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Code of Practice relating to Harassment

In Michaelmas Term 1991 the Rules Committee introduced a new regulation under which harassment by a Junior Member of any member of the University, or any member of the staff of the University, or any other person for whom the University has a special responsibility, constitutes a university offence (Gazette, No. 4230, 31 October 1991, p. 265; see now Statutes, 1997, p. 787). Council accordingly issued a Code of Practice relating to Harassment which replaced the earlier Code of Practice relating to Sexual Harassment (Gazette No. 4236, 12 December 1991, p. 463; see now Statutes, 1997, p. 794). The code also covers harassment by Senior Members and other staff of the University (see paras. 7 and 8).

As agreed by Council when these new arrangements were instituted, Council subsequently set up a committee, under the chairmanship of Ms J.M. Innes, Fellow of Somerville, to review the working of the new code. On that committee's recommendation, Council has now agreed, inter alia, to reconstitute the Advisory Panel on Harassment, which was previously a committee of the Proctors, as a standing committee of Council comprising the Assessor ex officio, five members appointed by the Proctors and Assessor, and two members appointed by each of Council, the General Board, the Libraries Committee, the Staff Committee, the Conference of Colleges, and the Oxford University Student Union. The appointed Senior Members will serve for five years and will be re-eligible, with one-fifth of them being elected each year. The panel will have the following revised terms of reference:

(a) to co-ordinate and monitor steps taken by the University to prevent and deal with harassment as defined and explained in the Code of Practice relating to Harassment;

(b) to advise on general issues relating to harassment to which the panel wishes to draw the attention of the appropriate university bodies, or which are referred to the panel by the appropriate university bodies;

(c) to offer support to advisers appointed by departments of the University and, on request, those appointed by colleges;

(d) to act as confidential advisers to members or employees of the University and to others for whom the University has a duty of care, in connection with complaints of harassment.

Meanwhile, the existing panel has reviewed the present code of practice in the light of the outcome of the review and has proposed a number of changes, which Council has now approved. Council has accordingly agreed to issue the new code of practice which is set out below. The changes to the 1991 code may be summarised as follows.

Cl. 1: the addition of a final sentence setting out the personal responsibility of all staff (`All members and staff ..').

Cl 2: the inclusion of harassment relating to disability.

Cl 4: an amended description of the panel, redefining it as a standing committee of Council and referring to `members and employees of the University' rather than `Senior Members' to take into account the appointment of non-academic staff and representatives of OUSU.

Cl. 5: redrafted to include reference to promptness of response and to remove the procedure under which advisers could act on behalf of complainants. This is now thought to be inappropriate because the role of the adviser is to empower complainants to deal with a situation themselves, and advisers are not meant to be advocates.

Cl. 7: amended references to statutes. References to involvement of an adviser in disciplinary matters removed. This is now thought to be inappropriate, it being the complainants' responsibility to refer the matter to a relevant authority and the adviser's role to support them.

Cl. 8: redrafted for greater clarity.

Cl. 9: amended to ensure the anonymity of annual returns.

Revised Code of Practice relating to Harassment


1. Harassment is an unacceptable form of behaviour. The University is committed to protecting members, staff, and any other person for whom the University has a special responsibility from any form of harassment which might inhibit them from pursuing their work or studies, or from making proper use of university facilities. Complaints of harassment will be taken seriously and may lead to disciplinary proceedings. All members and staff have a personal responsibility to ensure that their behaviour is not contrary to this code and are encouraged to ensure the maintenance of a working environment in the University which is free from harassment.

2. For the purposes of this code, harassment may be broadly understood to consist of unwarranted behaviour towards another person, so as to disrupt the work or reduce the quality of life of that person, by such means as single or successive acts of bullying, verbally or physically abusing, or ill-treating him or her, or otherwise creating or maintaining a hostile or offensive studying, working, or social environment for him or her. Forms of harassment covered by this code include harassment relating to another's sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, or disability.

Unacceptable forms of behaviour may include unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favours, offensive physical contact or verbal behaviour, or other hostile or offensive acts or expressions relating to people's sex, sexual orientation, religion, race, or disability. The abuse of a position of authority, as for example that of a tutor or supervisor, is an aggravating feature of harassment.

3. Being under the influence of alcohol or otherwise intoxicated will not be admitted as an excuse for harassment, and may be regarded as an aggravating feature.

Note on confidentiality

It is essential that all those involved in a complaints procedure (including complainants) observe the strictest confidentiality consistent with operating that procedure; an accusation of harassment is potentially defamatory.


