A GROUP of students have staged a sit-in Piazza protest at Warwick University for nearly three weeks calling for improvements on women’s safety.
Following the university’s ‘rape chat’ scandal in 2019, Protect Warwick Women – in collaboration with a number of Students Union societies (Shame On You Warwick, It Happens Here, Warwick Anti-Sexism Society) and Women’s Officers – say the current protest will not end until demands are met.
The protestors have held several meetings with the University which is supportive of many measures including optional self-defence workshops, a confidential, independent support service available 24/7 to students on and off-campus in the event of sexual assault, revamped staff training on sexual violence and consent, resources on support and educational information in Welcome Week, signposted safe spaces, improved street lighting, the distribution of free rape alarms, a published sanction report clearly outlining minimum punishments for all sexual offences and improving the number and location of ‘Emergency Towers’, plus an amnesty for sit-in organisers.
But students say the protest will continue until agreement is met on a number of key things including an alternative to Campus Security that focus specifically on supporting survivors in the immediate aftermath of sexual harassment or assault and more diverse wellbeing staff to adequately support more BAME, trans, disabled and female students.
After messages were sent on a private chat about rape, sexual violence and underage girls – some including racial insults – two male students were banned permanently from the university in February 2019 following a petition signed by 65,000. Two other students were banned for one year, while another was expelled.
A statement from the University of Warwick to students regarding the current Piazza protest, said: “Everyone has the right to feel safe and supported at Warwick and our policy on sexual misconduct is clear – it will not be tolerated.
“However, we know there is more we can do to support our community and to tackle sexual misconduct.
“That’s why we are committed to working together in partnership with our student community to listen to concerns and identify and implement improvements.
“We welcomed the ideas put forward by the students who have been protesting this week in the piazza and have held constructive discussions with them on the range of concerns they have raised.
“There are many areas where we are in broad agreement and where improvements were already in progress or implemented. But there are others where they have rightly challenged us to do more – such as engaging more widely on the training we develop and enhancing the physical safety of campus.
“We have invited them to work with us through the Student Advisory Group to continue to tackle these issues together.
“We take this issue extremely seriously and invest £2.6m each year to continuously improve our wellbeing provision – representing £90 per student per year.
“We strongly encourage anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct or any other form of harassment, or knows someone who has, to access support through the University’s online disclosure platform Report and Support.”
Measures taken by the university can be viewed here.
An overview of recent action to improve safety and wellbeing can be found here.