An Oxford College university has promised to amend its handling of sexual harassment cases to settle legal action against a woman who claimed to have been raped by a fellow student.
The woman, a student at Lady Margaret Hall, said she was raped after a man entered her room while she was asleep. Police investigated but no charges were brought against him.
The college settled the case this week after the woman came forward with allegations of negligence and discrimination for the way she was treated. The college woman has agreed to pay compensation in addition to the legal costs. It did not accept responsibility.
Georgina Calvert-Lee of McAllister-Olivier, who represented the woman, said: “Universities have known for many years that their grievance redressal process is flawed, and lawsuits keep coming. But while there is some improvement, change is slow. “
Calvert-Lee, the regulator of higher education, has accused the Office for Students of issuing guidelines on sexual misconduct without imposing any obligation on them.
“The Oxford College system tends to confuse itself further, as students are directed from college to university and try to figure out how to make a formal complaint,” said Calvert-Lee.
Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) said it could not comment on individual students – after the Times reported the allegations – but a spokeswoman said it was “recognized that we have opportunities to improve non-academic disciplinary procedures, including how college sexual harassment Works with complaints. “
The parental attack occurred when Alan Rasbridge, a former Guardian editor, was chairman of LMH between 2015 and 2021.
Rasbridge said: “Numerous staff and tutors went to great lengths to support and protect a student who complained that he had been attacked by his partner. Both the police and the college have carried out a thorough investigation into the alleged attack but have not been able to determine what led to the necessary understanding of the evidence. “
The woman said the college had asked her not to talk on social media about the attack or the college’s policy. It included a clause in a “non-communication” agreement that asked both students to refrain from making public comments and threatened expulsion if they “published material” in the media.
Calvert-Lee said students and junior educators have complained of similar behavior “above and below the country”, including threatening to take disciplinary action if they share their experiences with others.
Rasbridge said there was no “blanket gagging order” or non-disclosure agreement imposed by the college.
He said that while the police investigation was still active, the woman posted in her own name and on a Facebook group of 2,500 people, claiming that she had been raped by a man who could be identified.
“The student was advised of the obvious risks involved in this posting: he apologized and voluntarily deleted all his social media accounts,” Rasbridge said.
The LMH then asked both parties to refrain from making public comments while the case was active as part of a no-contact agreement. Both sides signed without comment or protest. “
A spokesman for LMH said the college was working with the Oxford Student Union’s Brick Happen Here campaign against sexual violence and had agreed to ban the use of non-disclosure contracts in cases of sexual misconduct.
Oxford University says it does not use non-disclosure agreements to prevent students from reporting sexual misconduct or other illegal or inappropriate behavior unless resolved in exceptional circumstances.
A spokesman said the launch of the university’s Sexual Harassment and Violence Assistance Service “has led to a growing number of students and we would encourage anyone affected by this very serious problem to seek help”.