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Cambridge launches campaign against sexual harassment

  • 24 October 2017

The University of Cambridge today launches “Breaking the Silence”, a campaign against harassment and sexual misconduct.

The campaign, led by the University’s new Vice Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, aims to foster a culture of zero-tolerance of harassment, and to promote a “safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community that nurtures a culture of mutual respect and consideration”.

Measures includes the launch of a new website bringing together all the University’s policies and channels for help and support, and a new ‘Intervention Initiative’, a program of workshops focusing on equipping students to safely intervene in situations that may lead to harassment or sexual assault. Victims are able to report harassment either within their College or via the University centrally, and may choose to do so anonymously.

Cambridge has also launched its first staff-student relationship policy, which requires disclosure of any such relationship, and withdrawal of staff from any professional duties that could lead to accusations of conflict of interest or inequitable treatment.

A statement published by the University and endorsed in a short film by Professor Toope, says: “There is no place for any form of harassment or sexual misconduct at the University of Cambridge. The University is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community that nurtures a culture of mutual respect and consideration. All members of the University community must be able to thrive within their roles without fear of sexual violence, abuse, coercive behaviour or related misconduct.

“Any form of harassment or sexual misconduct is contrary to the values and ideals of our shared community. Such behaviour subverts the University’s mission and core values, and diminishes the integrity and dignity of all parties. The University will continuously work to improve the prevention, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment and sexual misconduct; and to enable staff and students to make disclosures without fear of reprisal.”

Among the senior figures lending their support to the campaign are the Master and Master-Elect of Gonville & Caius, Professor Sir Alan Fersht and Dr Pippa Rogerson.

Professor Fersht said: “I detest all bullying and exploitation, and sexual harassment is particularly insidious as it has been tacitly ignored for far too long. Dealing with sexual harassment is a responsibility for everyone in the community. People won’t come forward, and there won’t be an open discussion, unless there’s an environment in which people feel safe. So each and every one of us has to try hard to create that environment - in Colleges, throughout this University and everywhere we live and work.”

Dr Rogerson said: “Sexual harassment is poisonous: we must not shirk from exposing and condemning it. Our world-leading university thrives on diversity and respect.”

Students at Caius have also backed the Breaking the Silence campaign. A film featuring Gonville & Caius Student Union President Nathalie Holloway and three fellow students explains their support for the policies.


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