The QMU has until Christmas to update its policy; University failed to annually review union procedures
Last month, a Glasgow Guardian investigation revealed that the Queen Margaret Union has no sexual misconduct policy, that board members are held to different disciplinary standards than regular members, and that the Union failed to report allegations of sexual misconduct made against former Events Convenor Cameron Logan to other University institutions.
On the same day the article went to print, the QMU announced that they would be updating their policy as a matter of priority, conceding to failings on the part of the Union and that their existing procedures were "not fit for purpose".
However, this investigation has also uncovered serious failings, on the part of the University itself, to support and manage its associated student bodies. Although both the Queen Margaret Union and Glasgow University Union are staple University of Glasgow institutions funded by University block grants. The University has not been reviewing or overseeing the policies of either union, though it is a responsibility of the University under the Education Act to ensure that its unions have appropriate disciplinary procedures.
As a result of this paper's investigation, the University will now be annually reviewing the policies and procedures of its unions. It is our understanding that the QMU is working with the University to update its policy as a matter of priority, and has until Christmas to do so.
The Glasgow Guardian can confirm that since the investigation was published on 16 October of this year, the Chief Operating Officer of the University, David Duncan, has only met with the Queen Margaret Union once to discuss the matter in person.
Bill Blackstock, General Manager of the QMU, has told The Glasgow Guardian that there is currently an "inconsistency across the University" regarding policy, and that they have had several conversations with the University about updating policy and procedures. However, Blackstock described the timeline the University has given them as "vague", other than that the policy is to be updated by Christmas.
On whether a Christmas deadline gives the Union enough time to satisfactorily and effectively update its policy, Blackstock said he was "concerned". However, he is confident that the advice they are seeking outwith the University will provide them with a framework to proceed.
With regard to the disparity between how board members and regular members are treated, we can confirm that the QMU will also be updating its policy comprehensively to ensure that there will be "no differentiation" in disciplinary procedures.
QMU President Mata Durkin also stated: "Following the issues raised in The Glasgow Guardian, the QMU is working together with the University to look at revised procedures and reporting arrangements. The University has set an ambitious target to complete this by the end of this calendar year. We are aware that the University Court has been advised a general review of the policies and procedures of all student bodies.
"The QMU is fully committed to this review and already has received support from the University to enable this. Over the summer we had started work on creating a sustainable long-term development plan which will include a full review of our governance to meet the significant challenges ahead. As a result of recent events, we have given top priority to overhauling our policies on handling discipline and grievances especially on sexual harassment and personal safety.
"Through close consultation with our Board of Management, the University and others, we have now contracted Atkinson HR Consultancy, a well-respected and experienced ﬁrm in the student sector to assist us in this process, who over the remainder of this academic year will be working within the Union to help us produce a lasting Development Plan."
David Duncan has said: "It is true that the various student bodies have in place different models for dealing locally with unacceptable behaviour; there are some examples of very good practice but other areas where change and refinement are needed.
"We want to ensure greater consistency across the four student bodies and a better flow-through to the University’s Code of Conduct. Working with the student bodies, we intend to put in place revised arrangements by Christmas. These will address the issue of confidentiality; they will also include improved reporting arrangements and measures to prevent victimisation of individuals. In addition, we will also put in place a joint annual review of the policies and procedures by the University and the student bodies."
Lauren McDougall, SRC President, has said: "All students are required to comply with the University’s policies covering conduct and behaviour including the Code of Student Conduct as well as complementary policies on Equality and Diversity and the Dignity and Work and Study Policy. Regardless of where an alleged breach has happened, or who it has been reported to, these matters must always be investigated through the proper processes and the student bodies must ensure that their policies align with those of the University.
"The SRC work closely with the University on creating and implementing policies relating to students and I have been in conversation with David Duncan over the last few weeks around reviewing the policies of all four student bodies on campus so I welcome the suggestion that these policies are reviewed annually. Not only will this lead to a safer campus for all of our University community, it will also ensure that the board members of the student bodies are kept up to date with the University policies and on the correct reporting procedures."