning to improve the disciplinary procedures for making a complaint in the University through the 'Office for Student Conduct Complaints and Appeals' (OSCCA). You can find out more about the history of this campaigning here.
OSCCA is currently having a consultation, but they fail to address many of our demands. To read more about this, check out this blog post from our Women's Officer Eseosa.
A group working on similar issues nationally is the 'Brave Space Collective', you can check them out here.
We demand the following reforms to OSCCA’s Student Disciplinary Procedure
1. All cases to be handled within a maximum of 60 days from when the complainant brings their case to OSCCA.
- To ascertain whether complaints are being dealt with inline with OIA guidance, OSCCA should publish how well it is meeting target case timelines.
- In the interim between now and this demand being met, the OSCCA website needs to be immediately updated to reflect that this timeline is not at all accurate and students should not expect their case to be handled anywhere close to 60 days.
2. For OSCCA to adopt a publicly accessible framework that creates a set of standardised minimum outcomes, relating sanctions to specific instances of student misconduct.
- Currently there is minimal, non-binding guidance for disciplinary committees to decide sanctions, and this guidance is not publicly available to students seeking to initiate procedures.
- Guidance for sanctions should be based objectively on what behaviour has taken place, rather than subjective judgements such as “seriousness” or “impact” that are open to interpretation (following the model set by the University of Oxford).
- These should include clear consequences for breaching a non-contact agreement.
3. The University to create a full-time position for a Racial Harassment Advisor to address the current disparity of institutional support between those taking cases of racism and sexual violence through OSCCA’s procedures.
4. Any case involving racism, or where race has been a contributing factor, should not be handled by all-white panels.
- OSCCA to set specific targets for recruiting and training more BME staff to handle cases and sit on panels within the academic year.
- In cases where a majority BME panel is not possible, the Chair should be BME to address the imbalance of power within the room.
- OSCCA already gender-balances panels.
5. Annual reports should be made publicly available in an easily digestible format and broken down by case type, timelines, number of cases, and case outcomes.
- They must be accompanied by a timed action plan every year that also details whether the previous year’s targets were met.
- Harassment cases are not currently broken down into sub-categories, so it is impossible to see how many cases of racism or sexual violence are handled each year.
- Record whether or not people are bringing legal support to their hearings.
- Colleges to report cases to OSCCA for central record-keeping and data collection.
6. OSCCA to create stricter rules relating to the behaviour of the supporter of a respondent student to prevent the intimidation of complainant students during proceedings, which the chair will be responsible for ensuring are adhered to.
- Questions for the complainant, respondent and witnesses should be submitted in advance of the hearing and screened by the chair.
- As part of this, OSCCA should reinforce that (except for in exceptional circumstances) a respondent student’s supporting person is not intended to act as a legal representative, as the proceeding is not a criminal trial.
7. OSCCA’s procedures should require students to provide testimony only once, if the complainant wishes.
- The current procedure is systemically retraumatising and hostile to those bringing cases. OSCCA must reform its procedures to protect the welfare of those engaging with its service.
8. OSCCA to improve its communication with the Collegiate University to ensure any outcomes of a case that fall outside of OSCCA’s direct jurisdiction are carried out (e.g. non-contact agreements within a college, or exclusion from a society space).
9. No communications (verbal or written) from OSCCA should dissuade a complainant student from discussing their case at any point during or following the procedure.
- Currently OSCCA’s communications contribute to a culture of silence within the University.
- Work towards a University-wide ban on the use of NDAs in cases of sexual harassment and misconduct.
- Release all those bound by historical NDAs and confidentiality clauses relating to sexual harassment and misconduct.
About these demands:
These demands were written by the Disciplinary Reform Action Group, which is a hub for student campaigning on issues of sexual violence and racism at Cambridge, founded 2021-22. We have discussed them with the Head of OSCCA and we expect the University to publish their response to our demands over the summer.