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Bristol Uni Hockey Club write open letter demanding SU review their Code of Conduct

‘Did you know that currently if you sexually assault someone, you are not breaking the Student Union (SU) Code of Conduct?’

Bristol University Ladies Hockey Club (UBLHC) has today (5th March) published an open letter calling for a review of the Student Union’s Code of Conduct relating to its policy surrounding sexual assault.

The letter, which is open for any member of the student body to sign, claims that the current SU Code of Conduct leaves “students vulnerable and unprotected.”

Its four main demands for reform are:

“Update the Code of Conduct to directly include sexual assault and rape.

“A concise framework with clear signposting for both committee members and SU alike to follow, should a sexual assault or rape complaint be raised.

“Automatic and immediate suspension from SU activity for members if under investigation for sexual assault or rape.

“Improved welfare officer’s training and wellbeing support for committee members.”

The letter comes following the university’s recent decision to sign a joint pledge to tackle sexual harassment and violence.

The Bristol SU conducted a survey in 2021 which found that 29 per cent of student respondents had experienced sexual assault whilst at university, whilst just one in 10 said they had reported this to the university.

In its open letter, UBLHC said: “The lack of reference to this under the SU’s ‘Sex’ section in the Code of Conduct means that there is currently no protection for students. 

“Furthermore, student societies cannot suspend members unless the SU have found them to have violated the SU Code of Conduct, which leaves student groups completely powerless to remove individuals at their discretion, failing to protect members in cases of sexual assault.”

One of the main issues highlighted in the letter relates to support systems for Senior Leaders of SU societies; the club take issue with the lack of clear protocols for these students to be able to protect members of their clubs.

The SU Code of Conduct states that “Student Leaders (e.g. club and society committees) should not investigate a breach of the Code of Conduct on their own and should not remove group members at their own discretion.

“Student Leaders should work with Bristol SU staff to resolve breaches of the Code of Conduct.”

“Student Leaders should work with Bristol SU staff to resolve breaches of the Code of Conduct.”

Speaking exclusively to The Bristol Tab, the UBLHC Club Captain said: “Change is needed and the desperation for this is shown through the SU’s recent survey which states that 68 per cent of students disagree that the SU would address claims of sexual assault, reinforcing the urgent reform we need.

“No student should feel unprotected by a governing body that has set out to protect you. We are fighting for change.”

UBLHC has told The Bristol Tab that the open letter has received over 2,000 signatures, including members of more than 200 different SU-affiliated societies in less than 12 hours since it was published. This includes a range of societies, from Mens’ Football to Doctor Who.

The open letter also calls for an automatic ban on members of societies who are under investigation for sexual assault, which is currently not guaranteed by the SU.

They argue adopting a policy of immediate suspension would “ensure consistency, fairness, and immediate protection for all parties involved, prioritising the safety and dignity of victims.”

The Women’s Hockey Club, which is one the largest societies at the university and has Gold Balloon Accreditation, is campaigning on behalf of all societies, to make the process easier and more transparent.

“When combining this with the lack of well-being support and concise protocols, untrained students find themselves with an undue responsibility placed on them, which the SU should be accountable for.”

When approached for comment, the SU said: “We take the concerns laid out by UBLHC very seriously. We have appointed an independent third party to support us to review and address the points raised by UBLHC about our processes and the Code of Conduct carefully and in full, and we have agreed to engage with UBLHC during that process. As with any ongoing formal complaint, we are limited in what we can say until the review is complete and recommendations have been made.”

If you wish to access wellbeing support from the university you can do so here.

If you would like to use mental health resources outside of the university, we have a list od Bristol charities here.