4. Advice may be sought or complaints pursued through any appropriate channel. In addition to other officers, the following people have been specially appointed to give advice in this connection and to answer questions (whether or not amounting to a complaint):

(a) departmental or faculty `Confidential Advisers', appointed by heads of department or the equivalent. Their names will be publicised within the institution;

(b) members of the `Advisory Panel', serving the whole University. The Advisory Panel is a standing committee of Council consisting of members and employees of the University with special expertise or interest in relevant aspects of staff and student welfare. Members of the panel may be approached on a number specially designated for this purpose (telephone: (2)70760);

(c) special college advisers or advisory panels where colleges have established these.

Those protected by this code may appropriately seek advice in relation to harassment even if the conduct in question is not sufficiently serious to warrant the institution of disciplinary proceedings. Any of the advisers listed above may be approached in the first instance; those approached will direct enquirers elsewhere, if that seems most likely to meet the enquirer's needs.

5. Enquiries about harassment will be responded to promptly. University advisers (whether Confidential Advisers or members of the Advisory Panel) will discuss the range of options available to enquirers on an entirely confidential basis and whenever possible assist them in resolving the problem informally in the first instance. College advisers will be guided by college rules.

6. It is emphasised that the role of advisers is advisory and not disciplinary. All disciplinary matters lie in the hands of the relevant disciplinary bodies.


7. If a complaint is not resolved on an informal basis the complainant may refer the matter to the relevant authority, which will determine whether there is a prima facie case under the relevant disciplinary provision and, if appropriate, set in motion disciplinary procedures. In respect of members of the University subject to the jurisdiction of the Visitatorial Board, the relevant procedures are those described under Title XVI of the University's Statutes. The disciplinary procedures which apply to non-academic staff are set out in the Handbook for Non-Academic Staff. Complaints against Junior Members shall be dealt with in accordance with the procedures contained in Title XIII of the University's Statutes (also set out in the Proctors' Memorandum) [1]. Colleges may have their own forms of disciplinary provision.

8. It may be that a complaint either against a member of staff or against a Junior Member could potentially be heard by more than one disciplinary body. When the person complained against is a Junior Member, the complainant will be expected to choose whether to pursue disciplinary procedures through his or her college or through the Proctors. If a complainant has previously brought or is in the process of bringing a complaint against the same person, founded wholly or in part upon the same matter, before any other disciplinary body, he or she is responsible for revealing that fact when seeking to institute disciplinary proceedings. It is also incumbent upon a disciplinary body to attempt to ascertain, for example by direct enquiry of the complainant, or by consulting other relevant authorities, whether any such other complaint has been instituted; if so, that body must consider whether it is appropriate for the same matter to provide a basis for two separate disciplinary hearings.


9. The appointment of Confidential Advisers within each department or faculty is the responsibility of the head of department, or equivalent, who must designate two such advisers, one of each sex, return the names of those appointed to the Equal Opportunities Officer (or such other officer as may be designated by the Registrar from time to time), and ensure that the Code of Practice and the names of the Confidential Advisers are adequately publicised within the department or faculty. The Advisory Panel on Harassment will provide Confidential Advisers with information, advice, and training opportunities. Confidential Advisers will be expected to make anonymised annual returns to the panel as to the number and general character of complaints they have dealt with. They may refer enquirers to members of the panel, or themselves seek advice either about university provisions on harassment in general or about possible ways of handling individual cases.

10. Members of the Advisory Panel on Harassment will give advice on request to those troubled by harassment and to other advisers. The panel is responsible for supporting, co-ordinating, and monitoring the effectiveness of the University's arrangements for dealing with harassment. Members of the panel may be contacted on a number specially designated for this purpose (telephone: (2)70760). 11. The provisions of this code supplement and do not supersede or override college arrangements. 12. Nothing in this code shall detract from the position and jurisdiction of the Proctors or the right of free access to them by all Junior and Senior Members of the University.


[1] The Title XIII procedures will be reproduced as an appendix to copies of the code which are printed in leaflet form, for ease of reference.
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On Thursday, 18 February, the following was duly elected to hold office for four years from the first day of Trinity Term 1999:

As a member of the Buildings Committee

W.S. JAMES, MA, D.PHIL., Fellow of Magdalen

[The votes recorded were: for Mr Barratt, 78; for Dr Brown, 123; for Dr James, 124]

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1 Declaration of approval of unopposed Statute promulgated on 9 February

No notice of opposition having been given, Mr Vice-Chancellor declared the Statute extending the remit of the Committee for the History of Science and Technology to include the History of Medicine approved.

2 Promulgation of Statute

A form of Statute was promulgated. No notice of opposition having been given, Mr Vice-Chancellor declared the preamble carried of the proposed Statute establishing a Donald Pollock Professorship of Chemical Engineering.

3 Presentation of the Annual Review

The Annual Review of the University for 1997–8 (Supplement* No. 1 to Gazette Vol. 129, January 1999) was presented.

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For changes in regulations for examinations, to come into effect on 12 March, see `Examinations and Boards' below.