LSESU HandsOff hosts meeting with students and staff to address sexual misconduct policies

By Joe Card

A staff-student meeting was held in the LSESU Community Space on Thursday 14 March. The event was organised by LSESU HandsOff, a student campaign advocating for improvements in the School’s sexual misconduct policies. The meeting had been planned several weeks ago, but its significance was heightened by the publication of an article in The Beaver revealing the alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against a faculty member. 

Students and staff from across LSE, LSESU General Secretary James Relf, Welfare and Liberation Officer Sarah Onifade, LSESU CEO Ben Whittaker, and representatives of LSE’s senior management attended the event.

LSESU HandsOff committee member Charlotte Lewis reported they had invited over 100 members of LSE’s leadership to the meeting, including heads of academic departments, however only Amy Norton, Head of EDI, and Deputy COO Joanne Hay had agreed to attend. Following the article’s publication, LSE committed to sending Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Faculty Development, Charles Stafford. On the day, the committee stated that only Norton and Stafford were present, leaving interviewed students reportedly dissatisfied with the limited representation from LSE senior management. The incoming Vice-Chancellor, Larry Kramer, and the interim Vice-Chancellor, Eric Neumayer, were invited but did not attend. 

The meeting commenced with a presentation from Lewis, outlining the campaign’s work and projects and the success of their petition, which advocated for an independent review of LSE’s sexual misconduct procedure, reaching over 1000 signatures. Norton also delivered a speech emphasising ongoing efforts to reform LSE’s sexual misconduct policies, stressing that these efforts were not solely in response to the recent case but were already underway. 

Norton disclosed an ongoing process to redesign procedures for handling sexual misconduct allegations, which is being collaboratively designed with the Students’ Union staff and sabbatical officers. HandsOff reported not being officially informed or consulted about this review, an oversight which she apologised for. Norton also mentioned forthcoming government regulations from the Office for Students (OfS) regarding investigations into misconduct, allowing students to appeal to the government if necessary.

During the question and answer section, many students and staff expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of sexual misconduct policies, particularly following the revelations from The Beaver’s article. Norton clarified that she had no oversight of individual cases, and was not aware of the specific case until the article was published, having joined LSE after the incident.

Charles Stafford said that he was “unhappy” with the situation and empathised with student frustration but refrained from commenting on specifics. Ethan Chua, a postgraduate student in the International History department, called on Stafford to either address the continued employment of the accused faculty member or resign, citing student safety concerns.

When asked if updates to sexual misconduct allegations handling procedures implied that the existing system is broken, Norton acknowledged that the new system would be an improvement but maintained that the current system “still works”. Students expressed continued concerns about the impersonal nature of the current ‘Report it, Stop it’ system. 

When questioned on training for staff, Norton announced that baseline training on staff-students relationships will be rolled out for employees in July, but is not currently intended to be mandatory, even for academic mentors. Additionally, the school is developing active bystander training for staff, which Norton was again unable to confirm would be made mandatory.

In response to the topics discussed during the event, an LSE spokesperson said, “As previously reported, we have reviewed our processes around reports of sexual misconduct. A number of improvements are currently being taken forward to bring our approach into line with best practice.

“Alongside other measures, we are implementing a new ‘report and support system’, which will enable us to address issues more quickly and consistently; we plan to make greater use of external investigators in the future and we have employed a specialist member of staff with expertise in sexual misconduct and violence.

“LSE is committed to a working and learning environment where people can achieve their full potential free of all types of harassment and violence. We take reports of sexual harassment extremely seriously and encourage any member of the LSE community who has experienced or witnessed this to get in touch via one of our many channels, which allow students and staff to make anonymous reports and access specialist support.”

Joe covers the LSESU HandsOff meeting with students and staff.


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